GRAND FORKS, N.D.-University of North Dakota President Mark Kennedy could barely hold back tears as he recalled the story of his parents saving up money to help him pay for a study abroad trip he took in college.
International studies should be the norm, not the exception for students at UND, Kennedy said during his official inauguration Monday at the Chester Fritz Auditorium.
"The mind stretching impact of international studies that immerses you in a culture unlike your own, making you feel like the outsider," Kennedy said. "It makes you more welcoming to people and ideas that are different. These life-changing experiences give students a broader perspective that leads to a richer, fuller life."
After being inaugurated as the university's 12th president, Kennedy challenged the university to explore new frontiers and come together to be a strong school.
Kennedy officially became the school's 12th president July 1. He took over for interim President Ed Schafer and follows President Robert Kelley, who retired Jan. 14 after holding the position from 2008 to 2016.
Kennedy comes to UND from George Washington University, where since 2012 he was the director of the Graduate School of Political Management.
He served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, first for Minnesota's Second District and then for its Sixth District.
Before turning to politics, Kennedy worked as the director of finance for Pillsbury and as a senior executive at Federated Department Stores, now known as Macy's.
That plethora of experience made Kennedy an attractive candidate to lead UND, State Board of Higher Education President Kathleen Neset told the crowd before presenting Kennedy with a medallion engraved with all the names of the previous UND presidents.
"President Kennedy, I have witnessed over the past several months and over the past year your actions serve as a role model for students of UND and for all of us," Neset said.
Throughout his inaugural address, Kennedy said he wanted UND to unite in order to bring the university to the next level.
Invoking the names of famous alumni, including Ronald Davies, who ruled to desegregate Little Rock Senior High School during the Civil Rights movement; Phil Jackson, who won 11 championships as an NBA coach; and Carl Ben Eielson, who became the first person to fly across the Arctic in an airplane, Kennedy said UND has always charted new frontiers and will continue to do so under his leadership.
"My reason for being so optimistic as we inaugurate my presidency of this great university is that I believe UND's commitment to fusing skills with a liberal arts understanding," he said. "Our spirit of advancing new frontiers and our coming together as 'One UND' is not just a foundation of our past success, but also our path to greatness."