The NMU Board of Trustees today unanimously approved investing $5 million in a series of initiatives designed to deliver innovative academic programs and essential new services to the Upper Peninsula.
The initiatives include new centers dedicated to rural health and transformational education, an expanded cybersecurity curriculum, wide-ranging student success and retention efforts, increased support for graduate enrollment and a program to enhance diversity, investments in faculty and the addition of three sports.
“We are being proactive in addressing the upcoming demographic challenges facing Michigan's universities and seizing on the opportunities the new economy presents,” said Robert Mahaney, NMU board chair. “The university's mission is to educate, serve U.P. communities and provide employment opportunities for our graduates. We need to be nimble and forward-thinking in this rapidly changing world. These investments could attract several hundred new students to Northern.”
“Northern has done a great job of staying ahead of the curve and maintaining enrollment increases, but that will become even more challenging with the demographic outlook,” said NMU President Fritz Erickson. “These programs were identified by our faculty, staff and administrators as having strong enrollment potential and aligning well with our strategic plan and mission. They should produce a significant return on investment over the next five years.”
The Northern Michigan Center for Rural Health will be affiliated with the Michigan Center for Rural Health and based on campus, with some programs delivered using distance technology. Its goals are to create an integrated health care network that better serves U.P. residents and improves their health outcomes. It also will identify related academic programs to meet regional demand.
“A lot of people are doing great things, but residents don't always know what's available, how to access it and if insurance will cover it,” said NMU Provost Kerri Schuiling, who completed groundwork on the initiative with board liaison James Haveman, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “One of the goals will be to better coordinate those activities.
“For example, diabetes is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. There are several risk factors related to this finding, and while some are attributed to genetics, there are many that can be prevented or reduced. The center will do outreach on prevention, management and treatment with U.P. residents, including working with our tribal governments.”
Schuiling said the initial network partners in this effort are NMU, Bay Mills and Lac Vieux Desert Indian Communities, the U.P. Diabetes Outreach Network, the federally qualified Family Health Center in Houghton and the Michigan Center for Rural Health.
A new SISU Institute for Innovation and Transformational Education will be responsive to the design-thinking process of creating or transforming academic programs. It will cultivate a collaborative, interdisciplinary campus culture that supports novel ideas and the freedom to be visionary and entrepreneurial.
NMU plans to enhance its cyber defense academic programs by bolstering the curriculum, seeking a Center of Academic Excellence designation, investing in faculty and expanding Cyber Lab and software experiences. On a related note, NMU has hired a full-time director for the U.P. Cybersecurity Institute on campus to expand the array of non-credit educational opportunities and industry credentials based on existing gaps.
The student success package related to retention authorizes the purchase of the HelioCampus platform, which provides descriptive, diagnostic and predictive analytical data to better inform programming and decision-making. It also includes the following: a more robust centralized advising initiative that will embed professional advisers in academic departments; an expansion of NMU Career Services; and the Pick One campaign, which encourages students to get involved in at least one campus activity to increase connections and create a sense of belonging.
Northern will expand its AIM North program, which offers courses in select Michigan communities to give students—especially those from underrepresented populations—a head start on college. Students are able to take two courses for college credit in their hometowns the summer after they graduate from high school.
The university will add men's and women's teams in alpine skiing, beginning the program as a member of the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association. NMU will also invest in eSports competitive video gaming, which has become an international phenomenon as a spectator sport.
In other action at today's meeting, the board:
-Affirmed the purchase of a home at 1707 Schaffer Ave. for $175,000 plus related closing expenses.
-Agreed to combine International Education Services, English Language Institute and International Recruiting and change the name to International Programs. Also agreed to change the name of the Communication and Performance Studies Department to Communication and Media Studies.
-Approved a new Master of Science in Nursing program, effective fall 2021.
-Approved an audit of WNMU-TV and WNMU-FM.
-Elected Steve Mitchell chair of the board and Tami Seavoy vice chair of the board for calendar year 2020.
-Approved the following committee appointments announced by chair-elect Mitchell: Stephen Young, chair, and Mahaney and Haveman, Finance; Alexis Hart, chair, and Lisa Fittante, Academic Affairs; Seavoy and Hart, Extended Learning and Community Engagement; and Mahaney and Young, NMU Foundation Board.
-Announced the following proposed schedule of meeting dates for calendar year 2020 (all fall on Thursday-Friday): Feb. 13-14; April 30-May 1; July 16-17; Sept. 24-25; and Dec. 10-11.