July 17, 2002
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Outdoor Classroom Project is Under Way

Northern students and faculty, as well as the surrounding community, will benefit from a unique outdoor classroom being developed on campus. Ron Sundell (Geography), director of NMU’s environmental science program, is coordinating the project.

The North-Campus Outdoor Classroom and Native Plants Research Study Area will be located just north of the New Science Facility. It will provide a bevy of educational, research and training opportunities while promoting an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to environmental learning.

“It’s an ecologically sound idea that has immense educational value and the potential to draw both graduate and undergraduate students to Northern," Sundell said. "Having this area will place NMU at the forefront as a premier institution involved in native plant studies for the region.”

The 6.28-acre study area will consist of six specific sites. One is the already established automatic weather station built in conjunction with the National Weather Service. The other study sites include a mixed woodland area, a retention pond/wetland site, two native flora study sites, and a native seed research propagation plot.

Sundell said the outdoor classroom/native plants study area will get a lot of use from students and faculty in the biology, geography and chemistry departments, as well as those in the environmental science program. Daily activities at the site will include general instruction; student training and testing of field equipment and procedures; research, development, testing and improvement of native plants restoration techniques; source of seed and plant materials propagated for local/regional restoration projects; and public awareness and demonstrations in the use of native plant species.

“The use of native plants, some possibly transplanted from right here on campus, and the ability to forest native seeds for use both in the classroom and in projects in the community is an invaluable resource,” Sundell said. “Native plant studies are a very important educational and research tool throughout the country. NMU could lead the way in the upper Midwest for these types of programs.”

Sundell said that even the location of the outdoor classroom/native plants study area benefits the university and the scientific community. “Having the site so close to the dorms with students walking through it daily and reading the signage we will post will only help to increase awareness of ecological issues,” Sundell said.

He first envisioned this project when he arrived at Northern four years ago and has been planning the actual site for two years now. With the weather station complete and providing a continual data flow to the weather service and a host of campus facilities, including NMU’s public radio and television stations, and work on the retention pond/wetland study site having begun this summer, Sundell plans to really start digging into the conversion process this fall with the help of his students.

But Sundell also has begun planning additional projects to connect the on-campus project to an NMU off-campus lands project that will create a multi-tiered, phased approach for student instruction, research, and management of properties owned by NMU. These include the Longyear, Shiras and Triangle plots.

Sundell is also organizing the Central Lake Superior Region Environmental Restoration Initiatives to develop working relationships between NMU and various local, state, and federal environmental and natural resource management agencies for work on various projects throughout the surrounding region.

“When this is complete,” Sundell said, “we’ll be able to conduct long-term studies both at and between the on-campus and off-campus sites. This fits the ‘Northern…Naturally’ philosophy to a ‘T’.”

Democrats to Debate at WNMU-TV

A debate involving Democratic gubernatorial candidates James Blanchard, David Bonior and Jennifer Granholm will be taped Thursday morning at Public TV13 on the NMU campus. The event will be televised at 9 p.m. Friday on PBS stations across the state.

Tim Skubick, host of the weekly “Off the Record” program, will serve as moderator. He will then sit down with members of the capitol press corps – who will have watched the debate from the distance learning classroom in the LRC – to discuss the candidates’ performances. This debate edition of “Off the Record” will be broadcast at 5:30 p.m. Friday and at 1 p.m. Sunday on Public TV13.

NMU Faculty Art on Display

Paintings by three Northern faculty members and a multimedia exhibition by Linda Ferguson will be featured at the NMU Art Museum July 19-Aug. 18.

The Art and Design faculty participating in the show are Thomas Cappuccio, who teaches illustration; John Hubbard, whose specialties are painting and print making; and Steve Leuthold, who teaches art history.

Ferguson's exhibition, "Between Stones," is inspired by her emotions walking a stone labyrinth she built in St. Ignace on Lake Michigan.

Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 1-4 p.m. Sunday.

Volunteers Needed for Laptop Distribution

The 3rd annual laptop distribution next month promises to be the largest yet, with 5,000 computers issued and another 3,700 returned. To ensure that the process runs smoothly and efficiently, NMU faculty and staff are encouraged to volunteer a few hours on one or more of the following days:

1:30-3:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21;
2-6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22;
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23;
10 a.m. - 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24; and
Noon-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25.

A training session will be held from 1-1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21, at the Superior Dome. Volunteers will receive a t-shirt to wear while they work and refreshments throughout their shifts. To sign up, contact Cathy Niemi (Academic Affairs) at caniemi@nmu.edu.

New Associate Provost Talks Enrollment Management

One might assume that a storm chaser who tracks tornadoes each spring would be partial to the “funnel” model of enrollment management. Despite his seasonal hobby, William Bernard (Academic Affairs) isn’t completely sold on the idea.

“The funnel describes how universities start each year with a larger pool of new students, which eventually narrows down until those remaining at the opposite end emerge as graduates,” said Bernard, now in his third week as associate provost for student services and enrollment management. “I prefer to think of it as an hourglass. That initial pool may narrow, but the students who graduate remain with the university as alumni, so they never really cycle out of the glass.”

According to Bernard, enrollment management is about more than recruiting; it is about connecting with students early, in and out of class.

“I want to show how student services can play a major role in that connectivity, especially as the university continues to recruit from farther away,” he said. “When students don’t have that sense of familiarity that comes with being close to home, you have to work harder to make them feel comfortable so they will want to stay. We need to explore new ways to enhance recruitment and retention and to increase the number of students of color.”

Bernard previously served seven years as vice president of student services at Hawkeye Community College in Waterloo, Iowa. His responsibilities also extended to public safety, maintenance, facilities, custodial and grounds.

“I learned a lot, but the time constraints didn’t allow me to focus on the student aspect as much as I would have liked,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing that here. And for the first time in a while, if the air conditioner stops working, I don’t have to worry about calling anyone to fix it.”

Bernard said the Northern position appealed to him for three reasons: the quality career opportunity, the university’s academic reputation and the U.P. quality of life. He got a taste of the latter as an administrator at Nicolet Area Technical College in Rhinelander, Wis.

At Northern, Bernard assumes the duties of Karen Reese, who retired last year. He holds a master’s degree in education administration and a bachelor’s degree in industrial education from Northeast Missouri State University. He is joined by his wife, Mary, a registered nurse, and by their 16-year-old daughter Erin. The couple’s older daughter Tera, 19, is continuing her studies at Iowa State University.