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UND President Mark Kennedy lays out goals in annual presentation

UND President Mark Kennedy presents Altru CEO Dave Molmen the President's medal at the annual "Wake Up to UND" breakfast at the Memorial Union. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND President Mark Kennedy laid out his goals for the university, including growing student graduation rates and student enrollment, in his annual Wake Up to UND presentation Tuesday morning.

Kennedy noted that the "outlook is bleak" for higher education across the country, as fewer people are going to college and fewer people were having children after the 2008 financial crisis, which also likely will have an affect on higher education.

"Our first big plan is to thrive, not just survive in a very competitive environment for higher education," he said.

The university has "planted a lot of seeds" that to grow and thrive into the future, Kennedy said.

The school recently invested $3 million in marketing and advertising in the last fiscal year to reach more potential students and share the university's message with more people.

Following graduation, UND also rolled out a new "platform-aware" website that functions with mobile phones and tablets. Kennedy said with this new website they have seen five times the number of inquiries about the school through the website.

UND also wants to update the way students apply to the school to make it quicker and easier. Kennedy said they are dedicated to updating the application process by April 2019, which may not be possible but he said it is one of the highest priorities.

All of these things are aimed at increasing student enrollment in the coming years, Kennedy said.

While several buildings have been demolished on campus in the past two years, Kennedy believes that there is an "increased energy" there.

There has been a greater participation in UND events, Kennedy said, noting that this year's freshman class picture included more students, even though the class size itself is smaller. There was also high turnout for events like the Sioux Awards and the banquet for the 50th anniversary of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences last week.

"I believe there is a new energy on campus," he said in a phone interview after the presentation. "Part of what a campus does, besides attracting students, is make you proud of your university. It enhances your attachment to it."

Other top priorities for the university in the coming year are teaching quality and student support. It will be making a "significant investment" to enhance those areas on campus. The university plans to do the same for its online classes, which Kennedy says needs to be at the same level as their on-campus classes.

Students and faculty will also be using a software called Starfish, which allows professors to reach out to students early in the class if they need help and also allows students to reach out to faculty to form how they should continue in a class going forward.

The university, along with North Dakota State University, will be rolling out a "degree planner" later this year that will help students chart which classes they need to take so they can graduate on time, Kennedy said. He added that this type of tool has also been shown to have a positive impact on graduation rates.

Molmen recognized

During the presentation, Kennedy also gave Dave Molmen, CEO of Altru Health System, the Presidential Medal. Molmen is set to retire at the end of the year from Altru.

The Presidential Medal has only been given out about 30 times and is an award given to university or community leaders making special contributions to elevate the university.

"Receiving this honor from President Kennedy is humbling beyond words," Molmen told the Herald. "To receive recognition so meaningful from this university that I love is probably one of the proudest moments of my life."

Although he did not attend UND, the university has had a very big impact on his life, Molmen said. Molmen said the university is important, not only to the city of Grand Forks, but the entire state of North Dakota.

"One of the most important things about having a vibrant state and economy is having good health care, and our medical school is very devoted to that," he said. "I feel a little bit unworthy (of this award). I'm one small part of a very, very big team of people that has been working to provide the best health care for our state."

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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