Image: The University of North Dakota
Image: Strategic Plan 2
Process & Findings

I.  Introduction

Dynamic strategic planning is critical to any organization. At The University of North Dakota, planning considers the interaction among environmental trends and challenges and the institution’s mission, values, and strengths. To ensure the wise use of resources, the University must continually assess and refine its priorities, goals, and plans for both the short-term and long-term future. Measurable outcomes, both qualitative and quantitative, are specified. These will be reviewed and adjusted at least annually, as the University moves toward its preferred future.

II. Strategic Planning at the University of North Dakota

The present strategic planning process follows a long history of planning at UND (see Appendix A). The current effort, Building on Excellence, follows the successful implementation of Pathways to the Future, launched in the fall of 2001. The planning process continues to be guided by the University Planning and Budget Committee, established in 2000. The President and the Provost serve as co-chairs of the Committee. Throughout the 2004-2005 academic year, the Committee hosted a series of forums and conducted surveys of students, faculty, staff, and external stakeholders.

At the beginning of the new round of planning, three basic questions were asked:

    1. What are the most important global, national, regional, and state trends likely to impact the University of North Dakota in the next few years?
    2. What are the most highly valued characteristics and the most important elements of the mission of the University that should be retained as it moves into the future?
    3. What should be the top priorities for the University in the next few years? A summary of the survey results is available in Appendix B.

The Planning and Budget Committee continually assessed progress in implementing the Strategic Plan and, on a cycle of every four to five years, the University will engage in an extensive reconsideration of the plan and its underlying premises. The University’s Strategic Plan serves as a basis for all accreditation reviews, self-studies, and similar accountability and assessment activities undertaken by the University.


III. Environmental Scan

An important element of this strategic planning process is the University’s assessment of the environment in which it exists. This section begins with an assessment of the University itself, moves to an assessment of the primary service area, and concludes with statewide, national, and global perspectives.

The success of the University depends as much on the external environment as it does on its own initiatives. The University’s first obligation is to serve the citizens of North Dakota. However, the forces impacting UND — and thus the influence of the University — transcend the state’s borders. Indeed, a healthy future for the University and for the state of North Dakota is bound inextricably to their joint success in responding to these wider trends.

A. University of North Dakota

1. General state of the University: The environmental scan performed within the framework of an analysis by the University Planning and Budget Committee identified some trends, issues, and challenges that were determined to be of a significant order.

The major strengths of UND were identified as its faculty and staff, with special emphasis on quality faculty carrying out teaching, scholarship, and service at the highest levels of quality. Academic excellence was ranked at the same level as quality faculty/staff. The top-ranked weaknesses of UND were all identified as money-related. Leading the list were two evenly ranked weaknesses of “lack of funding” and “spread too thin.” The third-ranked weakness was an overall concern that compensation paid to UND employees was comparatively low.

The following additional strengths were also mentioned:

  • Guidance from a Strategic Plan;
  • Adherence to values;
  • Nationally and internationally recognized programs;
  • Size of the campus;
  • American Indian programs;
  • Attractive campus; and
  • Unique, signature programs.

2. Major recent successes in achieving strategic objectives: At the beginning of the current round of planning, an assessment was made of the successes and accomplishments achieved under the previous plan. Also identified were those objectives yet unmet. All of the successes and remaining challenges are outlined in Appendix D and posted on the UND Web site at Click on “Progress Detailed on Strategic Plan Priority Action Areas.”

B.  Higher Education in North Dakota

Economic realities continue to suggest that growth of state funding for higher education will be modest at best. Funding per student remains low in comparison to other states, while support on a per capita basis is high. In an effort to provide more institutional control over budgets, the North Dakota University System (NDUS) in 2001 instituted a plan for “flexibility with accountability” and allowed tuition to be retained by the campuses. In light of the state’s declining population base and other factors, state support as a function of the University’s total budget is expected to decline. As a result, the University has already become more committed to linking strategic planning with budget allocation and reallocation. A reallocation plan has been developed and continues to be refined. The University has come to depend increasingly on tuition revenue and has experienced double-digit tuition increases in the recent past.

