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Kennedy: No plans to leave UND

Mark Kennedy

GRAND FORKS—After spending last week in the running to be president of a Florida university, Mark Kennedy wants to make something known about his job-hunting aspirations.

"To be clear, I wasn't looking, and I'm not looking," the University of North Dakota president said Monday by phone from Washington, D.C. "For me, there's not many places I feel at home, and I feel at home in North Dakota."

Some time after that first conversation, Kennedy called again to reiterate that he wasn't looking for work elsewhere. The push for clarity comes just days after president of the North Dakota flagship campus was at the University of Central Florida, sitting for the final round of interviews in the search for the presidency of that school.

Kennedy announced to UND in mid-February that he'd applied for the position after being recruited through a national search. He was clear then that he'd take the job if it were offered to him, stating that UCF was one of a few universities that he'd favor over his post in North Dakota, which he has held for less than two years.

The university's board of trustees ultimately passed him over for the job Friday afternoon. By Saturday evening, he was back in Grand Forks at a UND hockey game.

"I'm sincere in saying that Debbie and I are not anxious to leave North Dakota," Kennedy said, referring to his wife, Debbie Kennedy. "I'd be happy if, in a decade or so, I'm working hard at the University of North Dakota."

But he did say he'd been attracted to the scale of UCF—at about 66,000 students, the Orlando university bills itself as one of the largest universities in the country. For comparison, UND marked a spring semester total of about 13,680 students.

The larger campus came with a payroll to match. The president's position at UCF is paid about $1.27 million per year, more than three times what Kennedy is paid now in North Dakota.

Though he didn't get the job, Kennedy said he feels the experience lent something to his current position. He cites a potential name recognition opportunity in having represented UND in the Florida search. He also says his interview preparation has bolstered his confidence in ongoing strategic priorities in North Dakota. And, in the end, he suggests his entry to the UCF campaign—which he says was prompted by aggressive recruiting on their part—is a testament to his current campus.

"They would not have been pursuing me had they not been impressed by what UND is doing and the direction it's heading," Kennedy said, adding that "in many ways, it's a compliment" to UND that he hopes "is also not lost in this whole conversation."

He believes the search process in Florida hasn't compromised his position at UND or his ability to advance initiatives on campus. When asked if he feels as if he's lost any trust among constituents by applying elsewhere, Kennedy said "if I have, I'll work hard to regain that trust."

"I've worked hard throughout this process to elevate the name of the University of North Dakota," he said. "Along the way, we've elevated (the university) and drawn more eyes and attention to the good work happening here."

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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