The University of North Dakota (www.und.edu)

Eleven-time National Basketball Association championship coach Phil Jackson, Los Angeles Sparks co-owner Carla Christofferson, astronaut Karen Nyberg, GameStop CEO Dick Fontaine, Buffalo Wild Wings President Sally Smith, and “Lost” actor Sam Anderson:  They are among the 100,000-plus graduates of the University of North Dakota who exemplify the creative, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes the Grand Forks-based university and its graduates.

Recognized for entrepreneurship by the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine, UND was one of the first five universities in the nation to create a business incubator program to nurture new, home-grown enterprises. UND’s College of Business and Public Administration is home to the nation’s only student-run venture fund, which helps students learn how to invest with real dollars.

The Dakota Venture Group is a great example of what we call Future Ready: preparing students to thrive in and create the world of today and tomorrow, said UND President Robert O. Kelley. We have nearly 300 student organizations, and each academic unit provides a variety of ways in which our more than 13,000 students can engage in service learning and develop as leaders. Our globally respected research faculty like Jianglong Zhang, an atmospheric sciences professor named by President Obama as one of the top 100 new researchers in the nation create a well-rounded, balanced education that fosters superior critical thinking and communication skills.

Those skills are the foundation of UND’s 200 academic programs, especially the liberal arts in the College of Arts and Sciences, said Kelley.  That’s the heart of the University of North Dakota. That’s where the students learn to learn, where they become more creative.

Entrepreneurial Spirit and Innovation

UND faculty, students and staff are innovative and entrepreneurial. With the world’s largest non-military training fleet, UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences is one of, if not THE, world’s most respected aviation programs. It is emerging nationally as a Center of Excellence in Unmanned Aerial Systems.

UND has a $1 billion economic impact on the state, in part because of an expansion in research fueled by a rapidly growing Graduate School. Faculty and students at the School of Engineering and Mines, for example, are developing biofuel made from soybeans. And several departments in UND’s schools of engineering and aerospace sciences collaborated to develop the International Space Station Agricultural Camera (ISSAC), an advanced camera now on the International Space Station to examine water, soil and crops.

ISSAC was UND’s hat trick (a school with seven national hockey championships tends to talk in “hockeyspeak”) in space.  Materials designed by UND’s Energy & Environmental Research Center primarily of silicon carbide were taken up for tests exposing them to the harsh space environment. UND mechanical engineering graduate Karen Nyberg flew to the International Space Station and was instrumental in deploying and testing new equipment and systems.

More earthbound, innovative projects have included the first hydrogen-powered car produced by college students, new ways of conducting research through digital humanities, and advances in the study of drug addiction and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s, multiple sclerosis, and others.

Cited as the best in the country for producing family medicine physicians, UND’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences is nationally recognized for its patient-centered learning, community-based approach, and leadership in rural health and preventive care. The special healthcare challenges of this region are also a focus of the College of Nursing. UND’s School of Law and its faculty have a national reputation, particularly in areas such as Indian law and Indian gaming.

UND’s College of Education and Human Development has been a leader in adapting technology to prepare students for their careers.