Four Focus Areas Updated at Forum

President Brock Tessman introduces presenters (from left): Jeff Korpi, Kari Garcia, Jes Thompson and Shawnrece Campbell

Northern's March 20 university forum provided faculty, staff and students with updates on four areas: sustainability; enrollment; the student experience as it relates to orientation and housing; and diversity and inclusion.

Jes Thompson, recently appointed assistant vice president of Sustainability, said the immediate charges of her role are to increase the communication and coordination of efforts already underway on campus, and to support the implementation of new initiatives and activities.

“On the subject of new activities, we're working to create a campus-wide Sustainability Council this fall,” she added. “It will provide wider representation by combining the strategic planning focus area group working on building a culture of sustainability, and the Sustainability Hub for Innovation & Environment (SHINE) advisory board. It will also operate in alignment with the eight guiding principles of the Okanagan Charter.”

NMU was the 17th university nationwide to adopt the charter, which calls on post-secondary schools to embed health into all aspects of campus culture through an integrated, holistic approach.

Thompson said NMU will pilot a Sustainability Fellows Program. Faculty would be eligible to advance an initiative, engage in research or develop something in their curriculum related to sustainability on campus. They would receive up to 12 credits of reassigned time and have the potential for summer and professional development funding.

Other developments related to sustainability that Thompson referenced in her presentation include: calculating greenhouse gas emissions and developing an annual reporting cycle that is publicly transparent on the web; exploring opportunities to make Northern the most pollinator-friendly and bio-diverse campus possible; expanding post-consumer composting through Dining Services; a Green Athletics working group; possible curated, general education interdisciplinary experiences around Okanagan themes like sustainability that would not require any new courses or requirements; and community learning circles about climate change hosted in partnership with the Superior Watershed Partnership and the Marquette County Climate Adaptation Task Force.

Admissions Director Kari Garcia began her update with the good news that Wildcat Weekend helped to generate an additional 115 orientation registrations this week. But she said the FAFSA delay—due to the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to restructure of the form—is creating challenges for universities nationwide to process financial aid awards and distribute notices in a timely fashion so that students and their families can make informed decisions on whether and where to attend.

“But as for the numbers overall this year, we have certainly seen an increase in applications and admitted students,” Garcia said. “They're trending upwards significantly, mostly due to our partnership with the Common Application, a seamless national admissions application that students fill out and simply click on the boxes of schools they're interested in attending. About 52% of our applications this year are common apps. When you combine that with NMU's Bridge Award, which offers non-resident students who have at least a 2.25 GPA or higher in-state tuition rates, it results in 44% of our applications coming from non-resident students right now. And about 60% of our admitted students are non-residents.

“Housing and orientation are two major indicators that we look at very, very closely. As of today, housing registrations are sitting at about 945, about 91 over where we were last year. Orientation registrations for both first year and transfer students are just over 1,000. That's pretty exciting, and it includes global campus as well. So we are certainly seeing a lot of movement in the funnel right now.".”

The boost in housing registrations has exacerbated the issue of limited lodging options to meet increased student demand, said Jeff Korpi, associate vice president of the Northern Student Experience, during his forum presentation. He said the post-pandemic led to a drop in off-campus, multi-bed rentals fueled by remote workers seeking single-family homes and the rise in many apartments shifting to short-term vacation rentals.

“It's hard to know exactly what that impact was, but my guess is that a few hundred beds were lost off campus for students alone,” Korpi added. “So what has happened is that, as upperclassmen lose their housing options out in the community, they're moving back on campus. We reopened Spalding Hall for upperclassmen in 2021 and we're reutilizing Spooner Hall for upperclassmen as well. We've also seen an increase in the number of juniors and seniors who choose to live in what have traditionally been freshman and sophomore halls in The Woods or in The Quad. It's really creating a crunch. Right now today, we have 150 more students living on campus in residence halls.”

Korpi said Housing and Residence Life is tweaking arrangements and over-assigning some rooms accommodate students for fall—all of which has been communicated to students—but the university has also begun exploring the possibility of building an additional apartment complex on campus.  

NMU's orientation, which converts 98% of students who attend, will also undergo tweaks to build upon that success, Korpi said. Some of the material might shift online to allow time for students to experience different parts of campus and the community in an engaging way, and to reflect on what they experience at orientation and who they want to be.

“We want to find a way to get them to keep answering that question, so that when they graduate from here, they have a better sense of self,” he said. “They can see their progress from how they answered that question as a 17-year-old to when they cross the graduation stage and witness their own growth.”

Associate Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion Shawnrece Campbell, another recent appointee, highlighted her vision and new initiatives in both her update at the university forum and her opening remarks at Thursday's UNITED Conference. Read the full story (link).

For those unable to attend, the full forum is available for viewing here.

Prepared By

Kristi Evans
News Director

Categories: Around NMU