North Dakota’s university system has launched a “smart restart” task force to assist colleges and universities in the state to begin the process of getting back to campus this fall.
The task force, led by outgoing interim UND President Joshua Wynne, involves a three-tiered approach to reopening North Dakota campuses in the coming months. The task force held its first meeting Friday of last week.
The group, which will include students, staff and faculty and a member of the State Board of Higher Education, will bring together the guidelines that have been created for each NDUS campus, while also recognizing that the schools’ locations, sizes and missions differ.
The task force will be made up of three working groups, one focusing on the large campuses, one on the medium-sized campuses and one on the smaller campuses. In addition, the task force will have representation from a faculty infectious disease expert, NDUS staff and legal counsel, and will invite input and assistance from a member of the State Board of Higher Education.
Additionally, the group will collect data for individual policies, procedures and approaches for use by the NDUS campuses, which will encourage higher learning success in the current and eventual post-COVID-19 era.
“The task force has been formed to assist the North Dakota University System campuses in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic so that students, faculty and staff can return to their institutions in a way that maximizes safety and minimizes the chance of further spread of the virus,” SBHE Chair Nick Hacker said in a statement. “In addition to health and safety, student success and learning is our priority.”
NDUS Chancellor Mark Hagerott said the system hopes the task force can be a “collaborative tool that recognizes the differences of each campus, but also considers the significance of higher education in the state.”
“While we look at the importance of safety mechanisms that each campus can put into place, we also need to remember the sacred trust of education in our state’s population and providing a diversified workforce to help the entire populace,” he said in a statement.
The task force will meet periodically in the beginning stage to provide its findings, guidelines and suggestions to the chancellor, then with the NDUS institutions and the North Dakota State Board of Higher Education.
“I am honored to have been asked by Chancellor Hagerott to assist the various NDUS institutions in this effort,” Wynne said. “We hope to provide useful assistance as each campus responds to the COVID-19 threat.”
On Wednesday following the resignation of State Health Officer Mylynn Tufte, Gov. Doug Burgum appointed Wynne to be the state’s chief health strategist.
In this role, Wynne will work within the North Dakota Department of Health to create a strategy for developing a “world-class public health enterprise” in partnership with the North Dakota University System, local public health entities, the private sector and local, state, federal and tribal governments.
Wynne, whose term as UND’s interim president expires May 31, will split his time between the temporary leadership positions and his role as UND’s vice president for health affairs and dean of the UND School of Medicine & Health Sciences.