The role of higher education in the State of North Dakota continues to evolve. The Higher Education Roundtable, which links the NDUS to economic development, continues to be a major factor influencing campus decisions. Proposals for new undergraduate and graduate programs are being presented to the State Board of Higher Education for consideration on a regular basis. The adoption, funding, and implementation of these programs require careful consideration in light of the demographic and economic shifts occurring in our state. In addition, innovations such as ConnectND, the development of Senator Byron Dorgan’s Red River Valley Research Corridor, and Governor John Hoeven’s Centers of Excellence program, reflect the direct relationship the universities have to the future of the state. In June 2004, Dr. Robert Potts assumed the responsibilities of North Dakota University System Chancellor following the departure of Larry Isaak. This transition in leadership provides an opportunity for UND to more clearly articulate its mission and vision for the future of higher education in North Dakota and beyond. UND can be a leader in assisting the NDUS in recognizing the differences in missions and providing insights into appropriate incentives for intercampus collaboration. It is imperative UND’s communication with the NDUS office and the State Board of Higher Education continues to be a priority.

C. North Dakota and the Upper Midwest

The environmental scan of the state and region also identified trends, issues and challenges that were determined to be of a significant order. Leading the list was the challenge of economic development in the state. Of special note within the higher education community was the second most named issue of financing higher education. A third significant issue is the general demographic profile of the state, especially the declining number of high school graduates in North Dakota and throughout the Midwest.

The following were also mentioned:

  •  Demographics of American Indian population (increases);
  •  North Dakota’s reliance on federal dollars;
  •  Low-level (but improving) economic diversity in the state;

  •  High expectations of research institutions relative to economic development.

D. National and Global Trends

UND has certain strengths and weaknesses relative to the national and global landscapes. Leading the identified strengths at the national level is the complementary effort of an aggressive research and commercialization team, and a well-positioned congressional delegation, which is eager to provide federal funding and to assist in the development of private-sector partnerships.

Other positives and related strengths include:

  • National and international recognition that research universities are the “engines” that drive economic development and provide the trained workforce in a knowledge-based economy.
  • Nationally recognized programs in aviation/aerospace, rural medicine, and energy/environmental research. The need to increase energy independence was the basis for identifying UND’s energy and environmental research enterprise as its potentially most significant leading strength.

A major weakness or challenge is the Upper Midwest’s low population density with little diversity, coupled with distant geographic location; thus the region is not favored with federal and private national funding, compared to the coastal regions of the country.

Other challenges include:

  • The uncertainties of federal funding.
  • The nationwide reduction of state support for public education.
  • The paucity of major metropolitan areas and large corporations in the Great Plains that could serve as training cooperatives for students and as corporate partners for UND’s emerging business enterprises.

Chief among the opportunities are the federal funding opportunities related to homeland security and national defense, particularly border security and bioterrorism. Other opportunities include the emerging research enterprises in aerospace, medicine, and engineering that reflect national priorities and will have national import and economic impact.

A number of national threats exist, including the increasing national deficit, cost of the ongoing war, and the resultant shift in funding for higher education and the various federal agencies that fund research to the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. The national budget is strained further by increased global competition and escalating national health carecosts. With respect to healthcare costs, the University has a niche in leading the effort to shift healthcare toward wellness and preventive medicine. Additional threats to the university research enterprise include increased unfunded mandates on research compliance, increased federal accountability on research conduct, and encroachment by the federal government on scientific issues previously determined by scientific peer review. Additional threats to the university academic enterprise include threats to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, increasing disparity between the cost and price of higher education and who will fund the difference, increased cost and complexity of immigration compliance issues for foreign students and visiting faculty, the increased competition by other nations for foreign student enrollment as a result of recent homeland security regulations on immigration, and increased competition for students, courses, and degrees by the national “virtual” university movement.


IV. Mission and Values of the University of North Dakota

Abbreviated Mission Statement for Planning Purposes

The purpose of the University is to provide students with high-quality, accessible, and affordable educational programs through the doctoral and highest professional degree level and to serve the public through high-quality research and public service programs linked to learning. All of the University’s programs will be responsive to the needs of North Dakota, the nation, and the world. UND supports a wide range of research and public service programs that enrich and extend the learning environment. The University’s formal mission statement, approved by the State Board of Higher Education, is available in Appendix E.

