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UND's special events coordinator to retire after 40 years with university

After nearly 40 years of planning conferences, commencements and special events at UND, Dawn Botsford is planning her last graduation ceremony. "I love the people I work with. I love learning new things," the university events coordinator said. "...

UND graduates wait in line for their name to be called to receive their diploma. (Eric Hylden / Forum News Service)
UND graduates wait in line for their name to be called to receive their diploma. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

After nearly 40 years of planning conferences, commencements and special events at UND, Dawn Botsford is planning her last graduation ceremony.

"I love the people I work with. I love learning new things," the university events coordinator said. "I think it's remarkable how the campus really has a long history and a rich tradition of educating students."

During the past 17 years, she has been part of the team charged with major coordination responsibilities for some of UND's most high-profile ceremonies and celebrations, including commencement ceremonies, Founders Day, presidential inaugurations, Feast of Nations, Wake Up to UND and a wide variety of groundbreaking and dedication ceremonies for many of UND's newest buildings.

Botsford is originally from Northwood, but has spent a majority of her life in Grand Forks and at UND, where she received her bachelor's and master's degrees.

Botsford began her UND career in 1979 as a conference coordinator in the Division of Continuing Education.

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She began a transition in 2001 into her role as the events coordinator in what would soon become the Office of Ceremonies and University Events.

"I've been doing this a longtime," she said. "I'm a home (economics) major, but little did I know that it would become so valuable when I started doing this."

She has helped plan more than 100 commencement ceremonies, Botsford said. She started off planning five ceremonies each year, which has expanded to eight.

Planning festivities like commencements take a team of people and a lot of hard work. Additionally, you have to have backup plans and "backup, backup plans" just in case something does go wrong-"flying by the seam of the pants" is not an option, Botsford said.

"I think the public events are very important because that is the face that the public sees," she said. "When we hold an event like commencement, it's not just for students. It's for their families, their friends and sometimes VIPs. So I've always felt it's pretty critical to be prepared and be prepared for things not to go right."

Botsford said she wants every event, even if it's an annual one, to look and feel different. Often halfway through one celebration, she's writing down ideas for how to make next year's better and unique, she said.

She also makes sure to get input from others when coming up with new ideas.

"It might seem that an event is an event, but each one is different to me and has to be handled differently because your audiences aren't the same," she said.

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During retirement, Botsford said she looks forward to spending time travelling and taking care of her health through yoga and going for walks around town.

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