Erickson addresses gathering

Convocation set at Jamrich Hall

Fritz Erickson, president of Northern Michigan University, speaks at Wednesday’s Fall Convocation at Jamrich Hall. He spoke about priorities for the upcoming year. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University President Fritz Erickson addressed recent achievements and upcoming projects during the Fall Convocation held Wednesday at Jamrich Hall.

“I have been spending quite a bit of time in the last couple of weeks reading the Strategic Resource Allocation reports, and the message I am getting from those is that Northern is in prime position for transformation,” Erickson said.

Those task force templates, along with the program templates, are expected to be posted Friday, he said.

However, Erickson refrained from going into specific recommendations since the campus community had not yet had a chance to review them. The goal is to have a full proposal before the NMU Board of Trustees at its December meeting.

He also said that in July, the board kicked off NMU’s strategic campus master planning project for the university’s physical campus.

“This academic year, we will be holding a series of discussion sessions for students, faculty, staff alumni and community members to give input into the next version of our campus master plan,” Erickson said.

Erickson also discussed new and upcoming landscaping additions.

Dedication ceremonies are scheduled in September for two new enhancements to NMU’s campus landscape: the Paul L. Lang Jr. Memorial Garden and the bronze Wildcat statue. Both projects were made possible through the support of private donors.

NMU announced last week that a perennial flower memorial garden was established through a lead gift from Mona Lang of Marquette, also executive director of the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, to honor her late husband and NMU’s former provost. It will be dedicated at 4 p.m. Sept. 14 just west of Jamrich Hall.

A large bronze Wildcat was made possible through a gift from the estate of former NMU Board of Trustees chairman and longtime NMU supporter Gil Ziegler (’60 BS). His two daughters will attend the dedication, scheduled for 3 p.m. Sept. 21 near Jamrich Hall.

The cast-bronze Wildcat statue will be 12 feet long and 4-5 feet high and will be installed on top of a boulder with a hardscape patio surrounding it.

The contemplative garden will feature a pathway to a series of benches framed by trees and shrubs. An anonymous donor who supported that project also supported the planting of about 180 trees and multiple perennial flower gardens scattered through the heart of campus.

University funds supported a new irrigation system for the new plantings that pumps water from a well near Lee Hall to the academic mall.

Erickson said during the convocation that parking lots have been reconfigured to better mesh with new facilities, such as the six buildings of The Woods residence hall complex that now are open and housing students. Northern Lights Dining, formerly named The Marketplace, is open, although a few final parts to the renovation still are being completed.

“The transformational renovation of the University Center is well underway with a goal of being completed in April in time for our academic year-ending celebrations,” Erickson said.

At the convocation, NMU Provost Kerri Schuiling mentioned the elevated lead levels found in the water in three NMU buildings.

In May, NMU temporary closed the Physical Education Instructional Facility, Thomas Fine Arts and the Learning Resources Center as a precautionary measure after water testing showed inconsistent lead level readings. Some water samples showed elevated levels of lead.

“Today, all drinking water sources in those buildings have filtration systems to address the issue,” Schuiling said. “While it was a very stressful and frustrating problem at times, the facilities and safety department handled it with professionalism, perseverance and efficiency.”

Erickson added: “Even though we were not required to do a comprehensive set of water tests, we knew it was the right thing to do. We are so fortunate that we had only three buildings with elevated lead levels considering the amount of lead used in construction in the 1950s and ’60s when many of our facilities were built.”

Also speaking at the convocation was Alec Lindsay, an NMU professor in the Department of Biology and chairman of the NMU Academic Senate.

The Academic Senate, he said, consists of about 40 senators who represent academic schools and departments on campus, with its membership including three student government representatives and NMU’s five deans.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the senate evaluated and approved many new courses, and deleted and modified others, he said.

“The senate engaged in healthy discussions about other, larger-picture issues, like mechanisms to encourage student participation in national and local elections, like potential expanded roles for world languages in our degree program and potential expanded roles for doctoral programs on campus,” Lindsay said.

Agendas and schedules for senate meetings, he said, are posted at nmu.edu/academicsenate.