Values Statement

What are the values that The University of North Dakota must retain as it moves into the future? Part of the answer may be found in its history. UND was established by the Dakota Territorial Assembly in 1883, six years before statehood. Unlike many of the new institutions in the West, The University of North Dakota was intended to be a true university, providing an education for all students grounded in the liberal arts and humanities, offering professional and graduate programs, and including in its mission scholarship, research, and public service. Today, in its second century, UND’s original educational values would be recognizable to its founders and remain a model to which other institutions aspire.

Early in its deliberations during 2000-2001, the Planning and Budget Committee sought wide input concerning the values important to the University as it addresses the future.

A consensus view was that these core values include:

  • A dedication to quality in all that it does, thereby giving the University’s stakeholders access to the benefits of a doctoral-level university ranking with the best of its kind in the nation.
  • A dedication to the importance of providing a liberal arts-based education for all students, coupled with an array of challenging academic programs and lifelong learning opportunities attractive to a wide variety of students.
  • A focus on being student-centered in all that it does, resulting in a unique sense of campus community and a remarkable level of loyalty and support from alumni.
  • A commitment to research, faculty scholarship, graduate education, and public service that distinguishes UND, strengthens the “active” learning environment for all students, and benefits the state, region, and nation.
  • A commitment to cultural diversity as an essential element of the learning environment.
  • An enthusiasm for creativity and entrepreneurship in seeking new opportunities and partners in the development of the University.

Important UND values identified in 2004 were very similar, i.e., overall quality of education with special emphasis on its liberal arts foundation (including fine arts, humanities, and sciences). Of similar magnitude was the value and tradition of the educational value (cost/benefit) delivered at UND as a function of the economics attendant to higher education costs. Also, the quality of professors ranked in the upper echelon of traditions and values at UND.

The following values and traditions were mentioned:

  • Strong professional programs.
  • High-quality student services.
  • Balanced student athlete tradition/athletic competitiveness.
  • Research capability.
  • Student involvement in UND activities.

V. Priority/Action Areas for the Present and Future

The University’s 2001-2002 Strategic Plan marked the beginning of a new era in strategic accomplishment. As a result of the work of a new University Planning and Budget Committee, the institution achieved noteworthy results across a broad spectrum of priority areas. While much has been accomplished, there is much left to do. Although many of the priority/action areas remain the same in the current plan, goals have been updated and strategies and indicators of success have been adjusted. A new priority/action area, fundraising and development, has been added as the institution seeks additional sources of revenue. As the institution moves forward into a culture of assessment, the strategies and indicators of success have become better defined and measurable. Similarly, in recognition of the need for a flexible document, the plan incorporates more specificity in the strategies that it outlines and more detail in near-term indicators for outcomes assessment.

The overriding goal of The University of North Dakota is excellence and distinction in all its programs and services. The University of North Dakota focuses on students and on learning. Faculty and staff, as well as students, are viewed as learners. The relationship is one in which all are involved in the process of learning.

The University intends to move toward greater achievement in all areas by focusing on each of the priority/action areas outlined below. In essence, these priority/action areas address the University’s mission and those currently critical aspects of infrastructure essential to fulfilling that mission. The University seeks to expand its client base and to make optimal use of its existing resources, even as it works to develop additional sources of revenue.

A. Prepare students to lead rich, full lives, to enjoy productive careers, and to make meaningful contributions to society by providing them with a high-quality educational experience solidly grounded in the liberal arts.

The University must increase the appreciation for and understanding of the value of a liberal arts education throughout the campus and region. Professional programs of study in all of our majors will be fully integrated with the general education program so that the common attributes of educated persons are reinforced throughout all curricula. As an integral part of the University curriculum, UND must provide all students with opportunities to practically apply the values and skills of their ongoing education. Faculty will monitor, modify, and perfect the curriculum to ensure that it is focused on essential knowledge and skills needed to prepare students to be educated professionals and engaged, productive citizens.

At both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University will continue to develop new programs and to refine existing programs to meet the needs of its students, the state, the region, and the nation. Professional programs in medicine, law, and other areas will continue to distinguish UND as a flagship university.

