Mental health discussed during NMU convocation


Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE — Mental well-being was a major focus of Wednesday’s Northern Michigan University convocation at the Forest Roberts Theatre.

President Kerri Schuiling and other university officials talked about various topics at the annual event, including several initiatives.

“We’re committing to providing more mental health and wellness learning and training opportunities for both students and employees, and we’re creating wellness rooms across the campus,” Schuiling said.

Also, a new Health and Wellness Center located near residence halls and Northern Lights Dining off of Lincoln Avenue is being created with the goal of offering “a model of integrated care,” she said, plus NMU will work with groups to bring more support animals onto campus. Additionally, a physician assistant with a specialty in mental health will be hired for the Ada B. Vielmetti Health Center, and a new substance abuse minor will be offered this fall.

Schuiling talked about other actions, such as inviting wellness-related student groups to help the university develop new well-being programs, services and marketing of resources that better match student needs.

Abigail Wyche, special adviser for campus mental health and wellness, discussed the new live website at nmu.edu/wellbeing that includes contacts for resources.

On the website is the long-awaited report from former NMU Trustee Jim Haveman, who also was the state Department of Mental Health director from 1991-96.

A student death in the 2021-22 academic year got visibility on campus and raised the issue of raising mental health awareness.

Wyche said NMU can help to destigmatize individuals reaching out for help and promote its services.

“That is why you’re starting to notice information about health and resources just about everywhere you can turn at NMU,” Wyche said.

She called intervention and prevention parts of NMU’s “holistic” approach.

Schuiling said, “These discussions must continue, because I know there is more we can do to achieve a goal of being healthy and strong and connected.”

Finances, projects


Gavin Leach, vice president of finance and administration, shared part of the university’s financial outlook for the 2022-23 year.

He called enrollment a “challenge” this year.

Leach said a report indicates a decline of 4.9%, which he acknowledged is a bigger-than-expected decline, and if that decline holds, NMU is looking at a $3 million hole in its budget, which will be finalized in September. However, he said NMU has time to address the problem and make good decisions.

“The good news is we’re in solid financial shape going into it,” Leach said. “The bad news is we’re still going to deal with the issue and the enrollment changes.”

Leach talked about the university’s capital projects, with extensive work taking place over the summer. NMU is in the first year of a three-year, $93 million campus facility initiative.

The convocation included a video about ongoing projects. These are a few highlights:

≤ Renovation work on the Jacobetti Complex will continue through the school year, although classes still will take place there. Construction is slated to be completed by fall 2024.

≤ The cosmetology salon and learning lab, which are open to the public for hair and nail services, moved to the Northern Center. The hospitality management program also moved to the Northern Center, which has an instructional laboratory and restaurant. The restaurant will be open to the public during certain times of the school year.

≤ Construction began on the Health and Wellness Center. The facility will be finished in the fall of 2023.

≤ Work began on the Behavior Education Assessment and Research Center along Presque Isle Avenue. Here, NMU psychology students and faculty will help Upper Peninsula families and children on the behavioral spectrum beginning in January.

Presidential search

Chris Greer, associate vice president and dean of students, said the Presidential Search Advisory Committee has been involved in the process of finding a new NMU president.

Schuiling took over in an interim role following the termination last September of former NMU President Fritz Erickson.

Greer said that over 50 applications from many “highly qualified individuals” had been reviewed, with the committee deciding on Tuesday to interview 11 candidates in early September via Zoom. On Sept. 9, it will be decided which three or four individuals will be invited to campus for two-day interviews.

These interviews, she said, will include forums for faculty, staff and students as well as interviews with union leadership, deans, student government and other groups and individuals. The interviews will be during the weeks of Sept. 12 and 19.

“We want as many people as possible to meet the candidates, ask them questions and provide feedback to the board of trustees,” Greer said. “Your feedback is very important in this process.”

The board of trustees then will interview each candidate, review campus and community feedback about the finalists, and subsequently choose the next president.

“We hope for an announcement by the end of September or early October,” she said.

The first day of classes for NMU will be Monday.

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


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