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The Honorable Mark  Kennedy Image

The Honorable Mark Kennedy

President of University of North Dakota; Author, Shapeholders: Business Success in the Age of Activism; Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Chairman of the Economic Club of Minnesota

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Speaker Resources

  • The Honorable Mark  Kennedy

Featured Videos

Commencement Address, University of North Dakota

Wake Up to UND - Grand Forks

Inaugural Address - Grand Forks

On July 1, 2016, Mark Kennedy became the 12th President of the University of North Dakota, the state’s flagship university and a national leader in unmanned innovation.

Kennedy’s unmatched range of experiences as a senior executive at Macy's, U.S. Congressman, trade advisor for both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, leader of George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and President of the University of North Dakota has convinced him life is a game of addition – in business, education, economics, geopolitics and politics.

In his book Shapeholders - Business Success in the Age of Activism (Columbia Business School Press, 2017), Kennedy updates the rules for business engagement with society reflecting the rise of activism and expanded political involvement in commercial affairs. He reveals how understanding the views of others and attracting others to embrace your aims are the keys to success, whether you are collaborating or competing.

Kennedy introduced the concept of "Shapeholders" to the field of business strategy - the political, regulatory, media, and activist actors that shape a firm's opportunities and risks. Kennedy reveals how to effectively engage shapeholders both at home and abroad to profitably advance business strategies while benefiting society.

Today, one organizational misstep can sink a company’s reputation. Social media can be a strict ethical enforcer, with the power to convince thousands to boycott products and services. Executives are stuck on appeasing shareholders and stakeholders – employees, and consumers. They too often ignore shapeholders—regulators, the media, and social and political activists who have no stake in an organization but significant power to determine a company’s risks and opportunities, if not its survival.

Benefit. Kennedy reveals insights from his book Shapeholders – Business Success in the Age of Activism on how organizations can engage shapeholders to sidestep conflict, find ways to profitably collaborate, and when necessary to win political skirmishes.

Companies ignoring rising economic angst as they rushed headlong in pursuit of globalization has spurred a toxic protectionist populism. Businesses seem fixated on a question of “What is best for business?” instead of “What delivers the most sustainable and equitably distributed prosperity for all?” Few outside the corporate C-suite truly care about the first question; only if commercial activities are an adequate answer to the second question will a market-driven economy and continued trade liberalization regain popular support.

Benefit. Kennedy shares insights from his book Shapeholders – Business Success in the Age of Activism on how free enterprise and expanded trade can be formulated and communicated so it is seen as and truly does deliver widespread benefits to the many, not just the few.

The appeal of “putting America first” and the UK’s Brexit reflect the rise of nationalism. Matched with a rising China, a belligerent Russia and an ascendant Iran and you have a dangerous global landscape. Advancing America’s best interests has always necessitated attracting allies to our cause. This requires America pushing back against the nationalistic impulses of others, not fanning our own. America First can only work if other nations believe that America is their last best hope.

Benefit. Drawing from three decades of active global engagement as an academic, business leader, Congressman and presidential advisor, Kennedy makes the case that America is more likely to achieve its aims by attracting others with honey than lecturing them with vinegar.

As unmanned and autonomous innovation hurls ever faster towards drones delivering packages to your doorstep, driving your car and fighting our wars, will the end result be you lose your job or are empowered to accomplish unimaginable wonders? History shows these technologies will advance and will reshape our world. What can we do to ensure that the inevitable disruption yields a beneficial impact?

 Benefit. As president of one of the leading universities in unmanned and autonomous research, Kennedy guides you through the far-reaching impact of these technologies and helps you understand how you can position to benefit from them.

The hottest careers today were not imaginable a decade ago. As the pace of change accelerates, the level of skills required increases, even as the time before such skills are antiquated decreases. As digital delivery of innovative educational offerings challenges the historic structure of higher education, its mission of embedding interpersonal and teamwork skills becomes more challenging in today’s digitally distracted world where the urge to protest is rising and support for free speech is falling. During a time of reduced state support for higher education and increased pressure to address student debt, universities must be sharply focused on leveraging their unique strengths to succeed.

Benefit. As president of a flagship state university, Kennedy examines the many challenges facing universities in the future and how they can succeed by leveraging their strengths.

Major trends are washing over our world. They are impacting every country, company and career. Driverless cars, 3D printing, cyber warfare, phones on your wrist, millions of Syrians in Germany, rising nationalism, Girl Scouts being challenged on the ingredients in their cookies, China starting its own world bank, climate concerns taking center stage. Destiny’s 7 D’s – Digitization, Demographics, Diversity, Declaration, Dispersion, Demonization, and Demand (for more resources, but less emissions) will shape your world. You must understand the tensions, choices and opportunities offered by future trends.

Benefit. Kennedy applies perspectives from his wide range of academic, business, government and global experiences to reveal how to ride the waves of change rather than get washed up by them.

How do you as one of seven children of a rural insurance agent become the first boy in your family to go to college, treasurer of one of America’s 100 largest companies at age 31, U.S. Congressman, presidential trade advisor, and university president, all while together with your soulmate raising four amazing children? The answer is 360° Winning.


Benefit. Learn how pursuing 360°Goals, seeing the best path to achieving those goals by developing 360° Vision and having what it takes to follow that path through 360° Animation can help you achieve your highest aspirations.