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NMU board of trustees approves investments

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees on Friday unanimously approved investing $5 million in a series of initiatives designed to deliver innovative academic programs and important 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.

“If we maintain our current status, then we’re going to have serious enrollment budget challenges within the next five years,” NMU President Fritz Erickson said, “and so, the goal all along has been to develop the mechanisms and put in place those kinds of activities today that can help forestall serious challenges and problems in the university.”

NMU Board Chair Robert Mahaney said the university is being proactive in addressing demographic challenges, which could attract several hundred new students.

Erickson said NMU has been successful in its enrollment strategies, but continuing that progress will require further actions.

He noted retention analytics will allow NMU to look at how students can succeed.

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 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.

“We know that students who are engaged are students that tend to stay, tend to be successful and tend to graduate,” Erickson said.

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 Upper Peninsula residents and improves their health outcomes. It also will identify related academic programs to meet regional demand.

NMU Provost Kerri Schuiling completed groundwork on the initiative with board liaison James Haveman, former director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 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.

“Our health care system is under great stress here in the U.P., so if this university can help turn that around, strengthen our communities in this manner, I’m all for it,” Mahaney said.

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.

“We also see cybersecurity as having a real link to broader-based community, that this has the opportunity to serve economic development, not only in Marquette but across the Upper Peninsula as being really a hub for cybersecurity,” Erickson said.

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 also 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.

Trustee Tami Seavoy pointed out that other schools already have adopted eSports.

“We have to stay fresh and relevant,” she said.

In other action at Friday’s meeting, the board:

≤ Affirmed the purchase of a home at 1707 Schaffer Ave. in Marquette 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 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; and

≤ Announced the following proposed schedule of meeting dates for calendar year 2020, all falling on Thursday and Friday: Feb. 13-14; April 30-May 1; July 16-17; Sept. 24-25; and Dec. 10-11.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.