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UND president asks campus to put past conflicts behind them

UND President Mark Kennedy speaks to the Wake Up to UND breakfast audience Tuesday morning at Memorial Union on campus. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald) 1 / 4
Kassey Wilson serves sausage and bacon before Tuesday's Wake Up to UND breakfast program kicked off. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 4
The UND Varsity Gentlemen a capella group perform Tuesday morning during the Wake Up to UND breakfast Memorial Union. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald) 3 / 4
The ballroom in the Memorial Union fills up for UND President Mark Kennedy speaking at the annual Wake Up to UND breakfast program. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald) 4 / 4

After years of battles over the school's nickname and faculty unhappiness, new UND President Mark Kennedy wants harmony at the university.

On the job for less than three months, Kennedy has spent most of that time listening to various stakeholders in the university and hearing their ideas for charting UND's future. Kennedy shed light on what he's learned at the start of his tenure and the plan he's laid out for the university at the annual Wake Up to UND breakfast Tuesday morning.

Kennedy began by showcasing the Varsity Gentlemen, a male a capella group, who sang "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," using them for a symbol of how he would like each individual to come together to form one, stronger university.

"I believe that if we focus on the future and we come together like you just heard, then we can have whatever wicked thoughts we had fade away, and we can have a positive focus on the future," he said.

Kennedy emphasized the importance of the university coming together to be "One UND." Using the Varsity Gentlemen metaphor, Kennedy outlined how great things can happen when people come together through collaboration.

Kennedy has used collaboration to gain input on how best to lead the school, he said, and that collaboration will help the university focus on a plan to forward to his goals for the university to be the premier university of the Northern Plains and the chief opportunity engine for North Dakota and its citizens.

"You heard 13 different voices, each saying something different, but in harmony in a way where it created beautiful music and a beautiful sound," he said. "Our goal is to harmonize the many diverse groups that make up UND into 'One UND.' "

One way he has used that collaboration, Kennedy told those in attendance, was through the school's strategic planning process, which includes a 50-person committee designed to identify the strengths of the university, build on those strengths and define a clear vision of how UND should set itself up for the future. That committee will then take its ideas to the larger public to gain input.

"I'm confident that if we all just learn that playing well together—playing together and each playing their own part—that we will have many things to celebrate and many reasons to give high-fives to each other as we go on as 'One UND' to achieve great things," Kennedy said.

During his 30-minute speech, Kennedy also touched on key changes underway to the school's Athletics Department, branding and marketing.

Tuesday was Kennedy's first Wake Up to UND address, an annual event hosted by UND and the Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. Kennedy, a former businessman and U.S. congressman from Minnesota, took over as UND's president July 1, succeeding interim President Ed Schafer and President Robert Kelley.

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

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