GRAND FORKS -- Hundreds of University of North Dakota students walked across a stage Saturday at the Alerus Center. When they reached the end of that stage, they were officially UND graduates -- the culmination of years of hard work and late nights.

Outgoing Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson addressed undergraduate students Saturday afternoon. Before doing so, Wilson congratulated UND President Mark Kennedy for being named the next president of the University of Colorado system. He will leave for the new job next month.

The ceremony likely will be among the last official public appearances at UND for Kennedy.

“You’re moving from one rectangle state with sunshine, snow and buffalo to another rectangle state with sunshine, snow and buffalo,” Wilson said.

Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, gave the commencement address at Saturday's UND undergraduate ceremony. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force, gave the commencement address at Saturday's UND undergraduate ceremony. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks HeraldEric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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Wilson spoke to the graduates -- numbering 1,900 -- about the power of collaboration and achieving goals with the help of those around them.

“If anybody here understands the power of collaboration, it’s the student body. Late nights doing homework, studying for exams, practicing for concerts, rewriting the descriptions of majors for Barstool UND,” Wilson said, earning a laugh after earlier this year students used coding to mimic the UND website with different and funny major descriptions.

Wilson said there are also collaborations the United States cares deeply about with UND, especially work with unmanned aircraft systems and beyond visual line of sight flights that have happened because of work UND students and partners have done over the past few years.

A group of UND graduates coordinate their mortarboards at Saturday's commencement. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
A group of UND graduates coordinate their mortarboards at Saturday's commencement. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks HeraldEric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Wilson challenged the 2019 graduating class to speak up when they feel their work isn’t good enough, serve others and build relationships of trust. Doing so, she said, will help them build good, successful lives in the future.

“You’re well-educated, hard-working individuals,” she said. “You live in a free and self-governing country, but you are coming of age in a time when innovation and discovery is unparalleled in human history. The truth is we’re all a little envious of you and the lives on which you’re about to embark. Congratulations to each of you.”