An open letter to my alma mater

Dear President Mark Kennedy,

I ask that you reconsider your decision to balance your budget issue by cutting athletic programs from the University. The approach taken was neither fair nor just, and hasn’t taken into consideration the history or future of the many benefits of the student-athlete at the University of North Dakota. The UND Swimming and Diving programs have a very rich history that should not be destroyed by your lack of creativity and financial planning.

I am a 2006 magna cum laude graduate of the College of Business and Public Administration at UND. I was a four year student-athlete on a partial scholarship to swim for the University of North Dakota. I am a NCAA All-American, a NCC Conference Champion, an Academic All-American, a former Student Athlete Advisory Council member, and a proud Fighting Sioux athlete.

I went to college to swim, and got a degree along the way. For as many hours as I spent with my head under the water, I spent many more with my head in my books. Or with a mop or rake in my hand. As a member of the team, we had to fundraise to keep the program alive. We fundraised for swim suits, goggles, travel meals, and hotels. We mopped the beer from the floors of the Ralph Engelstad arena. We raked leaves for families in the community. I shouted for 50/50 raffle tickets at the hockey games. You see, we made it work. We worked hard to keep our program healthy.

When we traveled, we ate at Old Country Buffets. We stayed at the Knights Inn motels. We drove through the night and slept on the bus to save a hotel night. But we had the opportunity to compete. We had the opportunity to represent the University of North Dakota. And for that, I was grateful.

Looking back 11 years ago, it isn’t the mileage we put in that I remember, but the drive it took to make it through a practice. The motivation it took to get out of bed each cold North Dakota morning and head to the pool is major part of what shaped me into the woman I am today. A strong, confident woman, working in a male dominated field. A proud graduate of the University of North Dakota. I still refer to myself as a student-athlete. As a collegiate swimmer. And as a teammate. The friendships I’ve made as a part of my collegiate athletic experience still exist today. And for what it’s worth, I would not have attended UND had it not been for the swimming and diving program.

By cutting the swimming and diving programs, you are cutting short a very rich and successful history. You are not only negatively affecting the lives of the current athletes, but also that of future students. You are cutting a program in a state that pulls local high school athletes to UND.

Please reconsider your decision to cut one of the winningest programs at UND.

Rachel (Gordon) Wills
UND Swimmer 2002-2006
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