The University of North Dakota and MassBay Community College Receive ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation
March 06, 2022

ACE is proud to announce that the University of North Dakota (UND) and MassBay Community College are the recipients of the 2022 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.

The award was created to recognize institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and creative ways and achieved dramatic changes in a relatively brief period. It includes a $10,000 prize.

The award was presented today at ACE2022, ACE's Annual Meeting in San Diego. 

“The University of North Dakota and MassBay Community College should serve as examples of the types of innovation and transformation that benefits not just their own students but the communities they serve,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “These awards are well-deserved.”

ACE President Ted Mitchell; Andrew Armacost, president of the University of North Dakota; David Podell, president of MassBay Community College; and Patrick Vaughan, senior vice president and Fidelity Investments’ Tax Exempt Practice Lead.

“Fidelity is proud to team with ACE to recognize the University of North Dakota and MassBay Community College for the creative and innovative ways they addressed important issues facing their institutions,” said Sangeeta Moorjani, head of Tax Exempt and Retirement Solutions, Fidelity Investments. “In the midst of an extremely challenging environment for colleges and universities, these are great examples of higher education institutions who extended their focus beyond academics to find ways to positively impact their communities.” 

ACE invited nominations and applications for the award from any U.S. college or university eligible for ACE membership. Applications were divided into two categories: the first for institutions with student populations of 12,001 and more (UND), and the second for institutions with student populations of up to 12,000 (MassBay Community College).

UND is older than the state it resides in, yet, it has regularly strived to find new and innovative ways to make its community a better place to live, learn, work, and play, as evidenced by its “Our Town & Gown Story: Two Communities. One Vision. Endless Opportunity.” 

What began as a cooperative project between the city and the university to fix potholes morphed into a shared vision for a better community and led to ongoing widespread engagement and spirited buy-in from individuals, businesses, and other organizations in the Grand Forks area. Now home to 60,000 people, the area has experienced a relatively stable population with one key exception: its recent 48 percent leap in residents ages 25 to 39. This boom has been largely attributed to UND’s strategies focused on incorporating work-integrated learning in the classroom, as well as adding new and robust internship programs, creating a workforce pipeline that’s proving vital to the city and surrounding region. 

Some examples of these partnerships include collaborating on a major renovation and development of the main thoroughfare through the heart of campus and the city; pairing student interns in city departments and cost-sharing internships at early-stage companies; and creating a Workforce Development Initiative to align coursework, curricula, and labs to meet the needs of students and employers. 

In August, UND became the first university to join the U.S. Space Force’s University Partnership Program dedicating $8 million to faculty recruitment and space initiatives and partnering with the State of North Dakota, which has given also $14 million. 

“The University of North Dakota is truly honored and grateful to be recognized as an institution of higher education responding to the difficult challenges of our times through innovation and creativity,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “We approach our mission with a commitment to serve the needs not only of our students and the surrounding community, but also of North Dakota, the Upper Midwest region, and our nation.”

Facing a retention problem, in 2015 MassBay Community College set out to learn why certain students weren’t succeeding and connecting with their academics. They conducted a survey that showed 52 percent of students were suffering from low or very low food security. This was accompanied by stories from faculty, staff, and advisers about students who were missing classes or simply unable to keep up with the work because of situations they were facing in their personal lives, often related to basic needs. 

Committed to being student-centered and student-ready, the college implemented a variety of programs that provided students with food, housing, transportation and other necessities, forming the Student Nourishment And Care Committee (SNACC), comprised of staff, faculty, students and community volunteers, and led by the vice president for student development and dean of students. 

Over the last five years SNACC has partnered with several local organizations that address food insecurity, including hosting a monthly mobile food market of free fresh fruits and vegetables with the Greater Boston Food Bank. They also launched the MassBay Meal Scholarship program, which provided free meals to students before and throughout the pandemic. Of these recipients, GPAs increased significantly after receiving the scholarship and students returned to school at a rate 21 percentage points higher than the overall retention rate of the college.

Other initiatives include providing more public transportation and ride sharing options to campus throughout the Boston area, as well as a new fund to assist MassBay’s single mother students with emergency financial needs to pay for such expenses as childcare, housing, and other basic necessities.

“These initiatives are lifelines to many of our students who live on the margins while trying to gain the education they need to secure stable jobs and change the trajectories of their families,” said David Podell, president of MassBay Community College. “At MassBay we believe access to education is an issue of social justice, and we continue to focus on ways to eliminate obstacles for our hard-working students and ensure they achieve their academic goals. We are especially grateful for this award because we know these funds will truly make a difference in the lives of our students.”

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Audrey Hamilton
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