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Process to name new UND president nearly half the cost of other searches

Faculty and staff at UND share ideas with presidential search committee co-chairs Denny Elbert, center, and Casey Ryan, right, during a listening session held in July at the Center For Innovation. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
UND president Andrew Armacost. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
UND presidential finalist Andrew Armacost answers a question during an interview with the State Board of Higher Education. (Sydney Mook / Grand Forks Herald)3 / 3

GRAND FORKS -- The total cost to name UND’s next president, Andrew Armacost, comes in at lower price than previous searches in the North Dakota University System.

Receipts for UND's recently completed search are $78,296, according to documents provided by the North Dakota University System. That's cheaper than other recent system searches, and nearly half the price of the search that named former UND President Mark Kennedy to the position in 2016.

The Kennedy search cost the university $139,907. Kennedy ultimately left UND in 2019 and now oversees the University of Colorado system.

The search will be paid from UND "carryforward dollars” of appropriated funds from the 2019 fiscal year, according to UND spokesman David Dodds.

“From the start, the State Board of Higher Education and University System intended to have a search that was cost-efficient and more streamlined than past UND presidential searches,” Dodds said.. “We’re pleased they were able to achieve those objectives, and at the same time, select our new incoming president, Andy Armacost, who’s already demonstrated the positive energy to get folks behind him and move the university forward.”

The recently completed search named Armacost president after he and five other candidates visited campus in November.

The largest expense was $54,036 for the search firm AGB, which assisted the presidential search committee during the process.

The university system had planned to spend up to $57,000 with AGB for the search. The company was one of four that placed a bid to be part of the process. The Washington, D.C.-based organization submitted a $47,000 bid to the committee in July. The extra $8,000 or so related to AGB was for travel expenses and other out-of-pocket costs.

AGB Search charged $70,000 for its work in 2016 and had an additional $8,500 in travel expenses.

Denny Elbert, co-chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said the committee tried to be "efficient" and "prudent" from the start of the search, for example the search committee conducted its own listening sessions rather than pay a firm to carry them out.

Elbert said the committee is happy with Armacost's selection and seeing him out in the community already during the transition process.

Travel costs picked up the second highest total on the overall search bill. More than $13,117 went to travel costs for the six candidates and their spouses. The third largest expense was related to food and beverage costs, including University Catering and local restaurants Mamma Maria’s, Eagle Crest Grill, The Toasted Frog, Sky’s and Ely’s Ivy. That total was $8,755.

Hotel costs totaled $1,816, according to the documents provided by the university system.

According to previous reporting, the search to find former Dickinson State President Thomas Mitzel cost $85,221 in 2015.

Other recent search costs include:

  • North Dakota University System chancellor, 2015: $83,943

  • Valley City State University, 2014: $82,078

  • Minot State University, 2013: $87,759

  • Lake Region State College, 2012: $78,962

Armacost is set to take over leadership of the university June 1. In the meantime, he’s serving in a part-time role, while interim President Joshua Wynne runs the day-to-day operations of the university.

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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