Wong Unveils Road Map
NMU President Les Wong last week unveiled NMU’s new strategic plan, “Road Map to 2015 and Beyond.” This was the first step in launching a campus-wide discussion of the university’s future priorities.
The plan focuses on four broad elements: innovation; helping students lead more meaningful lives; leveraging campus attributes; and community engagement. Each includes specific goals and priorities based on information Wong has gleaned from interactions with the campus community since arriving at NMU in 2004.
“The road map will be an evolving document,” Wong said. “But it must also provide benchmarks by which to guide our decision making and our work with students. We have strong departments and units on campus that will continue to improve and remain strong. The road map supports and builds on that work while recognizing distinctive features that separate NMU from its competitors.”
One of the goals under innovation is a new professional development program for faculty and staff that rewards innovative practices and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. Wong said administrators plan to beef up the existing Wildcat Incentive Fund to provide seed money to support the pursuit of ideas, particularly those related to road map priorities.
“We have a tendency at times to raise the bar for everyone and to move equity and parity to such an extreme, that we often miss the risk-taking that turns into valuable ideas, cost-saving practices and new products,” Wong said. “I think we can set the national standard in developing a consistent system that will enhance the ability for faculty and staff to, for example, take a month or two to pursue an idea. We need to figure out ways to deliver that time. It might be that the fund is used to hire your replacement for a month and get you into an opportunity to devote time to that project.”
Wong elaborated on two goals designed to help NMU students succeed and lead more productive, meaningful lives. Fueled by the success of the existing Enrollment Management Network, which focuses on recruitment, he would like to create a Retention Management Network to take a “hard look” at the advising process and more effectively integrate existing services.
“How can we reinvigorate academic advising?” he said. “Is it as simple as going back to a tradition of requiring that students see an adviser before they register? Is it developing better software tools? I know we’re deploying an automated degree audit program. One of my fears is that that when you automate something that is very intuitive, it mistakenly communicates that a student does not need the able and wise guidance of faculty and staff mentors. Effective advising leads to good retention because students make judicious decisions.”
A second goal to benefit students is a revamped liberal studies program that reflects the skills and knowledge needed in a rapidly changing global economy. Wong said, “This is where I need to be brave because I must say I find our current liberal studies program unfathomable. I’m picturing myself and how I could work with students and tell them that these choices set the stage for them to be intelligent, critical people who own their own minds and think well through problems and that these choices have prepared them for their majors. I’m not sure I can do that.”
The two remaining elements of the road map are: stepping up collaborative efforts beyond campus designed to enhance community and economic development; and leveraging Northern’s unique location by incorporating Lake Superior and neighboring landscapes into academic programs and research while also creating a model community for sustainability and energy efficiency
Wong said university offices and departments should align their own decision-making and goal-setting processes with the university’s broader priorities laid out in the road map.
For an outline of the new strategic plan and an opportunity to view Wong's presentation via MediaSite Live, visit Road Map.