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Susan Balcom Walton: Nickname task force: Have we heard you?

GRAND FORKS — Nearly 30 years ago in upstate New York, my husband Mark and I narrowly avoided rear-ending a car that had unexpectedly stopped on the road in front of us.

I had seen the car’s brake lights a moment earlier and had murmured, “Slow down.” I assumed Mark had heard my words, and so I said nothing else until another second had passed, and it was clear he wasn’t decelerating. This time I yelled — and it was a good thing I did.

Mark hadn’t heard me the first time, and the afternoon sun pouring through the windshield had obscured his view of the brake lights on the vehicle ahead.

It was a sobering moment, especially with our three young children in the back seat. As we talked about it afterwards, we made a pact that we’ve tried to keep ever since: that when we communicated with each other, the person speaking would always check to make sure the listener had heard — and, that the listener would always acknowledge that he (or she) had received the message.

Over the past several weeks, the UND Nickname and Logo Process Recommendation Task Force has undergone a similar task of making sure important messages have been received. The Task Force has done this by developing different ways for shareholders to communicate.

For example, three live feedback meetings were held in Grand Forks in early November, and Virtual Town Hall meetings were held last week in six locations across the state. Many other people joined those meetings via web conferencing.

From now through 5 p.m. Sunday, there’s another way to ensure your voice has been heard: by responding to the Task Force’s online survey.

The survey was emailed to more than 60,000 stakeholders last week, and it can also be accessed on the web site of UND’s Division of University and Public Affairs.

Why a survey? For one thing, it can reach an even broader group than the statewide Virtual Town Hall meetings. It also provides the Task Force with a chance to verify the messages received so far.

Those survey-takers who also attended the Grand Forks or Virtual Town Hall meetings will notice the survey questions are more specific and have a wider variety of possible responses. That’s because they were based on the data collected at those first three live meetings.

The survey provides a way for the Task Force to say, “Here’s what we think we heard. Is there anything else that we need to hear?”

Task Force member Chuck Horter, UND Class of 1972 and president of the UND Alumni Association from 2003-05, believes this chance is too important to pass up. “It’s critical that the Task Force get as much feedback as possible on this important issue,” he says.

“I encourage everyone to take advantage of the online survey. Responses to the surveys and the community Town Hall meetings will serve as the basis for the recommendations made by the Task Force going forward.”

Task Force member Matt Bakke, who played offensive line on the UND football team from 2006-10, adds, “The survey also enables us to reach out to stakeholders not only in Grand Forks and North Dakota, but even across the country and around the world. For anyone who wants to have a say and a voice in this process, this is your chance.”

Even if Herald readers attended one of the live meetings, we ask that they take the Task Force survey. The Task Force expects to complete its recommendations by the end of this year, and the members need the important additional feedback the survey requests.

As Mark and I were reminded on that country road in upstate New York so many years ago, it’s always a good idea to verify that the message has been received. We welcome the opportunity to hear from you.

Balcom Walton serves as the internal project manager and communications coordinator for the Task Force. She is UND’s vice president for university and public affairs.