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Bringing UND together is newly inaugurated president's top priority

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ-TV) - The University of North Dakota is celebrating 100 years of Homecoming. Kicking off Homecoming Week, UND welcomed its new president Monday with an inauguration ceremony of Mark Kennedy.

In his first three months, President Kennedy has already had to deal with racial issues on campus, an overspending athletics department, and has more state mandated budget cuts looming in the future.

At his inauguration Monday, Kennedy sayid his greatest challenge and his top priority is bringing the campus community back together.

On a day of pomp and circumstance, challenging issues await the newly appointed 12th president of UND.

Mark Kennedy, UND president: “How finding the common ground with others with diverse views and backgrounds is the path to success.”

Racial tensions still lingering after the administration says racially charged photos didn't violate the UND code of student life.

Kennedy: “We've had a tradition in the recent decades of debating and conflict over certain issues. We need to come together as one. Unity is the power of what can really drive this university to the next height.”

Most recently was President Robert Kelly. Kelly's more than 7 year tenure faced a vote of no-confidence from UND student senate and on-campus surveys that showed widespread dissatisfaction noting a lack of transparency and openness, and recent interim president Ed Schafer criticizing Kelly's fiscal irresponsibility.

Kennedy: “Faculty, staff and administration tightly together. Towards delivering education that prepares our students for a life time of success.”

Some students say trust is tough to regain, but do think Kennedy is the right man to do it.

Brandon Beyer, UND student body president: “It's not a snap of the fingers that they're going to have a 100 percent trust moving forward in the administration. It's hard to please everyone. But, at the end of the day, I think that Kennedy is moving in the direction where that trust can begin to be bolstered.”

Kennedy: “I want my legacy to be somebody who called the University back to the heritage I outlined. A leader on gender and racial relations. A leader on opening up new opportunities, discovering new boundaries inside this world and outside this world.”

The next immediate hurdle for the new president is cutting $1.4 million from athletics department. Eight sports teams are currently on the chopping block. WDAZ will be at Tuesday’s meeting where the coaches are expected to address the president and try to save their programs.

Ryan Laughlin

Ryan Laughlin joins your home team from Minnetonka, Minnesota. Ryans journalism career started in high school. He was the sports editor of his high school newspaper. Then, at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire he made the jump into broadcasting. Ryan started a hunting and fishing show called, EC Outdoors on the student-run TV station. He is excited to be living in a town thats as enthusiastic about hockey as he is and likes to hunt and fish when he has time. Hes a die-hard Minnesota sports fan and is glad to be out of Packer country.

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