EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is the winter commencement speech delivered during a virtual ceremony Friday by UND President Andrew Armacost.
I’m sure you’re all as ready as I am to be done with 2020 and a fall semester that will undoubtedly go down in University of North Dakota history as one of the most challenging and unusual ever. The important thing to remember is: We made it!
Back in August when UND reopened for the fall semester, we had a plan in place on how to keep the campus open, keep people safe, maintain health standards and provide our students with the best education possible. It was challenging and there were rough spots along the way, but – with your cooperation and willingness to adapt – we did it. I applaud and commend all of you who have persevered through the year. Being a graduate of the University of North Dakota at this time makes your class truly unique, exceptional and historic.
Just as my first semester at the university was nothing like I envisioned it, I’m certain your last semester at UND was nothing like you envisioned it. But we got through it. We changed. We adapted. We transformed. It’s safe to say that the entire experience has altered the course of higher education in ways we can see and other ways we can’t yet fully comprehend.
For example, the new Nistler College of Business & Public Administration currently under construction will be the first business school built in the COVID pandemic era. It will incorporate technologies that both enhance education and communication. Students can have a virtual cup of coffee with UND alumni and business leaders to advise them on their entrepreneurial ideas and potential startups. Technology outreach will enable us to bring experts into the classroom to engage in more experiential learning, increasing opportunities for collaboration and interactive engagement.
It’s important to recognize that while the past nine months have been filled with stress and strain, we can be proud of what we’ve accomplished at UND under the most trying of circumstances.
We’ve had national leaders visit the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences to explore ways UND can assist with deep-space exploration and support the newly created Space Force, both in terms of research and workforce development. These leaders were impressed with the well-rounded graduates our university produces, graduates not only well versed in aerospace, but who also have expertise in law, policy, engineering, computer science, medicine and other fields. It’s an area full of opportunities.
UND’s School of Medicine & Health Science, the School of Nursing, the Center for Rural Health and Department of Psychology were recognized for behavioral health services in rural areas during the COVID-19 pandemic. They developed a Behavioral Health Bridge to provide information and launch virtual behavioral health treatments to address community needs. Two regional centers to address the issues of mental health and addiction were also created to serve North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Utah and Wyoming.
In October, the state of North Dakota announced the launch of Vantis, a statewide network that will enable unmanned aircraft system – UAS – to operate beyond visual line of sight. Those who follow the UAS industry know that these types of operations are the key to integrating drones into the national airspace and unlocking their true potential of commercial UAS applications. UND has played an integral role in the research, development and commercialization of UAS technologies that directly benefit the agricultural and energy sectors of our state. The university has been and will continue to be vital to the success of North Dakota’s UAS ecosystem.
Whatever the future holds, I can assure you that change will be part of it. The education you received at UND provides the basis for how you cope with change and respond to it. I know this class has been tested. The Class of 2020 has risen to the challenge of dealing with unforeseen changes and adapting to its unpredictable consequences.
As former President John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
UND has provided you with the educational foundation on which to build. As long as you look at it as the start of your education and never stop learning, you will never miss the future. I have great confidence in the University of North Dakota’s Class of 2020. Congratulations! Now, go forward and be a force for positive change in the world. Hats off to you, class of 2020.