• Northern Michigan University
  • NMU

President Les Wong became president July 1, 2004

During his tenure …

President George H.W. Bush visited NMU for a campaign rally on July 13, 2004. He was the first sitting president to visit NMU. President Barack Obama would come to the NMU campus Feb. 10, 2011 to announce his national wireless initiative, highlighting NMU’s WiMAX network as a technology role model for rural America.

Northern ranked 13th in U.S. News’ “top tier” master’s-level public institutions in August 2004 among Midwest public universities.

NMU began e-billing, eliminating the necessity for paper billing statements, in December 2004.

The Art and Design building saw an addition to the north building in January 2005, which was recognized by the American Institute of Architects Wisconsin.

The Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) Conference made its debut at NMU in 2005. This annual event, held each September, began from Wong's charge to the Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Committee to place diversity as a core value at NMU. It is designed  to celebrate not only diversity, but culture and community. UNITED features nationally renowned speakers and performance groups. It attracts campus and community members and offers seven focus tracks: art, dance/music, diversity, film, food, research/scholarship and service.

When the wireless local-area network Internet system was replaced on campus in November 2005, it used “air traffic control” technology developed by Meru Networks and provided Northern with the “world’s highest density wireless network.” In November 2005, NMU was 19th of 50 “Most Unwired” campuses for wireless internet accessibility.

Northern hosted the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Championships Dec. 12-16, 2005 at the Berry Events Center. Skaters were vying to compete at the 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy.  Dr. Wong learned to skate in order to participate in the community races that were held at the end of each day’s competition. On Sept. 8-12, 2009, NMU would again host the U.S. Short Track Speedskating Olympic Team Trials at the Berry Events Center, which determined Team USA for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

The Superior Edge program was implemented in 2006 and became known as a national role model for leadership-citizenship programs.  It is one of NMU’s two nationally recognized leadership programs, the other being the Student Leader Fellowship Program, which is in its 21st year. About a third of the NMU campus is involved in Superior Edge or SLFP.

In 2008, the NMU and Intel partnership expanded beyond just the laptop provider to providing on-campus internships to students for the testing of new products and direct access to Intel technical support. Today, Intel has a research and development laboratory on the NMU campus and student interns at the corporate headquarters in Oregon.

President Wong visited China to explore opportunities in partnering with educational and corporate entities in 2006, and he also met with representatives of Lenovo about their partnership with NMU. In 2007, he was part of an NMU team that went to Sweden to study eco-friendly heating plants and other sustainability efforts in that country.

In 2008, two of Northern’s residence halls, Meyland and Van Antwerp, received “certified” and “silver” designations through the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating system. Hunt Hall received LEED designation in 2010.  Today, NMU has five facilities with LEED designations.

President Wong introduced the “Road Map to 2015” in 2008, which focused on four areas for improvement: innovation, helping students lead meaningful lives, leveraging campus attributes, and community engagement. 

Northern received the NMU Golf Course, formerly the Chocolay Golf Club, as a gift from Joe and Patsie Gibbs of Interlochen in 2009. Proceeds of the NMU Golf Course go to student scholarships and academic programming,

In April 2009, NMU was chosen to receive the Lenovo ThinkTank Campus Innovation Award.  In April 2011, NMU received the ACUTA Award for Institutional Excellence in Information Communications Technology among mid-size institutions.

President and Phyllis Wong co-chaired the 2009-10 United Way of Marquette County Drive, leading the community in raising money for the United Way.

Northern launched its WiMAX network in 2009, one of the largest active WiMAX networks in the country. NMU was the first university in the United States to own and operate its own WiMAX network. Since its launch, the network has grown to more than 40-square miles.

Representatives from Bangkokthonburi University in Thailand visited NMU in 2010 to sign a Memorandum of Understanding, which would allow for student and faculty exchanges and collaborations on research and publications between the two universities.  In 2011, Northern was one of 17 U.S. universities to partner with the Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) program, offering paid internships to undergraduates who teach English in rural elementary schools in South Korea.

The Higher Learning Commission formally announced Northern’s accreditation through the Academic Quality Improvement Program in 2010.

In 2010, President Wong became Northern Michigan University’s representative on the newly formed Superior Health Partners, an accountable care organization for the Upper Peninsula.

An NMU delegation that included Dr. and Mrs. Wong traveled to Cuba in 2011 to launch a historical international partnership in Cuba; NMU is one of only 16 U.S. institutions granted license for study abroad programs in Cuba.

In March 2011, Dr. Wong was named the recipient of the Lake Superior Community Partnership’s Distinguished Service Award.

The largest gift to NMU was announced in April 2011. Alumnus John Berry and his wife, Shirley, committed $5 million to the NMU Foundation to provide scholarships to incoming freshmen who have demonstrated academic ability and achievement.

Dining Services’ Temaki & Tea and Smoothie King opened in an former Hardee’s building on Presque Isle Ave, June 4, 2011 in an effort to better serve the campus community and be more accessible to the public.

NMU was named a Military-Friendly Institution by G.I. Jobs in 2010, 2011 and 2012, a recognition given to the top 15 percent of colleges and universities that embrace veterans as students.

For the summer of 2011 and 2012, Northern moved to a 4/10 schedule: the university was only open four days a week for 10 hours each day. In 2011, the university recorded $90,000 in energy savings and there was employee support for the implementation.

In 2012, NMU was ranked 39th in the country for its online education grad programs by U.S. News and World Report. This was the second-highest ranking for a Michigan school.

Northern officials broke ground for a renewable energy facility in May 2012. The facility will burn wood chips and wood byproducts from the Upper Peninsula to supply the bulk of the university’s thermal energy and some of its electricity.