Longtime Friend of UND President Got $17,250 Per Month Salary for Part-Time Job, Plus Expenses to Commute From Boston

UND President Mark Kennedy provided an update Tuesday morning of the university's progress in enacting its strategic plan. (Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald)

Earlier this month we learned that UND employee Angelique Foster, who worked for campus President Mark Kennedy during his previous tenure at George Washington University, was given a promotion to chief of staff and a $30,000 per year raise before being allowed to begin commuting to work from Texas.

UND will be paying for Foster’s commuting, up to $25,000 per year, in addition to her salary and benefits.

Now I can report that another friend of Kennedy, in addition to accepting tens of thousands of dollars in payments from UND as a consultant, was paid $17,250 per month (a $207,000 per year rate) to serve as the interim head of the institution’s Center for Innovation. Though the temporary position came with no benefits, Horwitz was only expected to put in 80 hours of work per month and was reimbursed for commuting expenses from Boston.

The details come from records obtained from the University of North Dakota, including a letter of understanding detailing the specifics of Barry Horwitz’s compensation for working at the Center for Innovation:

Horwitz served in this position from October 17, 2017, through July 31, 2018. His hours were reduced in April of 2018 and he received a corresponding decrease in pay.

In addition to his salary, Horwitz has received $94,300 in consulting fees from UND during Kennedy’s time as President as well as reimbursements totaling nearly $29,500 for travel according to data provided by UND.

UND spokesman David Dodds confirmed the relationship between Kennedy and Horwitz in an email.

“Barry Horwitz worked as Vice President of Strategic Planning for President Kennedy during his time at ShopKo stores in 1992-1995. Together, President Kennedy and Mr. Horwitz advanced a strategic plan focused on differentiation and strategic resource allocation that helped ShopKo Stores withstand the onslaught of Walmart and Target into their markets,” Dodds told me. “Mr. Horwitz also helped President Kennedy, during his time leading the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, to develop a strategic plan for the school that resulted in the university making a multi-million-dollar investment in the school. The school successfully implemented the plan Mr. Horwitz helped to craft and met the financial metrics therein.”

In his email to me Dodds also provided a lengthy defense of the work Horwitz did as a consultant:

Mr. Horwitz was retained by multiple entities with UND for various roles as others also saw the quality of his work and the value it contributed to UND.

Upon facing a surprise state budget cut in August of 2016, on his second month on the job (this following a larger state budget cutting exercise earlier in the year under interim President Ed Schafer), President Kennedy announced that he was going to commence a strategic planning process to ensure that any future adjustments could be made strategically. He set out a goal for the planning process to be completed by the May graduation in the following year.

President Kennedy initially brought in Mr. Horwitz for two short projects – to evaluate the structure of UND’s marketing department (ultimately leading to a reorganization that created UND Today and spawned a search for new branding – Leaders in Action) and to outline a path forward for a strategic planning process.

Besides his previous experience with developing strategic planning for leading universities, Mr. Horwitz’s role as a faculty member teaching strategy and entrepreneurship at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business and at Emerson College’s Global Marketing Program represented unique qualifications for these tasks.

Upon making Vice President of Student Affairs Laurie Betting and Professor Dana Harsell as co-chairs of the university’s strategic planning process, President Kennedy offered the option to Laurie and Dana of using Mr. Horwitz to assist them in the process. When they requested Mr. Horwitz’s assistance, an agreement was reach that allowed the project to advance to achieve the defined timeline and at a cost that was below that of the strategic planning process conducted under President Kelly.

The resulting “One UND” Strategic Plan encompassed the views of over 900 members of the university community and has to date resulted in an 11-percentage point improvement in UND’s four-year graduation rate in the last three years and a jump in UND ranking on the National Science Foundation’s list of leading research universities from 170 to 151 in the last two years.

Dodds also said that Horwitz hiring at the Center for Innovation was a decision made by the institution’s board, and that it was endorsed by other UND administrators. But based on the description of that job included in the letter of understanding, it’s hard to see how someone working part-time and commuting from Boston could do the job justice.

The description includes things like supervising Center staff, developing relationships with community partners, and assisting students.

It’s also not clear why UND needed to hire someone at such a high salary, with a need for a lot of travel expenses to commute from thousands of miles away, to fill a temporary position.

Still, Dodds maintains that the work Horwitz provided UND as a consultant and an employee was worthwhile. “It’s largely accepted that UND has greatly benefited from the contributions of Mr. Horwitz,” he said.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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