Former UND blue-liner trades sticks for bricks by pursuing urban planning master's at alma mater


Kate Menzies

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Former UND blue-liner trades sticks for bricks by pursuing urban planning master's at alma mater

From the rink to the classroom, former University of North Dakota hockey player Derrick LaPoint has his stick on the ice at all times, so to speak.

His dedication and drive on the ice have helped this former defensemen excel in the classroom, landing him a full-tuition waiver to UND's Geography graduate program and also a Graduate Teaching Assistant position.

LaPoint, a native of Eau Claire, Wis., is currently working on his master's in Geography with an emphasis on Urban Planning and Community Development. His thesis focuses on developing a community-based program to help the elderly in Grand Forks by providing physical and social services.

LaPoint, an assistant captain for UND his senior year, played in 149 games for UND from 2007-2011, tallying seven goals and 37 assists. He ended his UND career with a stellar +44 +/- rating as a defenseman. He also was frequently recognized for his work in the classroom with many academic honors while at UND.

After a solid UND hockey career, LaPoint moved on to play in the ranks of minor league professional hockey. When LaPoint was in his second year of professional hockey, a leg injury forced him to walk away from playing the game he loved. At that point, he traveled to Indianapolis to be with his fiancé. While in Indianapolis, LaPoint was able to work as a community engagement and housing specialist and a coach for a traveling hockey team.

But for LaPoint, there was no place like home ? or at least, no place like his alma mater.

That's why when the UND Department of Geography encouraged him to apply to their graduate program, he knew it was something he couldn't refuse.

"The Geography Department at UND made graduate school an easy decision for me because it was an opportunity to further my knowledge and experience in my field," said LaPoint.

"I was honored to be a part of the UND family as a student athlete and when I had the opportunity to come back for graduate school, I knew it was the only place I wanted to be."

LaPoint's prior experience with the hockey program gave him a whole new appreciation for school and what it takes to excel academically.

"When I came to campus for graduate school I was able to give all of my efforts towards school. I am constantly trying to get better, whether it is studying or going to educational seminars, I want to utilize all of my resources to become a better student and potential employee," said LaPoint.

His taste of student athletics instilled a fire in him to push for success in everything he does.

"My success in hockey has only made me want that same or more success off the ice," said LaPoint.

The transition from the rink to classroom was not that difficult for LaPoint, as the skills he learned while playing hockey have come in handy.

"As a student athlete I have especially developed time management skills that have been crucial in all aspects of my life today, including graduate school," said LaPoint.

Ultimately, it's his UND family that have made the transition an easy one.

"UND has helped my career tremendously! Not only has UND provided me with an outstanding education, but the people I have developed relationships with at UND and in Grand Forks will be with me forever," LaPoint said. "Without the support of the coaches, professors, teammates, students and fans, I would not be where I am today and I thank all of them for that."

Once he gets his master's degree, LaPoint hopes he can work with a private company or in a city government in development and community engagement initiatives.

"I enjoy giving back to all of the people that have supported me over the years, so working in this field is one way of doing that," he said.

Whether on the ice or off, for LaPoint, the UND bond is one that is hard to break.

Kate Menzies University & Public Affairs student writer

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