President Delivers Fall Convocation

In his fall convocation, Northern Michigan University President Les Wong said NMU must redefine its position in response to continuing shortfalls in state appropriations and demographic pressure on enrollment. He announced plans to launch discussions across campus toward developing a new identity that will challenge the status quo while preserving quality and adhering to the university’s core mission.

“We have had incredible success as an institution where ‘high touch, high tech, high quality’ differentiated us from our competitors,” Wong said. “Conditions allowed us to sustain a high financial aid-low tuition model through campus efficiencies and reallocations. These conditions will soon cease to exist. We may need a new and different model.

“We shouldn’t expect this new identity to necessarily be rooted in or benchmarked by the current student-faculty, student-staff, student-administrator ratios that currently exist. We have saved money, but it has also stretched us too far and too thin. I want to meet face-to-face with more of you and perhaps in smaller groups where we can engage the problems and discuss solutions. Let’s give ourselves the freedom to put everything on the table for consideration.”

Wong also outlined the following achievements over the past year toward goals identified in the university’s strategic plan, the Road Map to 2015:


▪More study abroad opportunities have been created and there has been an increase in international speakers and performers coming to NMU.

▪The newly implemented Wildcat Innovation Fund has funded seven campus proposals with $120,000 to seed new ideas.

▪NMU submitted more grants applications last year and netted $5.4 million, with an average award of nearly $96,000.

▪The university will launch its new WiMAX network on the 10th anniversary of the notebook computer initiative, expanding broadband wireless Internet access to more students off campus.

Community Engagement

▪The Superior Edge, Northern’s civic engagement-leadership program, continues to grow, with about 1,850 students in 2008-09.

▪Academic service learning also increased. Last winter, 30 courses (49 class sections) were designated as ASL courses, with nearly 800 students enrolled.

▪NMU students invest time and effort on behalf of more than 200 local agencies and organizations.

Meaningful Lives

▪NMU has made significant progress on implementing an online degree evaluation tool, traditionally known as degree auditing. The automated process is available to students in all but a few majors.

▪A new set of online interactive tools to better help students and their parents understand the financial aid process and funding opportunities is nearly complete.

Leveraging Campus Attributes

▪The university continues its efforts to renovate physical spaces to meet LEED standards. Two full-time employees and three students have passed certification tests to become LEED Accredited Professionals.

▪Housing and Residence Life has put in place several initiatives to help students be more “green.” A sampling of campus-wide sustainability projects is available at

To see the full convocation, including introductory comments by Provost Susan Koch and Academic Senate Chair Andy Poe (Mathematics and Computer Science), visit Convocation.


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Updated: August 20, 2009

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