“Having grown up in Brighton, Mich., on a dirt road, getting my hands dirty was natural. Hard work is natural,” said Suzi Trdan, retail store manager of Starbucks and Sundre at Northern Michigan University. For Trdan, who is often smiling and eager to make connections with customers, hard work truly does seem natural.
This has been a year of milestones for Missie Holmquist of Marquette. In February, she was appointed by the governor to the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees, and recently played a role in selecting NMU's next president. This spring, she marked the 20th anniversary of both her 2002 graduation from NMU with a bachelor's degree in psychology and the launch of her longtime career with Upper Peninsula Health Plan, which she now serves as president and CEO.
For 31 years, Marquette native Steve Nystrom successfully used the knowledge, skills and leadership qualities he acquired while earning two Northern Michigan University degrees to successfully contribute to U.S. national security. He served in the U.S. Army during the Cold War, as a senior analyst in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and as division chief and program manager with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Nystrom was selected as the 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award recipient based on his esteemed career and active involvement on behalf of the community and NMU.
Northern Michigan University 2003 alumnus Chris Mosier of Chicago is a trailblazing transgender athlete who has been a catalyst for policy change and a staunch advocate for inclusion in and beyond sports. Abiding by his motto, “Be who you needed when you were younger,” Mosier is a dedicated mentor to transgender and nonbinary youth, a highly regarded speaker and a leading grassroots organizer against the current wave of anti-trans legislation across the United States. For these reasons and more, he was selected as the recipient of NMU's 2022 Alumni Service Award.
Jim Paquette of Negaunee developed an interest in history and archaeology at a young age, in large part because his paternal grandfather instilled pride in the family's French Canadian-First Nation Métis ancestry and traditional lifestyle. As he grew older, Paquette wanted to learn more about his family's history in the region. He read and copied volumes of material from the library at Northern Michigan University, his alma mater, and began searching for and locating early cultural sites where various ancient stone and copper artifacts helped to reveal the story. This led to an avid passion for more discoveries and a partnership with NMU faculty, both of which continue today.
Stephanie Lay, who received her bachelor's degree in sociology from Northern Michigan in 2011, is this year's recipient of NMU's Outstanding Young Alumni Award. She provides crisis care to suicidal adolescents as a member of the behavior emergency response team at Children's Hospital Oakland in California. She also has a private therapy practice in nearby San Francisco, where she specializes in gender identity, depression, suicidal ideation and self-harm.
Northern Michigan University's newly appointed President Brock Tessman said that his selection from among four finalists to lead the institution is exciting, but made even more meaningful because it followed a rigorous and transparent search process. The Michigan native addressed several topics during a virtual press conference after NMU trustees unanimously voted for him to become the 17th president, effective Feb. 1. He said serving as deputy commissioner of higher education for the Montana University System since 2018 will be an asset as he narrows his focus to a single entity.
As a past president of ASNMU, Northern's student government organization, Jason Morgan recalls feeling “somewhat terrified at the prospect of talking to people I thought were so important” when he had to present updates on student issues and activities at each NMU Board of Trustees meeting. Now that the 2011 political science alumnus is a trustee himself, it is the ASNMU report that he looks forward to hearing the most.
Jimmy Ludwig's 30-year acting career in New York City—from Broadway productions and performance art to film and television—taught him a valuable lesson: “Grit and a willingness to outwork everybody else” are far more important for sustained success than either talent, which is pervasive in such entertainment epicenters, or connections. He plans to share that sage advice with students in the new Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in acting program he is heading for Northern Michigan University Theatre and Dance.
Northern Michigan University graduate assistant Benjamin Fidler won first place in the most recent international 3-Day Novel Contest. Elijah Sparkman, an MFA graduate of NMU, also participated and advanced to the final selection. Instead of relaxing during Labor Day weekend 2021, both wrote tirelessly to create a novel or novella in 72 hours, competing against other writers worldwide. The judges take nearly a year to read hundreds of submissions and recently released the results.