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UND provost seeks input on research lab’s future structure, leadership

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Grand Forks, ND- After the Energy & Environmental Research Center director was let go earlier this summer, UND Provost Thomas DiLorenzo is approaching the facility’s future cautiously.

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“We don’t want to do anything that would get in the way of the success of EERC has had,” he told a group of Grand Forks legislators Friday.

DiLorenzo’s meeting with legislators will be one in a series the provost will conduct with stakeholders in the EERC and the university’s research community.

The EERC is an applied research, development and commercialization facility owned by UND.

The goal of the meetings is to gather input on the future mission, structuring and leadership of the center following the firing of its longtime director, Gerry Groenewold, in May.

UND President Robert Kelley cited Groenewold’s “strong” personality and disagreements over EERC finances as the reasons he was let go. As director, Groenewold made $308,464 annually.

The search for a new director is one area DiLorenzo is seeking direction.

“That’s part of this process, asking folks ‘What do you think (of a national research)? Should we do it now, should we do it later?’” DiLorenzo said.

Oversight of the center also was discussed during the meeting.

EERC activities are overseen by the university’s research office, which in turn reports directly to DiLorenzo’s office.

Rep. Eliot Glassheim, D-Grand Forks, wondered if the university would become more involved in EERC’s management.

 “My sense of the success of (the EERC) getting contracts is there was a nimbleness and agility in being able to move like private researchers instead of academic researchers.” he said.

No decisions have been made yet on that front yet, but DiLorenzo said he doesn’t foresee things changing much.   

 “I don’t anticipate being involved much in managing and the operations as much as overseeing it,” he said. 

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, who is married to Groenewold, agreed that more management from the university could hurt the center’s success.

“Nimbleness is important to the success of this organization,” she said. “And too many layers of oversight will stop that.”

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