As Joshua Wynne settles into his third month and first semester as being interim president at UND, Wynne says he’s enjoying the new experience.
“It’s been just as busy as we anticipated,” Wynne said last week during a conference call with the Herald. “So, that’s been a challenge but the good news is we anticipated this. My wife and I planned for it and what I didn’t anticipate, quite frankly, was just how much fun and how exciting this has been.”
Wynne is carrying on a tradition started by former UND President Mark Kennedy to speak with the Herald on a regular basis via conference call.
Wynne was appointed interim president by the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education at the end of May and took over the position on June 16.
Wynne, who has been with UND for nearly 16 years, said he has seen the university and the community through the lens as dean of the UND School of Medicine and Health Science. Becoming interim president has allowed Wynne to understand Grand Forks and the UND community in a new way, he said.
“Now seeing (the community) through a broader lens has been illuminating and fun,” he said. “Certainly, there are challenges, but I like challenges. I like wrestling with issues, if you will. I like the fact that there are a broad set of exciting ventures going on that I can help oversee, modulate and encourage over whatever time period it’s going to be.”
Wynne doesn’t know how long he’ll be interim president for, as the UND Presidential Search Committee continues its process to find a new permanent leader. Wynne is not in the pool to become full-time president, unless he resigns his role as interim, per an agreement with the State Board of Higher Education. The search could finish by the end of the calendar year or may go on for longer. Wynne agreed to being president for a year.
Wynne characterizes UND is a “dynamic university” that is “moving in the right direction.”
“We just have to keep it on the tracks and, if anything, speed up the engine even more,” he said.
Wynne attended the Longest Table event along University Avenue last week. The event, which is in its second year, brings together members of the Grand Forks community to talk about issues facing the city and ways it can be improved. Guests, including Wynne and his wife, shared a meal over a 1,000-foot “table.”
“I enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “I walked up and down. I made contact with as many tables as I could, but I can reaffirm that there were 127 tables because I walked up and down University (Avenue) both ways and stopped and chatted with any number of people. It was really a lot of fun.”
Wynne said he didn’t know any of the people seated at his table or tables next to him, which allowed him to meet new community members and some UND students.
“It was a really fun evening,” he said, noting he is encouraging others to attend next year.
The interim president is also planning to host townhall-type sessions with the university's colleges to better understand the issues facing the departments. He began those meetings last week.