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UND undergoes administrative evolution

University of North Dakota President Robert Kelley delivers his State of the University speech Oct. 30, 2012, at the Gorecki Alumni Center on the UND campus in Grand Forks.

GRAND FORKS — As the University of North Dakota’s student numbers grow, so does the number of its top-level administrators.

UND’s management structure has changed in several significant ways since President Robert Kelley took office in the summer of 2008. And while the number of vice president positions has remained consistent at six, UND will add one more associate or assistant vice president position than it had at the beginning of Kelley’s tenure.

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UND is in the midst of hiring for that post, an associate vice president of marketing and communications, and considering adding another associate or assistant vice president-level position. Once UND hires the marketing and communications position, it will bring the number of vice presidents, associate vice presidents and assistant vice presidents up to 20.

“We’ve tried to expand through efficiencies, the responsibilities of those vice presidents,” Kelley said in an interview, noting that student enrollment has increased from 12,700 in 2008 to 15,100 this year. “I don’t think two associate VPs, maybe to expand the university’s presence ... I don’t think that’s inappropriate, certainly not excessive.

“We’re competing on a national level,” he added. “We’re competing against much more reputable, more established, more mature institutions. ... So there needs to be a little bit more expertise brought in at certain levels.”

Salaries for vice presidents, and the associate and assistant vice presidents who report to them, has gone up, from more than $2.6 million in 2008 to more than $3.58 million. That’s a 37 percent increase, while inflation in the Midwest during that time was about 8 percent.

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said moderate annual raises account for some of that increase, along with higher salaries for new hires.

Changing structure

This week, a candidate for the recently created position of vice president for marketing and communications was in Grand Forks to meet community members as part of a job interview process. That person will report to Susan Balcom Walton, vice president for university and public affairs, a position that was filled about 18 months ago.

Walton said the creation of the associate vice president position came about after a review of the office’s operations soon after she was hired.

“One of the key recommendations was that we consolidate several of the functions in the division, specifically the Web efforts, the marketing efforts and our television and production capabilities,” Walton said. “This associate vice president job was created to serve as a single manager and leader for all those activities.”

She hopes to make an offer to a candidate by the end of the year.

Kelley said the goal in creating the university affairs office was to have a “more intense effort” in getting UND’s message out to the community and the state. One of Walton’s main roles is to act as a liaison between UND and governments on the state, local and federal level.

Research focus

Meanwhile, Phyllis Johnson, vice president for research and economic development, is the only vice president-level office that doesn’t report directly to the president. Instead, Johnson reports to the vice president for academic affairs and provost, a position occupied by Thomas DiLorenzo.

Kelley said that structural change was made because DiLorenzo has “a background in entrepreneurship and innovation.” UND hired DiLorenzo this year.

“And I thought instead of having someone report to the president, who has a background in basic cell biology, let’s bring that person with the economic development expertise under the provost,” Kelley said. “To try and achieve a stronger outcome than I was able to achieve.”

Kelley said he doesn’t put too much emphasis on titles. But he acknowledged they serve a purpose for those outside the university, and also to help steer the direction of that office.

In that sense, changing the name of the vice president for research title to add “economic development” signals Kelley’s desire for more of that activity. He added that he’s thinking of adding “innovation” to that title as well.

He recounted the story of a University of Florida researcher who created what would become Gatorade, bringing millions of dollars in royalties for the university thanks in part to the management of the intellectual property.

“Some of the more mature research universities are a few years ahead of the University of North Dakota in this area,” Kelley said. “I’d like to move us in that direction.”

Some of Kelley’s moves have involved consolidating or eliminating positions as well.

One major change made after Kelley took office was the elimination of the vice president for general administration position. That office, Kelley said, mainly oversaw the athletics department. Today, the athletics director reports directly to the president.

In addition, a budget officer position that reported to Kelley was combined with responsibilities of the vice president for finance and operations office.

Another exec?

Kelley said he was considering adding another position at the assistant or associate vice president level that will focus on diversity.

While Kelley said he and UND officials are still working out the details of this potential position, he said working on federal compliance and affirmative action issues could be among its responsibilities.

“What is missing is the voice of students of color, international students, multicultural students, all of the diverse activity within the student body,” Kelley said. “I think we need (somebody) to work horizontally on all of these diversity issues.”

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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