MARQUETTE - Northern Michigan University's Interim President David Haynes has been at the school's helm for seven months, roughly one-third of the time he plans to stay there.
With a three-year contract - the third of which will be a sabbatical year - Haynes has a wide array of goals he hopes to achieve before stepping back into his previous position as a political science professor at Northern.
The Mining Journal recently sat down with Haynes to discuss what he's done so far and what he hopes to do in the coming months.
Northern Michigan University graduate Ashley Billings receives her diploma from NMU Interim President David Haynes at the Dec. 15 winter commencement. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
The whirlwind tour
In his first few months, Haynes has overseen a multitude of things, including:
Along with that, Haynes said he also has spent the first few months in his new position calling the top 100 donors to the university.
"I just started calling them. 'Hey, you know, new president, there's some issues swirling, let's talk about vision, let's talk about where we're headed, let's talk about what you need, let's talk about some more money,' that kind of stuff," Haynes said. "I learned a lot during those phone calls."
He also met with local business leaders and city officials to discern Northern's role in their lives, and how the university could do a better job serving them.
"I met with a lot of business leaders in town (and asked), 'What kind of barrier were you feeling from entering, accessing the university? Was there a protocol for you to go through or was it confusing, and were we listening to what you need for employees, not only in the Upper Peninsula but in other places, like Wisconsin?'" Haynes said. "That was an incredibly useful exercise."
What he learned was that the university has almost no presence outside the Marquette area, so he's hoping to fix that by taking several bus tours across the U.P.
Those conversations also played a role in reinstating NMU's Licensed Practical Nursing program.
Haynes said he's also working to broker more articulation agreements - such as the one announced between NMU and Bay De Noc Community College of Escanaba in March - between Northern and community colleges to help bring more students to NMU to finish their four-year degrees.
One of his main goals is increasing enrollment across the board, from U.P. students to foreign students.
NMU is not the world
As Haynes was thinking about how to make Northern more enticing to students outside the United States, one idea kept reverberating in his mind.
"You remember that song that all the big singers sang, that 'We Are The World?' That's what I thought about when I thought about it," Haynes said. "It was like everybody sitting together singing 'We Are The World' and it was great. I mean, we wanted the world to come here and we did get some (students)."
Those students came from a wide range of countries, according to NMU's Institutional Research Department, which tracks data among the university's students such as age, major and country of origin.
Northern's IR web site shows a total of 128 foreign students enrolled at the university for the fall semester, with countries such as China, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Finland represented.
Haynes said increasing international enrollment rates will be a focus point during his time as Northern's top administrator.
However, despite his original musings on bringing a broad array of international students to Northern, he said targeting only specific countries will help earn NMU global recognition.
"You gotta be strategic and pick the countries you want to focus on so you're not singing 'We Are The World.' You're not the United Nations, you're not the University of Michigan," Haynes said. "You gotta think about programs you can offer in the host country and you gotta think about how you bring students here and how you bring them there."
Haynes said the university is focusing on a few countries in particular - South Korea, the United Arab Emirates (specifically in Dubai) and even Kenya, where a university team was recently sent to help begin the process of forming an overseas connection.
Taking small bites
Increasing enrollment doesn't just mean focusing on international students.
Haynes has made it a priority to increase in several areas and has already put some plans in motion.
The university recently became one of only a handful of schools in the state to host a new campus-based outreach service meant to support student veterans, called VetSuccess.
Its goal is to reach out to at least 800 students who recently served in the military and are now enrolled at higher educational institutions in the U.P., helping them gain access to resources they have earned through their military service.
"I went to school on the G.I. Bill," Haynes said. "I get that."
Haynes said veteran enrollment has increased at Northern this year and said he is also hoping to increase the number of graduate students attending NMU, as that number has been "slipping in recent years."
However, he's not planning on adding students in each focus area by the hundreds. Rather, Haynes' approach is to figure out what the best ways to attract new students really are, before diving head first into murky water.
"We always seem to make pronouncements, 'We're going to get 1,000 new online students. We're going to get 1,000 new people here,' and my whole thing is, well that might be nice, but why don't we just focus on, can we get 10 here and 20 here and 30 here and show me how we're doing that well and we'll get to the 1,000, but you gotta figure out where you can get a good bite," Haynes said. "Not everything has to be grandiose. It can be more subtle."
The culture of town
On a typical Friday evening in Marquette, Haynes was hit with news he never expected to hear.
A Northern student had drowned in the Physical Education Instructional Facility pool somewhere between 5 and 5:35 p.m.
As more information became available, it was discovered the victim was Arianna Alioto, an 18-year-old freshman on NMU's women's soccer team. She had drowned after a team practice in the pool from 4 to 5 p.m. had concluded.
"In your first six, seven months, you sit there and you think about all the things that could happen. That's part of your job. There's that old hockey expression, I forget who said it, 'You don't skate to where the puck is, you skate to where the puck's going.' I've tried to do that," Haynes said. "In this case, I never thought, it's just not something you're prepared to do, and there's the tragedy of the family and I've talked to the family a couple of times, as a father of two daughters and two granddaughters."
Campus reaction to the incident was instantaneous. A candlelight vigil, which Haynes said he attended, was held outside Magers Hall, where Alioto used to live. Roughly 200 people showed up to offer their support to those grieving the loss of the young soccer player.
At a Northern and Michigan Tech University hockey game held at the Barry Events Center after Alioto's death, students from both schools wore purple in honor of Alioto. It was her favorite color.
It was this outpouring of support, Haynes said, this "culture of town and gown," that sticks with him.
And nothing exemplified that culture more than what Haynes saw when he went to see off the women's soccer team as they boarded a bus to head down to Alioto's hometown of Columbia, Miss., for her funeral.
"I went to see the team off on the bus and there, standing there were a slew of female athletes, women's volleyball team, track and field, and not just women, the football coach, all these other coaches, right here, early in the morning, just that embrace, that loving embrace from this. It's one of the wonderful things about the Upper Peninsula and one of the wonderful things about Marquette and Northern," Haynes said. "You see that all the time."
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org