B. Expand and strengthen the University’s commitment to research and creative activity, both as a means of enriching the learning environment and as a driver for economic development.

The University of North Dakota serves the state, nation, and the world as an institution within the highest echelons of research. UND intends to expand research and creative activity by increasing its graduate program offerings and sponsored research base. The University will fully integrate its creative enterprises into its teaching and learning strategies so they become part of the process by which both undergraduate and graduate students learn. All faculty members will be involved in research and creative activity and will thus serve as models of lifelong learners for students. The University will pursue areas of applied research that enhance the economic growth and development of North Dakota and the Upper Midwest.

C. Serve the people of North Dakota and the world more effectively through applied and basic research, cultural programs, and economic development programs as well as through a comprehensive array of educational offerings.

The University of North Dakota is built on a tradition of service to the public. UND’s objective is to address the educational, social, and economic needs of the citizens. There is clearly a need for educational offerings at all levels, graduate and undergraduate, at sites other than the main campus and at times other than prime time. The University must offer evening and weekend programs at the undergraduate level. Moreover, partnerships with other educational institutions and organizations are vital in bringing the intellectual resources of the University to bear on the nation’s and the world’s economic, social, cultural, and other needs.

D. Sustain a positive campus climate for living and learning.

The University of North Dakota will be a place to which people are proud and eager to come every day to work and to learn. UND must model the values it desires to instill in its students.

E. Optimize and stabilize enrollment to achieve the desired number and mix of students appropriate to the University’s mission.

The University must establish an optimal size and composition for its student body in order to find ways to serve nontraditional, place-bound, and underrepresented students. In order to ensure the success of this endeavor, UND has established appropriate recruitment, retention and completion goals. The University welcomes students from throughout the nation and the world as a means of globalizing the educational experience for all students.

F. Optimize the use of information technology to improve student learning, research, and the administration of the University.

The campus must have up-to-date equipment and resources in the area of information technology. Technology can enhance student learning by providing additional opportunities for interactive learning and greater access to higher education. Distance learning technology will serve to eliminate geographic boundaries. UND will play an ongoing leadership role in developing and applying the optimal use of technological applications in learning and research, and in operational efficiency.

G. Take resource development to a new level through an enhanced cooperative approach involving the President, Vice Presidents, Deans, and Chairs in concert with the UND Foundation and other foundations, while building greater public understanding and support of the University’s mission, distinctive qualities, and strategic agenda.

Historically, the UND Foundation has focused on alumni. Although this approach has been quite successful, the fact is that throughout all of higher education, alumni provide less than 40 percent of all private giving. This points to the need to move to additional, alternative avenues of private support. Underscoring the potential of doing so is the fact that some of the University’s largest gifts from individuals have come from non-alumni, such as James Ray and Ray Rude. To enhance the University’s revenue stream, the University must enable and empower Deans, Department Chairs, faculty, and others to become involved in seeking private support from individuals, private foundations, corporations, and corporate foundations.

H. In support of all of the above, ensure that the University has a well-prepared, enthusiastic faculty and staff, first-rate physical facilities, an adequate financial resource base, and an appropriate, efficient organizational structure.

UND will continue to develop the asset that is most fundamental to the success of a great university: a committed and highly qualified faculty and staff. Ways of addressing this challenge will include making and keeping salaries competitive with similar institutions of higher learning, and enhancing UND in other ways to make it an attractive place to which quality faculty and staff can be recruited and retained. The University must also continue to improve the quality of its physical facilities, to organize into a more efficient administrative structure, and to develop new sources of financial support and revenue.


VI. Positioning of the University

The University of North Dakota will rise to a ranking well within the top 100 (top 15 percent of all) doctoral/research universities in the United States — by every measure — and do so in a sustainable way that will enable future leaders to ultimately move it into the top 50.

VII. A Vision for the Future

What will The University of North Dakota look like in the future if the goals and objectives of this Strategic Plan are realized?

