Wong Delivers Seventh Convocation

In his seventh fall convocation, NMU President Les Wong continued to stress the need for change at the university, despite swirling uncertainty at the state level regarding the economy and the implications of a new governor and overhauled legislature.

Wong reported that the first phase of the two-step plan he announced last April has been completed. Seven proposals for restructuring units, increasing efficiency and reducing costs were implemented by the target date of June 30.

Thirty-six employees who participate in the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS) took advantage of early retirement incentives approved by the governor. Wong said Human Resources is working closely with campus units to resolve “wrinkles” created by the retirements and elaborated on his decision to use temporary labor in most cases for recently filled positions.

“With the future of state funding in such a state of unknown, I could not live with the possibility that those we hired would sell homes and move to Marquette or quit good jobs, only to face the possibility of losing those jobs if the worst fears about January to June of 2011 come true. I don’t think anyone would want that. The challenge for us is to ensure that the work gets done. Each of us will need to adjust, be patient and welcome these temporary hires to NMU. When the budget issues stabilize, we have every intention of reassessing temporary positions.” 

Step two of his plan, to be completed by January, has a dual purpose: position the university to be ready for any number of scenarios when the new government is sworn in; and compel the university to conduct a bold review of its academic and athletic portfolios.

The Educational Policies Committee developed the criteria to evaluate academic programs. The provost and EPC will distribute their documents for review and input in the near future. Wong also said Ken Godfrey (Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports) is working with his team to create an Athletic Road Map to 2015 for varsity, club and intramural programs.

“This will include potential restructuring of the United States Olympic Education Center, athletic administration, termination of activities that don’t meet our aspirations and identification of new opportunities. My goal is to share the athletic recommendations with all of you by spring break 2011. I am very serious that in both the academic and athletic portfolio reviews, the opportunity to reshape and significantly improve the quality of the Northern experience can and will be done. On our path from good to great, these reviews are essential.”

Navigating the road ahead was the theme of Wong’s convocation, but he also took time to “look in the rearview mirror” at some of the accomplishments over the past year. These include:

A new Master of Business Administration (MBA) program enrolling its first students this fall


▪The Wildcat Innovation Fund, which has supported 22 projects in the areas of recruitment, retention, revenue generation and quality improvement


▪The technical and community college road map to guide curriculum and program decision-making so it remains responsive to workforce needs of regional industries and businesses


▪Sustainability efforts related to heat/light management and space use/consolidation that have reduced energy costs

▪The use of People Admin to fill vacancies, with a plan to extend its application to student and graduate assistant positions

▪A deliberate agenda to seek federal funding for projects, which resulted in a Department of Energy award of more than $600,000 to Northern’s power technician program

▪A productive year of support to the NMU Foundation from alumni, families and supporters that resulted in some significant gifts to be announced later this year; and

▪National and international media coverage related to NMU’s parent orientation, transfer student recruitment, NCAA tournament teams and its role as the host site for two elite speedskating competitions leading up to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

To see the full speech, visit Convocation.



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Updated: August 18, 2010

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