While interim may be in his title, Joshua Wynne does not plan to sit idly waiting for a new UND president to be named in the coming months.
Wynne, who was unanimously selected Thursday by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education to lead the university on an interim basis, plans to take actions that will continue to move UND forward.
“I didn’t take this job to just have a nice fancy title and sit in a nice office and not have anything happen, that’s not me,” he said. “My focus is on keeping the momentum going forward … and that there will be real accomplishments in moving the agenda forward for however long that takes.”
Wynne added he will not hesitate to make tough decisions just because he could put them off to someone else in several months time. He plans to continue his duties as dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences and as vice president of health affairs at UND.
Wynne said he wants to continue the “positive momentum” at UND and bring the school to even “greater heights.” He said outgoing UND President Mark Kennedy and other senior staff at the university have laid the building blocks for UND’s new direction through ventures such as the One UND strategic plan and addressing deferred maintenance on campus.
“We’re striving for excellence, whether it’s in education, in scholarships or service to community, we really do want to be the best we can be,” he said. “I’m going to try and help every faculty and staff member and every student to achieve their maximum potential.”
Kennedy will be leaving UND on June 15 after spending three years at the helm of the university.
Wynne makes around $690,000 a year in his position, according to state records.
He said contract terms for the interim job have not been determined yet, but he noted he did not take the position for the money.
Wynne indicated he is not interested in serving as president on a permanent basis and accepted the interim role with the understanding he would retain his current responsibilities and return to the medical school once a new president is named. He said he had never planned on becoming a university president in his career.
Born and raised in New York, Wynne received his medical degree from Boston University and went on to become a faculty member at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
He spent two years serving in the U.S. Army, serving in Korea as a medical officer.
Following two decades in Michigan, in 2004 he was recruited to UND to serve as executive associate dean and associate dean for academic affairs at the UND medical school.
Wynne has been dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences since 2010. Before becoming permanent dean, Wynne served as interim dean beginning in early 2009.
Dave Molmen, former CEO of Altru Health System and head of the medical school's advisory council, has worked closely with Wynne for many years. He said Wynne is the “ideal choice” to fulfill the role of interim president.
“He has the skills and the deep knowledge of our university and a track record to match that,” said Molmen, adding that Wynne is the type of leader who will hit the ground running.
During his time at UND, Wynne has led the medical school through a number of ventures, including the completion of a new $124 million facility. The building was completed in 2016 and was done on-time and under budget, Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said.
He also has helped lead the successful implementation of the North Dakota Healthcare Workforce Initiative, which works to transform health care delivery and the health of North Dakotans each day.
Wynne said he is very proud of the work his staff has done on the initiative, which helps rural areas find solutions to health care issues.
“That’s been a major accomplishment,” he said. “It’s still a work in progress. There’s still issues out there, but it’s getting better.”
Earlier this year, Wynne helped secure a stabilized funding source for the medical school’s residency program, which trains doctors in various specialties throughout the state. It had previously been funded through one-time dollars each biennium, which meant the school would not know how many residencies it would be able to support or how long that funding would be available.
Wynne, alongside Molmen, helped the funding be moved into the school’s base funding, which will provide greater stability for the program, Wynne said in January.
Molmen said Wynne is able to achieve these goals through his leadership style, which is a combination of listening to others and strategic thinking.
“To be successful in that very complex job, an individual has to be a really strong bridge builder and Dr. Wynne has shown that he can build relationships,” he said, noting Wynne has built very strong relationships with students, staff and faculty, as well as alumni, legislators, the community and the state board. “He’s not only well liked, but highly respected.”