Focuses on the Future
his fall convocation address, Les Wong briefly
recapped his “rookie year” as NMU president, but he spent most of
the time focusing on four short-term activities the university will
undertake now to shape its future.
include developing an off-campus enrollment base; formulating a
strategy to reduce semester credit-hour production per full-time
teaching faculty; ramping up the areas of continuing education,
online course development, grants and enhanced gifts; and implementing
recommendations made by the Internationalization and Superior Edge
said it is critical for Northern to find new and creative ways to
reach audiences who can’t come to campus.
will ask the provost and academic deans, faculty and staff to begin
the process that will set realistic targets for off-campus enrollments,”
he said. “I will also ask for union input on how we might do so
within the parameters of the master agreement while also providing
departments the flexibility they need to be more entrepreneurial
and to benefit more directly from entrepreneurial behavior. We are
fighting against a demographic curve that is telling us that fewer
and fewer traditional-age students will come to us from the U.P.”
said credit-hour production per faculty member has been an issue
recognized by the NMU Board of Trustees before and since his arrival.
cannot continue to speak of higher levels of excellence as classes
get larger, more students arrive on campus, the cycle of class offerings
gets longer, and the state continues to reduce its financial commitment
to higher education. The simple answer is, ‘Les, get more faculty
here.’ But hiring more full-time faculty doesn’t answer the issue.
We must put our thinking to the question of managing enrollment,
reducing costs and remaining affordable.”
a related note, Wong said Northern’s future will be shaped by how
much higher the intellectual and social capital on campus can be
developed and measured. He said teaching must be sharp and up-to-date,
with assessment methods to support it.
requires us to demand excellence in the classroom, reward risk taking,
and encourage learning,” Wong added. “It compels us to correct complacency
and not tolerate mediocre work in students, in our colleagues and
from one another. This is why the AQIP assessment process is so
important. The potential of that intellectual fervor is on campus,
but we don’t do enough to gather the data that will tell us and
our public just how effective we are.”
the strained economic climate, Wong said the university will move
forward with two initiatives that will be part of Northern’s “Curriculum
for the 21 st Century.” Internationalization will ensure a study-abroad
experience for each student pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The Superior
Edge will distinguish students who complete required hours of leadership,
diversity, community service and “real world” experiences.
education funding in Michigan – particularly House and Senate proposals
to significantly cut Northern’s state appropriation – have made
it a challenging first year for Wong. While the hard-line positions
have softened and state revenues will be higher than projected,
he said the so-called “funding gap” and formula funding issues will
force Northern into a fight every year during the legislative budget
process. Efforts to address these problems will be discussed at
upcoming university forums.
full text of Wong's speech, go to Convocation.