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UND president gets contract extension -- with a condition

University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy

MANDAN, N.D. -- The State Board of Higher Education extended the contract of University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy in a unanimous vote Thursday, June 28.

Kennedy’s contract will now run through June 2020.

The board directed NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott to develop a “mid-year evaluation” of Kennedy, a plan SBHE Chair Don Morton said the board wants to institute with all new presidents.

“It’s just a part of their continuous improvement process,” Morton said. “It’s something we’re going to always do with new presidents. We just want to make sure we’re checking in, we’re helping them, we’re providing support.”

Kennedy said in a phone interview Thursday that he’s “excited and honored” to have his contract renewed through 2020, adding that he is “looking forward to working on continuing to advance the strategic plan” that the president and his staff have been working on.

Kennedy added that he is also “excited” to meet with Hagerott for the mid-year evaluation.

“We’ve got a lot of great things happening at the University of North Dakota and having a chance to highlight the progress that we’ll have continued to have made six months from now is something that I look forward to,” Kennedy said.

Morton said the board doesn’t want to “micromanage” the campuses, but they want to make sure they are giving the presidents “all of the support and the help that they need.”

The evaluation will involve discussion about issues presidents or campuses may be experiencing.

“If there’s some issues like the recent thing with the Engelstad donations … if it’s a campus issue then they’ve got to solve it but if there’s any help that we can provide, then we want to do that,” Morton said.

Earlier this year, Kris Engelstad McGarry, head of the Engelstad Family Foundation and the daughter of the late Ralph Engelstad, spoke out about what she called a sometimes “hostile” relationship with Kennedy during discussions over UND’s agreement with The Ralph Engelstad Arena. The two entities met in Las Vegas to discuss the usage agreement. A new agreement was signed earlier this month with few changes.

Morton said issues like the Engelstad matter are up for discussion during contract considerations, but added that there are things that do get higher consideration.

“We like a lot of the things he’s done,” Morton said. “He’s come in and made some very tough decisions. He’s dropped some programs or repurposed some money. He had to go through a reduction in force.”

Morton praised Kennedy’s efforts to not only provide a good on-campus environment for students, but also grow the university’s work on distance education.

“He’s put UND way ahead of everybody else with online,” Morton said. “They are doing some awfully good things with online.”

Morton said the board also received positive feedback from students about Kennedy.

Contracts for other NDUS presidents were also extended through 2020, except that of North Dakota State College of Science President John Richman, whose contract was tabled until September.

Discussion about the presidents’ contracts were done in executive session.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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