The University enrolls 15,000 students, with approximately 12,500 studying on campus and approximately 2,500 studying off campus in a variety of distance education modes, including interactive television, the Internet, and other distance methods. The University places considerable emphasis on its outreach and distance education mission by employing traditional delivery systems and state-of-the-art technology to enrich and extend learning opportunities to people throughout the world. More of UND’s instruction is now offered in the evening, on weekends, and during the summer. Graduate students make up about 25 percent of the student body.

As the result of expanding its recruitment efforts in other states, nonresident students now comprise more than half of the student body, and many of them remain in North Dakota after graduation. The ethnic diversity of the student body (and of the faculty and staff) more closely matches the world in which UND graduates will live and work. UND is the premier comprehensive research institution in the nation in its service to American Indian people.

The University continues to meet its historic commitment to the liberal arts and humanities, especially with respect to core general education requirements and opportunities for students to select from a wide variety of courses outside their major. Every UND major reinforces all goals of the general education program. The core academic departments in the arts and humanities remain strong, meeting the instructional needs of all UND students, as well as providing opportunities to major in those disciplines.

University curricula are tightly designed and continually improved based on a well-constructed program of assessment in each program. Graduates continue to achieve the success that has long been a hallmark of a UND degree. Instruction on and off the campus utilizes all of the new technological tools available and reflects advancements in the art and science of teaching and learning, including a high degree of self-directed and experiential learning.

Research and scholarly endeavor increasingly characterize The University of North Dakota. Its new status as a “Doctoral/Research University Intensive,” the highest recognition granted by the Carnegie Foundation, indicates UND has increased the size of the graduate school, particularly at the doctoral level, and has expanded the scale and scope of research conducted on the campus. This success is reflected in an expanding volume of external grants and contracts supporting research, published research results, and growing national awareness of UND’s research capacity, especially in areas that have been strategically targeted to become national centers of excellence. UND is ranked well within the top 100 doctoral-research universities and is moving steadily toward the top 50.

Even as the composition and nature of the student body changes, meeting the needs of students remains the University’s top priority. Students are involved in all of the planning and decision-making processes. A new Wellness Center provides opportunities for students to remain physically fit, to participate in sports and recreational activities, and to develop healthy lifestyles. The University has, through its leadership in “Healthy North Dakota” and “Healthy People 2010,” distinguished itself nationally as a leader in wellness and preventive medicine.

The University’s physical campus, including the University Village to the north, is safe, efficient, attractive, and welcoming, with future development guided by a carefully researched plan. Important successes have been achieved in installing state-of-the-art infrastructure for information technology.

By virtue of its considerable strengths in “earth systems,” energy research, environmental science, and environmental toxicology, UND has become internationally known for its comprehensive array of academic environmental programs from the undergraduate through the doctoral level.

The University has a growing reputation as a vibrant and exciting place. The number and variety of extracurricular learning, cultural, and entertainment opportunities have increased, further enhancing the quality of life enjoyed by students, faculty, staff and the people of the city, state, and region. The University also enjoys a higher presence and visibility in its service area. Indeed, The University of North Dakota is widely regarded as a full partner in developing the economic, social, and cultural well-being of North Dakota and the entire Upper Midwest. UND personnel are involved whenever major North Dakota and regional issues and opportunities are being discussed.

The Legislature, the State Board of Higher Education, and the state’s citizens view the University as a responsible steward of public trust and resources. The University’s leadership is characterized as sensitive and responsive to all stakeholders. The campus is imbued with a sense of mutual respect and trust, and a spirit of intellectual excitement, creativity, innovation, and participation.

Entrepreneurship, risk-taking, and “thinking outside the box” are encouraged. “Failure” in these efforts is accepted as an important part of growth and development, although more structured approaches to assessment, information-based decision making, and accountability have become a normal, non-threatening way of life for faculty, administrators and staff. The University continues to rank among the nation’s leading entrepreneurial universities.

The flexibility that continues to be granted the University by the Legislature and the State Board of Higher Education continues to bear fruit. The University continues to be effective in leveraging tuition and appropriated dollars mainly through grants and contracts, various partnerships, and fundraising done in partnership with the UND Alumni Association and Foundation. The UND Foundation’s directed comprehensive capital campaign is closing in on an endowment of $500 million. UND has developed new, mutually beneficial partnerships with the public and private sectors, including, but not limited to, the commercialization of University research.

