The State Board of Higher Education quickly moved to put a leader in place at the University of North Dakota. That’s good.
And the board selected a hyper-local candidate when it elevated UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences Dean Joshua Wynne. Even better.
Wynne certainly has the background and experience for the job. As dean of the medical school, he heads a flagship division of the state’s flagship university. He also has served as interim dean of the medical school and came to UND in 2004 as vice dean.
He has a master’s degree in business administration and another in public health. He also is a university vice president.
He lives in Grand Forks and has been at the university through the terms of four presidents. Of all of Wynne’s academic and professional achievements, perhaps this – his intimate knowledge of the community and the workings of the university – is most important.
Mark Kennedy, president at UND since 2016, soon will leave for his new job as president of the University of Colorado system. His departure is pleasing to some because, evidently, they believe he never immersed himself into the local culture.
Some of that criticism is unfair, since we believe Kennedy – tasked with moving the university forward amid steep budget cuts – was forced to push a large rock up a steep hill since his arrival. Even so, he made strides as a strategic leader of the university.
Yet some of the criticism is fair. Kennedy obviously had designs on other jobs over the past two years – including being named a finalist at the University of Central Florida – and he has had prickly relationships with some, including philanthropist Kris Engelstad McGarry.
This is where Wynne can do so much good during his time as temporary president.
He can pick up where Kennedy left off, hopefully starting with the wide-reaching strategic plan that is popular among many in the Grand Forks business and civic sectors. He also can rebuild relationships that have decayed in recent years.
Wynne was instrumental in winning statewide support for the new UND medical school building. That required team-building, collaboration and persuasion -- traits that will come in handy as interim president.
Furthermore, his status as a current employee of UND and a resident of Grand Forks gives him an obvious advantage. His vast experience coupled with his intimate knowledge of the campus puts him in a position to instantly organize his own initiatives to move the university forward. And his knowledge of the community, state and region means that on Day 1, he understands the culture and is able to immediately begin the work of mending frayed relationships.
Wynne is an excellent choice for interim president. But since he’ll continue on as a vice president and as dean of the medical school, he’ll have a full plate. That could hinder his ability to dedicate himself fully to all of his responsibilities.
Now, we urge the State Board of Higher Education to move quickly on the process to find UND’s next full-time president.