President’s State-of-the-University address focuses on student success


David L. Dodds

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President’s State-of-the-University address focuses on student success

The University of North Dakota is taking a fresh look at everything it does to assure student success, said President Robert Kelley on Tuesday, Nov. 19, at his annual State-of-the-University address.

Kelley said the University is looking at how best to construct academic programs, advance strengths, resolve issues and provide incentives for creative and innovative thinking, all for the benefit of students – UND's primary reason for being.

"We have to make 'enhancing the student experience' the beat behind UND's daily rhythms," he told about 75 UND faculty and staff members who gathered for the address, part of the University Senate's University Council meeting. "We have to constantly rethink what we are doing and why we are doing it."

Kelley said UND plans to enhance the student experience by strengthening admission standards, retaining highly-prepared students and improving the academic quality of the University.

He said UND is moving in this direction because it is the right thing to do for students, but also because it will benefit the University in the long run, thanks to a major funding mechanism change enacted by the North Dakota Legislature.

The new funding model now appropriates fiscal resources based on a weighted dollar amount per completed student credit hour, as measured at the end of each biennium. The model also rewards institutions for students' efficient and timely progress toward graduation.

"So it is clear that not only is UND's funding dependent on the success of our students, but it also challenges all of us to achieve these goals while continuously increasing the quality of education provided at this institution," Kelley said.

To this end, Kelley said, he has set up a Strategic Enrollment Management Committee to address enrollment goals across all academic programs at UND – undergraduate, graduate and professional. The committee already is working on ideas such as creating a common course scheduling system, an early alert system for at-risk students, and streamlining graduation requirements.

One of the tools that will help all this work are new "iDashboards," online-based, compact ways that visually display and analyze key performance metrics for UND students. UND already has developed 60 of these iDashboards.

In an effort to retain students, UND is creating an Online Catalogue that provides students with real-time information on their course progress and course availability. In addition, UND is developing software to identify "at-risk" students so that advisors can intervene early and keep students in school.

The University also is working to eliminate what students have long called the "Twamley Shuffle" – the seemingly endless journey through the maze of administrative offices, Kelley said. UND hopes to replace the Twamley Shuffle with a student services center – a One Stop Shop – where staff members, using both physical and virtual tools, will assist students with any questions they may have, including those related to financial aid, parking, transcripts and other functions of the Registrar and Students Account Services.

Kelley also told the audience that the University is advertising for a new position – an Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion.

"We must find ways to make multicultural diversity and inclusiveness a part of our institutional DNA."

Kelley told the group that all faculty and staff members have a collaborative role to play in ensuring enhanced student experiences at UND.

"So, in all ways that assure success," he said. "together, we are building an Exceptional UND."

Highpoints and achievements

Kelley also addressed a number of highpoints and achievements at the University, including the fine work done by the more than 150 campus who prepared UND's self-study for the recent visit by the Higher Learning Commission accrediting body. Kelley specifically mentioned Joan Hawthorne, Patrick O'Neill and Donna Pearson as those who played important roles in the process.

The President also made special mention of the UND Theatre Arts cast and production staff of A Chorus Line, which is playing at Burtness Theatre. He specially named Emily Cherry, Ali Angelone, Loren Liepold and Emily Wirkus as big factors in the show's success. He also pointed to the work of Robert Brooks and the Pride of the North marching band as well as the cheer and dance teams as points of pride for the University.

Kelley applauded the work of the UND Alumni Association and Foundation for its efforts to raise more than $324 million in the public phase of the Spirit Campaign.

Financial standing

He talked about UND's strong financial shape and its ability to use revenues to increase compensation for faculty and staff members. These increases, he said, have permitted UND to close the variance between UND faculty salaries and AAUP average faculty salaries every year since 2002.

Kelley talked about challenges ahead in the areas of grants and contracts, due to a downturn in congressional investments in research and development. Despite this, the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences is experiencing its best year for research awards, thanks in large part to a $10-million COBRE grant in the area of epigenetic research.

New developments

Kelley also mentioned that UND has completed the first phase of a space utilization study, which focused on instructional space. The information will augment a separate Campus Master Plan Study.

Finally, Kelley listed the exciting new building developments that have or are about to take shape on the UND campus, including the proposed College of Engineering & Mines Collaborative Energy Complex, the LEED-Platinum designated Gorecki Alumni Center and the new UND Athletics High Performance Center, all of which have been made possible by strong alumni and community support. Kelley also expressed his gratitude to the North Dakota Legislature for funding a much-needed renovation of and addition to the UND School of Law as well as the new $122-million, four-story building for the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences, the largest state-funded construction project in North Dakota history.

The President also made sure not to leave out another important development taking place on campus.

"I have to mention this. The bridge over the English Coulee should be finished before Christmas – yes – that's Christmas 2013," he said, drawing laughter and a hearty applause from his audience.

David Dodds University & Public Affairs writer

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