By Laurie Betting

As a proud lifelong resident who has just retired after 15 action-packed years at the University of North Dakota, I find myself reminiscing about the past and hopeful for the future of my alma mater.

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I grew up as a northender near UND. As a child, I was connected to the campus through my father, Frenchy Lacrosse. He was closely connected to UND's hockey and football programs, and as a result, my seven siblings and I had the privilege of meeting many legendary student athletes and coaches, at our home and elsewhere.

I have many fond memories from those days. I drank hot Dr. Peppers at The Barn, UND's original hockey rink, served up by Mrs. Purpur and Mrs. Fee, and I heard countless stories about students who went on to do great things in the world and returned home to share their stories, which continue to inspire us. The thread that ran through the stories and my upbringing was that North Dakotans and UND alum have grit. We get things done. We embrace challenges and are not afraid to step in as leaders to drive needed change.

In 2002, I was privileged to be hired to serve as the first director for wellness for my beloved university. In the past 15 years, it has been my honor to have been able to work alongside students to build the Student Wellness Center. I served as interim vice president for student affairs, co-chair of the campus master plan and of the strategic plan. I finished my career holding numerous roles, including senior adviser to the president.

Some things have remained the same throughout my lifelong connection to the university: we have outstanding student leaders and athletes who make UND proud and know the value of giving back to their community. The university continues to develop leaders who know how to roll up their sleeves and get things done.

Some things have changed, and continue to change. Higher education across the United States and certainly North Dakota is in a time of significant transition. Nationally, most of higher education faced significant budget issues during most of the past decade. In North Dakota, the slowdown in the economy forced all of state and local government agencies, including higher education, to deal with significant budget shortfalls. The North Dakota Legislature grappled with these issues last spring. In an attempt to protect K-12 education and human services, higher education bore the brunt of budget cuts. And that happened at a time when more technology demands have been placed on higher education.

But I'm not pessimistic about the near future of higher education in the state. I'm optimistic, and I'm particularly optimistic about UND. In fact, although my husband has tugged at my sleeve to get me to retire, it's bittersweet to leave my university and community at a time when we have the right leadership in President Mark Kennedy. He understands the fast pace of change happening in higher education, and the fast pace of change needed to keep UND at the forefront. I witnessed firsthand how President Kennedy makes decisions, not based upon popular opinion polls; rather by analysis of data and in-depth research with a forward focus. He understands what needs to be done.

Through President Kennedy's encouragement, UND has a strategic plan, the One UND Strategic Plan, that puts the right focus on the areas the university needs to pay attention and to develop. UND is also developing a master plan. Together, those plans provide UND with a blueprint for the future.

I am very excited to see where my university heads during the next decade and beyond. And although I'll be enjoying retirement with my husband, I'll be watching closely, cheering from the sidelines, and doing what I can to help ensure we all can continue to be proud to say we are UND alumnus from the great state of North Dakota.

Laurie Betting is from Grand Forks.