UND President Andrew Armacost looks to the future, will reinvent school's strategic plan

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  • Andrew Armacost
    U.S. Brigadier General

Nov. 16—UND President Andrew Armacost had the future on his mind when he delivered his State of the University speech on Monday, Nov. 15.

That speech was given during the fall University Council meeting, in which some UND deans gave insights into the current state of their respective colleges, and their thoughts on the future. For Armacost, it was the time to outline his future goals for the institution which include an overhaul of the university's strategic plan, a seven-point list of objectives to be achieved by 2022.

Armacost said, after reflection, the strategic plan needs to be more aspirational, and will be redesigned with a focus on excellence in education and research, building a sense of community both on and off campus and creating a sense of creativity and innovation across the campus.

"A student who steps on campus, it should hit them square in the face that when they graduate from the University of North Dakota their sense of creativity will be nurtured and fostered throughout their time here," Armacost said. "That sense of wonderment should exist at every corner of our campus."

Armacost said he would like to see a Rhodes scholar on campus or a student who aspires to another national or international scholarship program. Educators can identify and help develop students interested in competing for such scholarships, and doing so would represent UND's commitment to academic excellence, he said.

When it comes to community building, Armacost said there are opportunities to develop and deepen ties with the city, for which it received the Larry Abernathy Award from the International Town & Gown Association in May. Other relationship-building opportunities include the Grand Sky unmanned aerial systems park and its tenants. UND collaborates with General Atomics on some unmanned systems projects, and VANTIS, the new statewide network for flying drones beyond the visual line of sight, are areas where collaboration opportunities exist.

When it comes to funding, UND has enjoyed support at the legislative level, Armacost said. Administrators are watching and waiting to see if Gov. Doug Burgum signs legislation meant to dole out the state's allotment of federal American Rescue Plan funding passed by the recent special session of the Legislature. Funding proposals contain millions of dollars for higher education institutions. One project included in that funding package would be for a multi-million dollar renovation of Merrifield Hall.

"The question now is how the governor is going to respond and whether the governor supports what the legislature has suggested," Armacost said.

Cindy Juntunen, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, said the 1,400 students in her college is an increase over the previous year. The college has more graduate students than undergraduates, which sets it apart from other colleges. More than half of those students take online courses, which she said is an opportunity to continue to reach out to students across the nation.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused some people to re-evaluate their choice to become a teacher, and the school is taking action to counteract that "looming challenge," by communicating the opportunities of getting involved in education.

"It's really a great time to get involved in education," she said. "We want to be able to communicate that."

Brad Rundquist, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said enrollment in his college is down by about 6% from the previous year, though the number of freshmen students is up slightly compared to last fall. The enrollment decline comes mainly from students coming from Minnesota, he said.

Rundquist said the number of part-time students has increased, and though the number of undergraduates outnumbers graduate students, that differential is beginning to decrease. In some cases students aren't staying at UND for four years, as they enter UND with college-level credits earned at the high school level.

The college has had several good years of fundraising, Rundquist said. The college has raised $21 million between the fiscal years of 2017 and 2021. For the 2022 fiscal year, the school has raised more than $1 million, through the end of October.

Robert Kraus, dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences thanked the campus community for the outpouring of support following the death of aviation student John Hauser. Hauser was killed in a plane crash in October. Kraus said his college is working to study mental health in aviation, and that research will be supported by an endowment fund created by Hauser's family.

Enrollment in aerospace sciences has increased over the last five years, Krause said, particularly in commercial aviation. The college now has more than 2,400 undergraduate students and 58 graduate students. More than 1,700 of those students study commercial aviation, which means that particular program is operating at capacity.

Kraus said his college will have to cap enrollment for commercial aviation at 325 new freshmen beginning next summer, because of the large size of the last two or three incoming classes. Students transferring into flying programs will be limited to the fall semester only.

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