GRAND FORKS - University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy received positive remarks on his yearly evaluation from North Dakota University System chancellor Mark Hagerott, according to a copy of the document obtained by Forum News Service.

Overall, Hagerott applauded Kennedy for his efforts so far as president of UND, noting that Kennedy took office in 2016 “just as a ‘perfect storm’ of commodity price drops created great stress on our state budget.”

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“You were confronted with multiple vectors of change: eroding state support; changing student needs; rapidly changing technology and research environment; and changing workforce demands.”

Hagerott acknowledged there has been “some tension among some stakeholders” with the university and advised Kennedy to speak about the university’s larger mission.

“I encourage your efforts to build bridges to your critics, and with a dose of humility, explain as often as necessary, how you and your “One UND” have a larger, state mission to consider, one that will continue to diversify our economy and help their children and adult students flourish in the new digital and energy economies now emerging,” he wrote.

Kris Engelstad McGarry, head of the Engelstad Family Foundation, publicly criticized Kennedy this spring during a meeting with the Herald’s editorial board. McGarry is the daughter of the late Ralph Engelstad, who gifted the $110 million Ralph Engelstad Arena to the university in 2001.

McGarry claimed she and Kennedy had a “hostile” relationship and at one time said that ‘“funding to the school itself” could have been in jeopardy.

Tax records show the Engelstad Foundation has donated more than $12 million to the UND Foundation since 2011.

The two, along with other UND and REA officials, met in May in Las Vegas to discuss the usage agreement between the two entities. Both described the discussion on May 30 as “successful” and “productive.”

The new, multiyear usage agreement was completed on Wednesday and featured minor administrative and operational changes.

Serving the state

Hagerott commended Kennedy for recognizing the university needs to serve the entire state, not just those who are in close proximity to UND or who favor certain programs.

“That is a tough balancing act, and I encourage you as you continue to balance statewide/NDUS needs with those local stakeholders,” Hagerott wrote.

Going forward, Hagerott said that while he anticipates the fiscal situation to remain tight, he encouraged Kennedy to focus on ways technology can adapt to changing student, faculty and staff needs.

Hagerott commended Kennedy and his staff for their work in various areas, including the university's “crowdfunding” initiative, online education, recruitment and retainment of student.

The chancellor also praised Kennedy for the university’s research work and collaboration efforts on each of the university’s five “Grand Challenges.” The challenges are intended to outline research areas broad enough to prompt collaboration among diverse areas of campus, include energy and environmental sustainability, health and biomedical sciences, rural health and social problems, unmanned aircraft systems and big data.

Kennedy provided the following statement to the Herald about his evaluation:

“I have enjoyed my collaborative relationship with Chancellor Hagerott and I look forward to continue working with him. I appreciate his encouraging us to collaborate with other institutions, and I especially appreciate his focus on elevating the importance of our research mission.”