Sandra PoindexterAQIP Project Emphasizes Communication

One of NMU’s Academic Quality Improvement Program (AQIP) action projects for 2011-12 will focus on developing stronger processes for effective leadership-guided communication and recognized feedback mechanisms. According to Sandi Poindexter (Business), Northern’s AQIP coordinator, the project is titled "Developing Feedback Mechanisms and Enhancing Campus Leadership Communication." It was selected by the eight-person NMU team that attended a recent AQIP Strategy Forum in Chicago. The team reviewed AQIP recommendations cited in NMU’s systems appraisal review.

“It’s a requirement that AQIP schools attend a strategy forum every four years. There, your leadership team selects an action project based on the finding of your systems appraisal,” Poindexter said.

As identified by Northern’s recent systems appraisal and affirmed by subsequent campus discussions with the Academic Senate, directors, department heads and the President’s Council, there exists an opportunity to enhance current campus communication, Poindexter said.

“A need exists for better dissemination of information and more clearly defined feedback mechanisms to address two issues: perceived lack of decision transparency and realization that feedback does not always make its way up or down the leadership chain. Expectations for communication skills for leadership positions and communication must be clarified through campus-wide processes."

Strategy team members who attended the forum included Poindexter, President Les Wong, Susan Koch, Terry Seethoff and Bill Bernard (all of Academic Affairs), Gavin Leach (Finance and Administration), Ann Sherman (Human Resources) and Cindy Paavola (Communications and Marketing).

Members of the action project’s task force will be identified this summer and the group will begin to meet in the fall. The task force will:

  • help to identify needed communication traits of successful leaders, as well as desired resources, training and tools to help campus leaders develop strong communication skills;
  • develop more clearly defined communication expectations of campus leaders, as well as a pilot project for including assessment of communication as part of a leader’s annual evaluation;
  • create more defined processes for feedback mechanisms; and
  • assess points of communication breakdown for funneling information up and down university hierarchies.

“We have great people who lead our university departments and divisions," said Paavola. "They are tremendously committed to their units and their staffs. As a university we may not be providing them the necessary tools, information, training and resources they need to be strong communicators. So we’re going to try to understand and remove obstacles that keep information from flowing smoothly up and down the various university channels. Additionally, the project should help us define the most efficient, effective and professional means for NMU employees to provide input during the university’s decision-making process."

NMU campus community members are invited to provide comment on this action project through Aug. 1 by e-mailing  Other 2011-12 action projects will be identified and selected during the early portion of the fall semester.



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Updated: July 14, 2011

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