Incoming president introduces himself to UND’s Student Senate during recent visit to campus

Incoming president introduces himself to UND’s Student Senate during recent visit to campus

UND’s student senators listen as Incoming UND President Andrew Armacost speaks at the Senate’s regular Wednesday evening session. Armacost offered his thanks to the senators while also making the first requests of his presidency to the student body. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Incoming UND President Andrew Armacost’s first appearance in front of the UND Student Senate was brief, but in his limited time, he presented two sets of challenges to the current governing body.

The first, he said, is to think of ways of integrating online students into the governance of the state’s flagship institution.

“North Dakota is an amazing state. UND is an amazing university,” Armacost said. “Just because someone is associated with our great university in an online setting doesn’t mean we should lock them out of the operations or the way the university flows. … I think their voice matters.”

Second, Armacost urged the student leaders to think about ways to get other students involved, and to convince more students to participate in student government.

Armacost spoke to the UND Student Senate at the Senate’s regular Wednesday evening meeting in Room 334 in the UND School of Law.

He prefaced his remarks by thanking the student leaders for wrestling with tough issues and presenting good ideas to senior administrators.

“You should all be commended for the work you’ve done, and your volunteerism,” he said.

Armacost also implored the students to build connections and friendships among one another, noting that as they work together in their passion for service, they’ll create enduring relationships.

Gracie Lian, student body president, told UND Today that the two major goals that Armacost listed are certainly attainable, if not already underway.

Starting the conversation

While admitting that reaching online students hasn’t been a priority, Lian said Armacost’s first challenge has been a conversation not only at UND, but also at the state level.

“It’s a challenging concept,” said Lian, pointing to the current configuration of student representation based on colleges, as well as on- and off-campus housing. “Involving online students in student government would be unprecedented, but that doesn’t mean bad. It could be a good change.”

She anticipates future student administrations will be able to meet Armacost’s expectations on the issue, one that Armacost said will become more important nationwide as the online demographic grows in higher education. The UND Student Senate can be a model for bringing online students into UND’s broad mission of developing tomorrow’s leaders, he said. And having online students as part of this collaborative governance will help better achieve that mission.

Lian’s second-in-command, Vice President Matthew Ternus, said he was impressed and intrigued by what Armacost said to the Senate. After Wednesday’s session adjourned, Ternus said the conversation between senators was already starting around stronger online representation.

“Taking account of the needs of that student demographic is going to be huge,” said Ternus, regarding the trends to which Armacost alluded. “I think there are both long-term and short-term ways for us to approach that challenge.”

Armacost shook hands and introduced himself to everyone in Room 334 in the UND School of Law, including Student Body Vice President Matthew Ternus, pictured above. Ternus said Armacost has made an excellent impression among UND Student Government leaders and other UND students. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Leadership found across campus

On the topic of succession and overall involvement, Lian commented that she’s witnessed an incredible production of potential leaders from areas beyond the Senate. Ternus agreed that many organizations breed leadership, evidenced by his own start in residence hall governance and engagement with his fraternity.

“Many go through the Association of Residence Halls and organizations such as Students for Sustainability, or College Democrats and Republicans,” Ternus noted. “But leaders on campus come from all walks of life, and we have great leaders who aren’t even in organizations.

“UND’s tagline is Leaders in Action, and that applies to everyone.”

Ternus remains confident in his administration’s ability to reach campus through social media platforms, and said it’s an easy way to garner immediate feedback and promote developing partnerships.

Lian thinks the excitement of bringing on a new president — especially one with such a focus on community involvement and an appreciation for student voices — will help current senators and representatives cultivate student engagement.

As she watched UND’s incoming president greet every person in the room at Wednesday’s Senate session, Lian said Armacost does a great job connecting with individuals, and that students enjoyed having him present.

“He’s going to bring positivity and energy to campus, and that’s evident when you hear him speak,” Lian said.

Lian, following Armacost’s address, presented him with a framed version of the Student Senate’s December resolution of support, which passed unanimously after Armacost’s appointment as UND’s next president. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

‘We have his back … he has ours’

Upon Armacost’s selection and approval as UND President, the UND Student Senate drafted and unanimously passed a resolution supporting and welcoming him and his wife, Kathy, to the campus and community.

The resolution was created the day after Armacost’s appointment, on Dec. 4, 2019, and Lian presented him with a framed copy of the document after his speech on the floor this past week.

A clause of the resolution recognized Armacost’s emphasis “on the importance of building community, both on campus and within the larger surrounding community.” Lian and Ternus said students, including themselves, were impressed by Armacost’s prioritizing unity between Grand Forks and the University.

UND Student Government’s current administration wanted to show that they’re excited to have him on campus, and that there was strong support across colleges for his appointment.

“Senators felt that he was worthy of that resolution,” Lian told UND Today. “We didn’t do it based on precedent, but because we just felt it was right.”

“It shows we want a relationship with this president, and historically that has existed between student government and the Office of the President,” Ternus said. “We have his back, and he made it clear, on the floor, that he has ours. The support going both ways means a lot.”