Team Success Stories

Distinguished Team Stories


Northern Michigan University congratulates Distinguished Team Award recipients at the annual Faculty & Staff Recognition Luncheon.  The Distinguished Team awards are presented work teams that demonstrate exemplary performance and/or innovation while working together in an open and collaborative manner to achieve a task or charge that furthers the University’s mission, core values, and goals.


2018 Honorees:

Forensic Anthropology Program and FROST Team

David Bammert (NMU Foundation), Mike Bath (Public Safety & Police Services), Scott Demel (Sociology/Anthropology), Michael Harrington (Criminal Justice), Deanna Hemmila (Office of the President), Dale Kapla (Academic Affairs), Alan McEvoy (Sociology/Anthropology), Charlie Mesloh (Criminal Justice), Kerri Schuiling (Academic Affairs), Jim Thams (Engineering and Planning), Jane Wankmiller (Sociology/Anthropology)

The forensic anthropology program and FROST outdoor laboratory initiative help to accomplish Northern's four strategic outcomes. FROST is only the eighth outdoor laboratory in the world for studying human decomposition and the only one in a cold-weather climate. This distinction is bringing NMU prestige and considerable enrollment interest. Being the lone cold-weather facility is a new and responsive approach to the study of human decomposition. In studying whether NMU should pursue this academic program and new research laboratory, the forensic team traveled to several other sites across the nation, meeting new people and creating new partnerships.


Researchers and training groups who come to use NMU's FROST will have a positive economic impact on the local community. Additionally the program has the potential to engage students from a wide variety of majors and minors, including but not limited to, anthropology, criminal justice, art and design (facial reconstruction, photography) and biology. The scope of the team's work was impressive. Members thoroughly explored the feasibility of the program to attract students; traveled to several sites to learn about all aspects of an outdoor research station; contacted and met with academicians and law enforcement/criminal justice professionals throughout North America; brought forensic science professionals to campus for community forums; did in extensive site exploration; engaged in intensive community and state agency discussions about FROST and the academic program; and worked with legislators and the governor to transfer property for the research station.


Northern's development of the FROST facility has been reported in almost every newspaper in American and many outside of the U.S., along with literally hundreds of TV, radio and social mention reports. The program and facility put Northern Michigan University's name on the global map through much of the past year.

Medicinal Plant Chemistry Team

Brandon Canfield (Chemistry), Dale Kapla (Academic Affairs), Mark Paulsen (Chemistry), Janet Syria (Chemistry), Lesley Williams (Chemistry), Rob Winn (School of Arts & Sciences)

Offering the only bachelor's degree in medicinal plant chemistry has brought distinction to Northern Michigan University.  This degree is in response to the growing need for qualified laboratory technicians for the $35 billion U.S. natural and alternative health care field. The program is a new approach for NMU and it certainly appears to have potential to increase enrollment. It offers a very distinct opportunity for Northern students who pursue the degree to get a credential that isn't available anywhere else. It's also innovative in that it offers an entrepreneurial track as well as a bio-analytical track.


The innovative thinking and calculated risk-taking to establish this program is impressive. The interest has been global with mentions of Northern Michigan University and the program in almost every newspaper in the world, along with radio and tv broadcasts and a social media firestorm of attention. NBC Nightly News came on campus to film a story about the program. The Doctors discussed it on their program. NMU has been fielding calls and application requests, sometimes in the hundreds per day, since the announcement of the Board of Trustees' approved the program. As mentioned above, the program addresses a critical need in the ever-growing industry.



Starfish Implementation Team

Heidi Blanck (College of Technology & Occupational Sciences), Mary Brundage (Dean of Students), Kathryn Dawe (Registrar), Sarah Clarke (School of Health & Human Performance), Allison Erickson (Business Intelligence & Information Services), Jim Gadzinski (Academic and Career Advisement Center), Mike Kowalczyk (Mathematics & Computer Science), Kyle Lannon (Academic and Career Advisement Center), Christine Larson (Financial Aid), James Marquardson (College of Business), Bill Richards (Business Intelligence & Information Services)

Similar to the CRM used for NMU’s recruitment efforts, the Starfish retention CRM is a new technology that helps us better manage our student data and relationships. It provides an easy interface for students to reach out for assistance, for faculty to provide student feedback, and for staff to actively engage promoting student success. The Starfish CRM:

  • Enhances communication between students, instructors, advisers, and staff
  • Centralizes advising resources
  • Ensures students receive the help they need – when they need it
  • Increases efficiency – coordinates student support resources and appointments
  • Improves student, faculty, and academic program success
  • Increases the number of students passing courses
  • Improves graduation rates

The software is simple to use and customizable.  Starfish has been in use at NMU since September 2017. In that time:

  • More than 8,000 flags have been raised by faculty and staff
  • Those flags communicated feedback to 21% of our students
  • 14% of NMU students received “Kudos” – messages of positive encouragement
  • Over 2600 appointments were scheduled by students using the system
  • 39% of faculty accessed Starfish progress surveys – 24% of faculty submitted results.


The Woods Phase 2 Transition Team

Rocco Carello (Business Intelligence & Information Services), Justine Defever (Housing & Residence Life), Andrea Hammond (Housing & Residence Life), Grant Langdon (Housing & Residence Life), Alexandra Marshall (Housing & Residence Life), Kerry Mohr (Housing & Residence Life), Travis Reamer (Housing & Residence Life), Lexi Wieringa (Housing & Residence Life)

This team was charged to reassign and relocate approximately 350 students and move their physical belongings, approximately 2,500 pieces, in a period of 72 hours, to the second phase of The Woods, NMU’s newest residence halls. The Team was also charged with honoring student preferences, such as roommate/suitemate and “house” requests and room set-up/configuration requests.


We cannot find any examples of a new residence hall being opened mid-year. Nor can we find any examples of an institution moving nearly 350 students to a new location, unless a significant crisis had occurred. With no “playbook” to reference, and without the ability to rely on others experience, the team took on this massive task to communicate with students and their families, utilized remarkable judgment to accommodate requests and preferences, and coordinated the movement of the students’ belongings. The NMU team had to closely partner with current on-campus EdR staff, as well as various regional and corporate staff from EdR to ensure assignments were being made according to our operating agreement and to changing, fluid conditions with regard to construction and deadlines. Due to construction deadlines, this move happened during the week of Winter move-in. The winter weather, both temperature and snow, made for especially treacherous conditions.


The new residence hall project has brought a new excitement to living on-campus. The staff involved in this project worked to create an energy amongst new and returning students and developed a seamless process, which ultimately led to 350 students achieving their preference to live in The Woods. The proof of success in this project lies in the fact that our main office did not receive any complaints from students or parents regarding the move, or assignments. This demonstrates that the members of this team worked with each student individually to problem-solve issues and to ensure that each student was not only informed about the process, but was dedicated to its success.


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