Looking Forward from 2006
Dr. Les Wong
Northern Michigan University
August 11, 2006
The Presidential vision is
rooted in a number of key values and attributes. The last two years have been
benchmarked by these values and attributes. Alums, corporate friends and
partners, parents and students themselves, tell different versions of the same
theme. As the university community seeks to expand our market regionally and
perhaps internationally our special niche and attraction to potential partners
and students will be defined by a commitment to these values in the larger
world and with new initiatives.
At the core of our value
system is our fundamental commitment to students. Not the process of teaching
or learning, but our regard for this person called our student. Our advising,
our instruction and our diplomas are more often and consistently recognized for
the human quality of the experience than for any other factor. We interview
prospective employees with that in mind; we examine programs with that in mind;
we explore external relationships with that in mind. All that we do is rooted
in the quality of the student experience and our regard for the personal
development of each of our students.
Second, the talent found in
faculty, staff and administration is exceptional. Our employees “want to be
here” and it is reflected in the quality of the relationships on campus.
Third, there is an
unqualified commitment to teaching and learning of the first caliber. The
amount of innovations found throughout the curriculum bespeaks the “quiet
demeanor” of our campus. We’re so used to seeing innovation around us that we
take it all as pretty normal. But when you find that technology and web
enhancements influence nearly 40% of the semester credit hours on campus,
what’s normal for us is factually on the edge for other campuses. And while we
will talk of research later, in many ways the cutting edge research on campus
is merely teaching and learning in a different guise.
As the President, I assume
these fundamental values are in operation no matter where we go and what we do.
And if initiatives compromise these fundamentals, I suspect the initiative will
wither rather quickly.
That said, our future will
lie in our ability to remain agile. We have made considerable effort to
minimize bureaucracy. We will expend considerable effort to redirect scarce
funds to programs and initiatives that position our students to be successful
in their communities and with their careers wherever in the world they choose
NMU’s future will center
around four major initiatives which have large fiscal and programming ripples.
The extent to which these four initiatives will define our niche is
considerable. These four major items to which considerable energy, time and
money will be directed include:
- Internationalizing the
campus and our curriculum
- Corporate facilitated
campus2campus internships in Asia and Latin America.
- Concentrated Learning
Experiences Abroad (CLEA’s) centered in majors and programs of study
- Corporate internships
- Programs abroad:
NMU-Chihuahua; NMU- Zhuhai
languages/cultures on campus: Arabic/Chinese/more Spanish
- Faculty staff diversity
(10% employees & 10% students)
- Courses where
international content is more obvious and essential to the course goals
- Promoting the Superior
Edge program: students will find that this may be the major means of
differentiating themselves from others
- The four edges address
the larger issues of leadership and community involvement which enhance a
course of study
- Student Leader Fellowship
- Expanding our graduate
school and grant funded research effort
- Establishing niche driven
- Expanding number of
- Increasing grant funded opportunities
to nearly $10M or more
- Increasing corporate
- The “one-state-recession”
known as Michigan will mean that a key means of funding the above
initiatives will be NMU’s second capital campaign
- The silent phase has
begun: July 1, 2006
- Silent phase target
values have been shared
- Foundation Board and
University Board of Trustee involvement is being defined
- Staff enhancements are
near complete: gift officers, technology support
- Feasibility and qualification
studies have started
- A campaign theme is
- A target figure will be
identified by January 2007
Arguably, NMU’s future will
always have enrollment considerations on our radar. I purposely did not
include enrollment as a top item because all of the four above items are an
intimate part of any enrollment strategy. But enrollment is and will remain an
essential element of any strategy, short or long term. In addition to our current
successes, there are questions which will occupy our planning:
- How will the
administration and the Board manage a tuition strategy that more
effectively matches the value-cost proposition with the quality and brand
of our “product”? Our current position as 14th in Michigan tuition rates and the current strategy to use low tuition to drive access will not
work in tomorrow’s college marketplace. Succinctly, I do not know if our
low cost – high aid model benefits us at the current time. As a regional
economic force, our attraction to a regional audience of students will be
driven more by perceived value than actual tuition comparisons premised
on being affordable.
- How to implement
immediate and effective enrollment strategies to displace the negative
U.P. demographic curve while establishing a demand curve for our
services? This links to the tuition point above.
- Recruitment and retention
strategies that are more regionally based if not on-line.
- Curriculum “renovations”
in which major and minor program reviews to keep us current and relevant
are a must.
- Adding 1000 on-line off-campus
students is critical.
- Online graduate programs
and graduate certificates that are predominately if not exclusively online
(hybrid) must be a more obvious use of our talent and our branding.
- What is the appropriate
and effective size of the NMU campus in 2015?
Our future is bright because
we also are quite aware of some of the challenges before us. These include:
- Managing personnel
transitions. NMU is not alone in facing a significant baby boom retirement
phase. The leadership roster is under transition now and will continue.
Getting the best individual and the right individual will be a key
challenge for the President.
- Retaining the quality of
staff and faculty. Compensation, work environments and ongoing training
are all important.
- Establishing a faculty
mix/faculty-staff mix strategy which allows forward movement while
sustaining fiscal responsibility within the uncertain funding context in Michigan and the U.S. is critical. Issues such as, formula funding, unfunded mandates,
declining federal support all impact our cost structures. See article on
mission-driven funding (AASCU document "Stewards of Place" the
final piece behind Tab 9 in the Board Notebooks).
- Improving our role as an
economic catalyst in the U.P., Marquette County, Marquette and with our
students and corporate partners.