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After going through nine different directors and a lawsuit in recent years, UND's School of Communication now appears stable with the expected appointment of Steve Rendahl as acting director. A 25-year veteran in the school and an associate professor, Rendahl was named interim director last August to fill in for Richard Fiordo, who was granted a one-year leave of absence to lead the humanities department at a Georgia university. When Fiordo's leave was recently extended so he could remain in Georgia for another year, Rendahl was again asked to take the reins, this time as the acting director. He has accepted the offer, and a favorable decision on his appointment is expected soon, acting dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Albert Fivizzani said. It's not all finalized, Fivizzani said of Rendahl's appointment, but I expect it to go through.

A tenured UND professor, Fiordo could still return to the school, but Fivizzani said the college would ask the school's faculty to make a recommendation about the permanent leadership of the school. Instead of a national search - the way the last two directors were hired - the university could then appoint Rendahl or any other recommended director choice, the dean said. The school will decide about the leadership in the coming year. If offered the permanent position, Rendahl said Monday, he will accept it.

Fivizzani said he has confidence in Rendahl's ability to change a pattern of instability in the school, which began in 1991 with the school's loss of its accreditation, a status bestowed on about one of four journalism schools in the country. Reaccreditation has remained a UND goal since that time and was even tied to an unsuccessful lawsuit against the university. One of nine of the school's summer, interim and full directors since long-time director Vern Keel left the university in 1989. Lana Rakow was hired to the post in 1994. Rakow, who is a member of the school's accreditation committee and was hired to the post with a main responsibility to regain accreditation, but UND administrators wouldn't work with her in this goal.

Unfortunately, Lana Rakow is not the school's only faculty member who is dissatisfied with the direction of the school. With a new director almost yearly and the experience of the suit, another faculty member said also that the school's recent history is rather traumatic.

Fivizzani said Rendahl is a known entity in the school, and UND's administration already believes he's capable of leading the school.

Our goal is to bring back excellence to the school, Rendahl said. We plan to have the accreditation team on campus in three years.

Grand Forks Herald, August 9, 2000