Wong Updates Campus on Eight Convocation Focus Areas


NMU President Les Wong spent most of Wednesday afternoon’s forum outlining progress on the eight focus areas this academic year that he first identified in his fall convocation. He also said performance funding, which is sweeping the country and being discussed by Michigan lawmakers for the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, represents “the big sea change for financing higher education.” In updating facilities projects, Wong made it clear that NMU has not yet secured construction dollars for a new academic building to replace Jamrich.

“The state discussion on capital outlay begins in February and that process could take weeks or months,” he said. “We are continuing with the design work and we’ll be ready if it happens, but we could be using Jamrich for some time. I want to prepare you for the reality that the issue of whether or not we get money is undetermined at this point. However, we remain hopeful.”


Here are summaries of Wong’s progress reports on the eight focus areas:


1. Improve internal communications: Wong has created a President’s Cabinet of 11 members to complement the existing President’s Council, which exceeds 30 members.  The cabinet is more focused and issue-driven. He is also holding regular Monday morning meetings with the vice presidents of academic affairs and finance and administration, as well as his staff. The provost position is being advertised. Wong said a committee will start reviewing candidates in January with the goal of appointing someone to begin in the summer. All internal candidates for assistant provost have completed their presentations. The committee will make its recommendation within the next couple of weeks.


2. Eliminate the “Just Northern” sentiment: ASNMU and Communications and Marketing will produce posters once per month emphasizing the high quality of the Northern experience. Wong also gave examples of how NMU stands out. These include more than 18,000 student volunteer hours in the community in 2010-11, which equate to a value of more than $393,000. Also, the Center for Rural Community and Economic Development has produced a publication of community and economic profiles for all 15 U.P. counties. A limited number of printed copies are available, but an interactive online version is available at Rural Center.


3. Health and wellness:  A group of dedicated volunteers has been exploring what NMU might do to “integrate a number of silos that have something to do with health and wellness on campus,” Wong said. “These include athletic training, fitness, the injury clinic, health center, health promotions, the USOEC trainers, nursing and clinical lab sciences. For lack of a better term, we’re looking at developing a one-stop center. We’re looking at space, trying to find out which services should go there and when, how much of an investment would be required and whether we could ultimately save money. It builds on our relationships with MSU’s College of Human Medicine, Marquette General Health System, Superior Health Partners and Blue Cross Blue Shield.”


4. Branding: The firm Stamats should complete its report, based on university and community responses, by the end of January. A campus committee will work on branding promises based on the report’s data.


5. Rural impact: “We’re a rural comprehensive master’s I university. The word ‘rural’ is taking on enormous importance for us, not only by federal definition, but state and higher education definitions. It’s one of our unique qualities.” Wong said NMU uses the descriptor in its annual report to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. He encouraged employees to use the term regularly as well in grant applications and scholarship.


6. Comprehensive examination of procedures/practices: Wong cited examples such as the recent decision to repeat a summer 4/10 workweek, efforts to update position descriptions, the transition to paperless checks. He said the NMU Board of Trustees repeatedly asks what NMU is doing differently to get better results.


7. Ongoing projects nearing completion: The athletic review is included here. So are the Educational Policy Committee recommendations for programs NMU should enhance or redirect resources from, which the provost and academic cabinet will address.


8. Interdisciplinary/interdepartmental work: Recruitment and retention factor into this. Wong showed a table of state and U.P. demographic data that showed a double-digit percentage cumulative decrease  in the number of high school graduates when comparing the 2011 class with current kindergartners by the time they become seniors. He said a working idea to offset the demographic decline, called “4 in 4,” would look for ways to attract 400 new students in four years.  


The forum is available for viewing at Nov. 30 Forum.



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Updated: December 1, 2011

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