29 Sep UND is building the future, say leaders at annual Wake Up to UND and State of the University events
From the festive lighting and Fighting Hawks mascot to the rousing music and sold-out venue, an air of optimism and excitement pervaded the annual Wake Up to UND breakfast Tuesday morning at the Alerus Center.
The event, sponsored by The Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks and its partners, showcases UND to the Greater Grand Forks and business communities.
A similar program was also presented to faculty and staff Monday at the annual State of the University address.
UND leaders thanked the city, donors, state and Legislature for their support as the stakeholders work on behalf of students and the greater community, emphasizing that the University is moving forward and striving for excellence using the One UND Strategic Plan as a road map.
“This is your UND,” President Joshua Wynne told attendees. “We are headed in the right direction. I’m proud and honored to serve as interim president.”
UND must be quick in adapting to circumstances to both meet student needs and benefit the people of North Dakota, Wynne said, noting that the Strategic Plan and its seven goals will help keep the University on the correct course.
He thanked North Dakota and Grand Forks legislators for their support and vision.
“It will take all of us working together to capitalize on the opportunities ahead. UND has an impact far beyond its size and the borders of North Dakota.”
Intern Grand Forks
Student Body President Gracie Lian spoke of her experiences through the InternGF program in cooperation with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp.
“That prepared me for the professional world,” Lian said of her internship. “It was a great experience, and it connected me with the Grand Forks community.” She added that Student Government is working to continue that collaboration through a number of programs.
The best students
“We have the best students,” exclaimed Tom DiLorenzo, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “It’s a great time to be at UND, and it’s a great time to be living in Grand Forks.”
DiLorenzo said that’s because UND has seen positive enrollment trends, support from the Legislature for research and capital improvements, and support from the community.
“Our priority is students,” DiLorenzo said, adding details about how the University is working to retain students and help them graduate on time. He thanked the City, Chamber and Economic Development organization for giving students hands-on experience and internships.
“We have a great partnership with the City, and we hope to take collaboration between Grand Forks and UND to an even higher level,” DiLorenzo said.
From promoting faculty experts to media outlets to elevating the UND brand, UND is working hard to increase its prestige, said Meloney Linder, vice president for marketing & communications.
“We track our media mentions,” Linder said. “Our faculty have been quoted in the Washington Post, Time, National Geographic, Wall Street Journal and Forbes, and more.” She added that in more than 4,800 media mentions of UND over the past year, all but 6 percent have been positive or neutral, and that “neutral” usually signifies that one of UND’s faculty members is being quoted as an expert.
In an annual survey of the University and Greater Grand Forks community, alumni and others, Linder said that UND has improved in 32 of 36 categories.
“We’re perceived as highly innovative, high quality, an economic driver, and a leader in research, aviation and liberal arts,” Linder said. “Our students are considered job-ready.”
Grand Challenges in discovery
UND is making an impact on Grand Forks, the state and the world through research and creative activity, said John Mihelich, interim vice president for research & economic development.
“Discovery offers students hands-on experience and expertise,” Mihelich said. “Research universities are economic drivers.”
UND’s Grand Challenges, part of the Strategic Plan, will help the University discover new knowledge and help meet the needs of the state along with shaping the future, he said.
“We are enhancing collaboration with our partners in the North Dakota University System, government and industry,” Mihelich said. “We want to thank legislators, the North Dakota congressional delegation, and all who support research. Discovery is alive and well, and offers us an enormous opportunity.”
Students are why the UND Alumni Association & Foundation exists, said CEO Deanna Carlson Zink.
“We call our donors UND heroes,” Carlson Zink said. “They create opportunity for students and help them achieve their dreams. Their support is critical.”
Carlson Zink said that last year, 9,016 UND heroes gave $67.7 million in gift commitments, $18 million more than in any other year.
This year, she said, their goal is to help fund several key areas, including a new College of Business & Public Administration, which has received a $20 million anonymous gift.
“The Legislature provided a $20 million match in the last days of the session,” she said, adding that the Legislature also funded the North Dakota State Challenge Fund, which provides $1.7 million for endowed scholarships or faculty, and another $250,000 for the School of Law.
“We are grateful for the funding,” she said.
Other projects include the second phase of the Athletics High Performance Center; renovation of Babcock Hall as the new home of computer science, electrical engineering and Big Data; and expansion of UND Flight Operations at the Airport to help address a nationwide pilot shortage.
The legislative challenge fund, she said, will match $1 for every $2 up to $1.7 million for Law and other projects.
“We all work together to accomplish great things,” said Jed Shivers, vice president for finance & operations. He said that of UND’s $457 million budget, he is especially grateful to the Legislature for providing $99 million. He also expressed appreciation to the city of Grand Forks for its work in conjunction with the University and for the Chamber, which helps to focus all of the interested parties and coordinates their efforts.
UND is investing $350 million to upgrade the campus, Shivers said. He added that difficult decisions have been made, but the University is stronger and he sees a great future for UND.
As he showed a slide of the planned main campus quad, which connects a number of buildings, he said those connections – and connections with the city and state – will lead to a better future for students.
“The campus will look different,” Shivers said. “We are building the future.”