In less than two weeks, a new leader will take the helm at UND as outgoing President Mark Kennedy prepares to depart from the university and Joshua Wynne slides into the position on an interim basis.

“Mark has been very open with his senior leadership team as to what the issues are,” Wynne said. “Even the issues that don’t relate directly to the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, I’m already in the loop because of his management style and him sharing issues that are going on on campus.”

Kennedy’s final day is June 15, but he will be taking paid time off most of next week. It is to be determined whether he will be taking any staff from UND with him when he becomes the next president of the University of Colorado system.

Kennedy is sitting down with Wynne during the next few days to review ongoing projects at the university. Kennedy said his administration also has devised a list of people that can help Wynne in his transition.

“If I can be of help next week, next month, next year or three years from now in advancing the University of North Dakota, I stand ready to respond however I can,” Kennedy said.

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Wynne said his 15 years of experience at UND, as well as the help of Kennedy and other university vice presidents, will help make the transition smoother for him.

In Kennedy's last official interview with local media, he and Wynne met with the Herald together via conference call Tuesday afternoon.

Wynne will meet with university vice presidents to get their input on moving forward, including deciding how often the vice presidents should meet as a group and how often they should meet with Wynne individually.

“I don’t think there will be any major changes in the way we move forward,” Wynne said. “I do want to give them the opportunity to meet with me one-on-one so that I can solicit their feedback.”

As a part of the agreement he made with North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott, Wynne will be splitting his time between his duties as interim president and as dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. He will maintain an office at the medical school and another in Twamley Hall, where the president’s office is located.

Wynne previously told the Herald he does not intend to continue in the president’s position full-time, but said Tuesday he would serve in the interim role for as long as necessary.

“I intend to approach the job with the intensity that you might expect, and I want to do the very best job I can for however long it takes,” he said. “I am not going to be a caretaker interim president, and we’re moving the agenda forward whether it’s three months, six months or a year.”

State of UND

Kennedy said he feels good about the state of UND as he prepares to leave the president’s post after three years on the job.

The university has a strategic plan that has been “widely embraced by the campus, state and nation,” Kennedy said. The school also has a team of administrators in place that will help UND into the future.

Kennedy pointed to the 10 percentage point rise in the four-year graduation rate, increased construction on campus and growth in research dollars as among the university’s accomplishments over the past few years.

“There’s a lot of bright future for the University of North Dakota,” he said.

Wynne plans to continue work on UND’s five-year strategic plan. The plan has seven goals, including providing a strong undergraduate liberal arts foundation, increasing graduation and retention rates, working on ways to address enrollment numbers both online and on-campus, increasing research work, becoming a more inclusive campus, serving military students and engaging alumni.

“There’s already good momentum going forward. I see my role as assisting in that and helping to accelerate it even further if I can,” Wynne said. “This is a strategic plan that has priorities, goals and metrics associated with it, and that’s my kind of strategic plan.”

Kennedy said he believes UND is in a strong position financially. He added that higher education is changing and becoming more and more competitive, which means it is important for UND to have funds available to move forward.

“I am cautiously optimistic that budgetary wise and financially wise UND is in good shape,” he said.

Leaving town

As a first-generation college student, Kennedy said he is most satisfied with raising the graduation rates over the past few years. Helping students get a degree has been a driving factor for Kennedy and his wife, Debbie, he said.

UND already has a beautiful campus, but he anticipates that will grow in the years ahead, which will make UND a “magnetic draw” for students, he said.

Kennedy also is happy with the work UND has done in research, something he says is vital to the state and nation’s health.

Kennedy plans to return to visit UND periodically in the future to check in on the university and those who support it.

“In the end, it’s the people that you’ll come back for,” Kennedy said. “We have developed a lot of wonderful relationships here and coming back to check in with them and keep current is what will be most satisfying about a return trip.”