Kennedy chosen as president

UND’s presidential search process has officially come to a close; former Congressman Mark Kennedy has been selected to be the next president of UND.

The State Board of Higher Education selected Kennedy on March 15 after interviewing him, along with finalists Steven Shirley and Nagi Naganathan, in the last stage of the search process.

Kennedy has experience in a variety of sectors, including business, government and higher education. He worked in executive positions at the Pillsbury Company and Federated Department Stores, now known as Macy’s.

He represented Minnesota’s second district from 2001 to 2003 and the state’s sixth district from 2003 to 2007 in the U.S. House of Representatives. After his time in the House, he continued to be involved in public service as a trade representative in both the Bush and Obama administrations.

Kennedy began his work in higher education at the Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School in Baltimore as an executive resident, and he started working at his current position as director of the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C., in 2012.

Kennedy said this combination of experiences will aid him when he begins his time as president of UND.

“You have to understand the academics and that we’re here to deliver a quality education experience for the students, as well as research that drives the state. I understand that from my years in academia,” Kennedy said. “But also it’s a large organization. The fact that I’ve led organizations larger than UND means that I’ll understand all the administrative things that are essential to make sure that experience is being delivered for the students.”

Kennedy applauded the work that Interim President Ed Schafer has done so far at the university, and he recognized that there are difficult decisions that need to be made during tight budget circumstances.

“You have multiple student interests, and there is no easy answer,” Kennedy said. “It’s never without controversy, but yes, I think we should be prepared to keep a close eye on expenses constantly to make sure citizens are confident that their money is being well spent at the University of North Dakota.”

Throughout an interview with the Dakota Student, Kennedy stressed the need for the university administration to listen to the needs of the entire campus in order to make decisions, and then using that information to form a strategic plan for the university.

“In my mind, it has to be a constant outreach and searching for input that is necessary in terms of keeping your thumb on the pulse as to what is the thoughts that are out there amongst the student body,” Kennedy said. “Whatever the issue, we need to try to understand the tensions that are out there and what are the areas of consensus.”

When discussing issues related to affordability and student outcomes, Kennedy noted that UND is currently offering a very affordable education. While he agreed this is a good thing, he mentioned that UND should strive to be recognized not only for its affordability, but its quality of education.

“We need to have UND known for being more than affordable, and in many areas it already is, and we need to embrace those areas,” Kennedy said, highlighting programs such as aviation, accounting and rural health. Kennedy said the university needs to build prominent programs in a variety of disciplines so that UND graduates stand out to potential employers.

Kennedy stressed the need to include the input of faculty and staff when making decisions about the future path of the university.

“The heart of the ability of the university to deliver a quality experience for students is the faculty,” Kennedy said. “Clearly, as we’ve already seen, when you decide this area is a priority and perhaps others aren’t, those that aren’t priorities are not going to be happy, but it has to be a shared consensus decision to arrive at that with the broad-based faculty.”

Kennedy said that meeting with faculty and staff to understand their concerns will be an important part of his first 90 days on campus, along with interacting with student groups and other members of the community.

He said he plans on hosting “pancakes with the president” and “coffee with Kennedy” in order to increase interaction on campus.

During his time at George Washington, the university started two international graduate programs. These include a Spanish language online masters program specifically targeted to Latin American government officials and a master’s degree in advocacy in the global environment, which features immersions in multiple locations around the world.

Kennedy said he will examine UND’s international programs as president to see where they can be improved.

“To really be preparing students for the future, we need to be offering them a wide array of international experiences and helping them to expand their global awareness,” Kennedy said.

Student Body President Matt Kopp was optimistic about Kennedy’s selection as president of the university.

“From what I’ve seen so far working on the presidential search committee and also being involved with his visit to campus, he’s been outstanding in being accessible to students, and I think that’s going to continue once he takes over as president,” Kopp said. “He has great experience as a business leader, leader in government and also in academia, and I think he is going to be a fantastic leader at the University of North Dakota.”

Kennedy earned his bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn. and his MBA from the University of Michigan.

Interim President Ed Schafer’s contract expires on June 30, Kennedy is expected to begin by July 1 at the latest.

Sean Cleary is the editor in chief for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]