Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson used his fall convocation to update the campus community with status reports on the new focus areas, outcomes and post-pandemic priority initiatives added to the NMU strategic plan during a revision earlier this year.
The new focus areas are equity in systems and processes, and mind/body wellness. The two new strategic outcomes, which Erickson said will guide university decision-making and the implementation of new initiatives, are: supporting sustainability and carbon neutrality; and supporting the rural agenda.
“We need to deliberately strive to add [these outcomes] into our actions,” he said. “This won't always be easy to do. At times, it may be expensive. Sometimes it will be at odds with other operations or desires on campus. But these are conversations we need to have and complicated situations we will navigate because I believe that Northern can be a leader in both areas if we put ourselves up to the challenge. In these two areas, how can we innovate our way onto the national, international stage?”
Erickson also provided updates on the following six post-pandemic priorities added to the strategic plan.
- Career Tech and Engineering facility: An outside shot at private funding that would have raised the possibility of a new facility “did not pan out,” so NMU will proceed with its original capital outlay project to renovate the existing Jacobetti Complex. Cosmetology and hospitality management programs will make a temporary move to the Northern Center in January.
- Transform the College of Business with a rural economies focus: A task force is creating and engaging a rural economies external advisory group, along with a Rural Economies Teaching Institute and a Rural Economies Academic Delivery Institute (working titles) to develop action plans ready for first-phase implementation by May. On a related note, NMU is actively developing plans to build a new College of Business facility, located where McClintock is now. “We anticipate this would be funded almost completely through private giving,” Erickson said.
- Collaborative Sustainability Initiative: A task force working toward the goal of Northern becoming carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner will begin meeting in September. The group will begin by considering recommendations researched and developing by NMU students in a report presented to Erickson last spring. A preliminary carbon neutrality report will be completed during the winter semester for campus feedback.
- Reimagine Equity and Inclusion: Erickson will review and share with the Executive Council recommendations from the President's Committee on Diversity and the President's Committee on Gender and Sexuality. “We may be able to implement some of the low-hanging fruit ideas, the ones that don't need chief diversity officer input,” he said, referencing the current vacancy in that position. He is putting together a search committee for a new chief diversity officer and plans to use the transition to restructure the area.
- SISU: The Innovation Institute at NMU: Co-directors Bill Digneit and Jes Thompson gave a presentation on SISU at the start of convocation (a more detailed story on SISU will be posted in the near future). The institute will lead the initiative for expanding online educational opportunities and developing new academic programs. Erickson said those that clearly will increase enrollment and those that are “distinctly Northern” will receive support and investment.
- Integrated Health and Counseling Services: A group leading the effort to combine the two operations in one location will be seeking campus input.
“Throughout Northern's ongoing strategic planning process over the years, we've used the phrase ‘distinctly Northern' to describe our innovation mindset, Erickson said. “As higher education undergoes its current transformation period of change, those universities that stand out among the crowd for their quality, value and distinctiveness have the greatest chance of thriving.
“It is my hope that everyone one of us who cares so deeply about Northern Michigan University, the institution, and Northern students will participate in whatever you can to add to our innovation efforts. We are a university of great ideas and that will serve us well in the upcoming years of change ahead.”
Erickson also announced that Dale Kapla has agreed to serve as interim provost when Kerri Schuiling steps down in January. The provost search committee has been meeting over the summer and selected executive search firm R. William Funk and Associates to assist with the process. Erickson said the goal is to have a new provost in place by no later than July 1.