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UND recognized for efforts to improve access and affordability of educational materials

According to a news release, UND received the 2022 Colleagues’ Choice Innovation Award from the Western Academic Leadership Forum at the Forum’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, in April.

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Gail Burd (left), of the University of Arizona, stands with Eric Link, UND's provost and Brittany Winkelman of the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, at the Western Academic Leadership Forum's annual meeting in Portland, Oregon in April. UND received the Forum's Innovation Award for improving equitable access to educational materials for students.
Contributed / Melanie Sidwell, WICHE Director of Communications
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GRAND FORKS — UND has been recognized for efforts to improve the access and affordability of educational resources for students, referred to as open educational resources.

UND received the 2022 Colleagues’ Choice Innovation Award from the Western Academic Leadership Forum at the Forum’s annual meeting in Portland, Oregon, in April, according to a recent news release. The Forum is a membership organization for university administrators within the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), one of four such regional higher education commissions in the United States. The Innovation Award recognizes achievements among four-year institutions and systems in the western part of the country that advance equity for student success.

According to WICHE, open educational resources, or OERs, are openly-licensed and freely -accessible materials used for teaching, learning, and research. UND has promoted the use of OERs by its faculty, with more than 90 faculty members from every school and college having adapted, adopted or created OERs to replace expensive texts, saving students $11 million since 2015.

UND has also supported faculty research since 2018 exploring the impact of OERs, including in areas such as higher retention rates and lower debt loads for students. The result of this research means UND has funded more stipends and fellowships.

“This recognition of the work that UND has done to advance the growth, development, and implementation of OER efforts across campus is the result of years of dedicated work by faculty and staff across the institution,” said Eric Link, UND’s provost. “I’m particularly proud of this award because it speaks directly to our collective commitment to student access and success at UND, and it has truly impacted in positive ways the financial pressures felt by hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students on our campus.”


After 34 years on the UND campus and six years at what was then called Lake Region Community College in Devils Lake, White retired in May, after a career that once saw the Stanley Cup make a surprise appearance in one of his classes.

UND senior administrators, faculty, advisors, library staff and students, are working to create an OER repository that can be shared across the state and the region.

Gail D. Burd, the Forum’s vice chair in 2022 and senior vice provost for academic affairs, teaching and learning at the University of Arizona, said WICHE is dedicated to improving student access and success at the postsecondary educational level. She lauded efforts by UND to promote the use of OER’s, calling them a path other universities can follow.

“The University of North Dakota stood out for its leadership on open educational resources and serves as a model for other institutions interested in exploring how to use OERs for the benefit of both students and faculty,” Burd said.

Stephanie Walker, UND’s dean of libraries and information resources, and also chair of UND’s OER working group, said that faculty are using video, audio, 3D scans and other media to develop resources to engage students.

“Many institutions promote and work with OERs, but I believe UND’s work has been particularly innovative in that we’ve sustained extremely high levels of interest with faculty participants from every college and school,” Walker said. “We’ve also had widespread support and involvement from the grassroots of student government to senior administration, including the provost, president, and deans. I’m thrilled our united efforts have been recognized.”

WICHE has been working to strengthen higher education, workforce development and behavioral health throughout its region since 1953. The educational organization includes universities in more than a dozen states, including North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as U.S. Pacific Territories such as the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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