Summary Vision Statement

As The University of North Dakota carries out its mission, it will be an institution that fosters learning by providing its students with high-quality, accessible, and affordable education programs through the doctoral and professional levels; it will model lifelong learning through high-quality research and public service related to student learning; and will, as a fundamental dimension of the University’s mission, generate and apply new knowledge that will respond to the needs of the citizens of North Dakota, the United States, and the world, and serve as foundations for economic and social development.


VIII. Strategic Planning at the Unit Level

In the fall of 2004, organizational units within the University completed unit plans. These strategic plans were framed by the same set of Priority/Action Areas identified in the University-wide plan. Through the Council of Deans and the Vice Presidents, unit plans formed the foundation of the University’s Strategic Plan in that common themes were distilled and became part of the University plan. With the completion of the University plan, individual units are asked to help implement the plan by pursuing the strategies outlined herein.

IX. How Budgeting Will Be Linked to Planning

The budgeting process for The University of North Dakota continues to be tightly integrated with the strategic planning for the institution. Through the current strategic planning process, progress towards achieving strategic goals has been measured, the priorities have been re-established, new goals articulated, and indicators of success defined. Through an open, and inclusive, budget-review process, resources will continue to be focused on strategic priorities to support progress toward our goals. Strategic plan priorities continue to determine the allocation of current funds and support the pursuit of new funds from a wide variety of possible sources. This process does not preclude consideration of opportunities that fall outside of the specifics of the Strategic Plan. It does provide a framework for the consideration of such opportunities.

Elements of the budget process that contribute to the close integration between planning and budget include maintaining an ongoing pending budget needs listing and input received from a broad cross section of the University community. Periodically, an enhanced University Planning and Budget Committee meets to develop budget recommendations consistent with Strategic Plan priorities. The enhanced committee includes the membership of the University Planning and Budget Committee, plus the chairs of the University, Staff, and Student Senates, plus additional faculty members appointed by the University Senate Chair. This group is advisory to the President. The Council of Deans and the President’s Cabinet are also consulted.

The FY02 annual budget process (spring 2001) was the first formal opportunity for implementing budget concepts integrating planning and budget. Four annual budgets (FY02, FY03, FY04 and FY05) and two biennial budgets (2003-05 and 2005-07) have now been prepared with a focus on assigning identified resources to strategic priorities. In addition, a resource allocation model for Academic Affairs has been developed, which compares various measures across departments/colleges to inform spending decisions. The impact of how resources are used is evidenced through annual reporting at the departmental level and the measurement of indicators as defined in the Strategic Plan (progress report).

Investments needed to carry out the current Strategic Plan are illustrated in Table 1; some of the sources of the revenue needed are illustrated in Table 2. Examples of the investments that have been made in support of strategic priorities are included in Table 3. See also the matrix in Appendix D.

X. Accountability Measures and Tracking

Unit annual reports are due by October 15 of each year. In these reports, each unit describes its progress in carrying out the unit strategic plan and its progress in carrying out its responsibility for portions of the University’s plan. Units also describe their plans for the coming year. The Office of Institutional Research and the Budget Office provide data in a standard format so that the units can respond to a consistent set of indicators (core data set). With the unit reports and other institutional data, the Office of Institutional Research prepares an annual progress report on strategic objectives and goals indicating both status and trend lines. These analyses are used to inform decisions at a variety of levels within the institution. The University Planning and Budget Committee, the Council of Deans, and the President’s Cabinet consider all available data in planning and budget discussions. Likewise, data considered at the institutional level are also reported as required for NDUS Accountability Measures and in the Campus Alignment Plan. It is important to note that both strategic and operational decisions at the campus level are supported by a much more comprehensive and complete set of data beyond what is required by the Legislature and the State Board of Higher Education.
Office of the President
University Committees
Contact the President
Guide to this Document
Processes & Findings
I. Introduction
II. Strategic Planning
III. Environmental Scan
IV. Mission and Values
V. Priority/Action Areas
VI. Positioning of the University
VII. A Vision for the Future
VIII. Strategic Planning, Unit Level
IX. Budgeting, Linked to Planning
X. Accountability Measures/Tracking
Goals and Action Strategies