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UND among top 25 'most innovative' in U.S. News ranking

GRAND FORKS — Area universities fared well in the latest edition of the annual U.S. News and World Report college rankings.

The University of North Dakota showed improvement for its 2018 rankings among universities overall and public schools specifically, moving up to No. 102 in the former and No. 192 in the latter. Those new spots are respectively eight and 10 positions higher than the university's placement on last year's list.

Aside from the upward mobility in the general rankings, another sign of improvement might be UND's placement on a list of the top 25 "Most Innovative Schools," an accolade based on outside-the-box improvements being made on campus.

"I think it's a recognition as one of the underlying ways of how we think of ourselves as an institution," said outgoing UND spokesman Peter Johnson.

University President Mark Kennedy points out that UND, which tied with other schools for the final position on the list, is in good company in the innovation group.

The No. 1 spot on the list is occupied by the University of Arizona-Tempe. Other ranked schools include Stanford, Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. UND is in the No. 25 spot, a placement it shares with Northwestern University.

The "most innovative" list has been around for the past three years. It's somewhat unusual in the context of U.S. News rankings in that placement relies on peer assessment surveys.

Publishers of the list reached out to top college officials, including college presidents, provosts and admissions deans, and asked them to nominate up to 10 schools in their ranking category of the best colleges report. Surveys asked these leaders to base their nominations on schools that are "making the most innovative improvements in terms of curriculum, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities."

Kennedy said the peer element of the innovation ranking said a lot for the work being done on the UND campus.

"The only thing that would get us on this list are those things where we drew national attention, not just state or regional attention," he said. "Or else you wouldn't have gotten enough national leaders to put you in this group."

As evidence of that, he cited the school's accomplishments in aviation and its expanding focus on unmanned aerial systems. He also pointed to UND's School of Entrepreneurship as another effort to innovate on campus.

UND wasn't the only school recognized in the 2018 U.S. News rankings.

The publication named the University of Minnesota-Crookston as the No. 1 Midwestern public regional college. Last year, UMC ranked third in that category, and a press release from the university stated that it has been among the top three for the past 21 years of rankings.

For the U.S. News lists, the Midwest region stretches north to the Dakotas, south to Kansas and Missouri and east to Ohio.

In the 2018 edition, there are seven colleges included in that specific category, a group that also included multiple North Dakota universities. Valley City State University tied UMC for first place, and Mayville State University was ranked No. 4. Dickinson State University was ranked No. 6.