Opening Remarks

"It Always Seems Impossible Until It's Done....."
Nelson Mandela


Opening Remarks To "The Roadmap to 2015 and Beyond"

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Good afternoon everyone. Thank you for coming and thank you to those employees and friends who couldn't come but will click on this program via the MediaSite Live link or off the President's web site.

I want to thank the members of the NMU Board of Trustees who made a special effort to be here today: Chair Mary Lukens, and Trustees Gil Ziegler, Steve Adamini and Jack LaSalle. The Board shares my sense of excitement and high expectations for this university. I thank them for their support. A very big welcome goes to our community leaders and NMU friends who have stood by this university and continue to show their support by their presence today.

This is the first of many discussions NMU will have regarding the direction and the priorities of the university. As you all know, my favorite metaphors come from the expeditions of Lewis and Clark. But today is not about metaphors; it is about setting direction. Today is about the reality of charting our course for the next 7-10 years. Today is about inaugurating a focused, campus-wide discussion about NMU's goals, priorities and courses of action to 2015 and beyond. The "Road Map to 2015 and Beyond" is our academic master plan. A master plan that is, in every way, more important and more challenging than the campus master plan most of you have seen for the physical campus.

In my NMU inauguration speech, I challenged the Northern Michigan University campus to consider and discuss what I called the "Curriculum of the 21st Century". In my four years here, I've also asked the campus to think about and discuss advising, liberal studies, campus efficiencies, enrollment and retention. At last fall's convocation I asked, "What is the library of the future?" This campus has also been involved in lively discussion on research and scholarship, employee development, faculty and staff mix, the physical campus in 20 years, and – everyone's favorite – smoking on campus!

Well, I've been listening, as have the Board of Trustees and other administrators. You will find a lot of those conversations reflected in this strategic plan. My point is that you have been heard and you have influenced the direction of NMU.

This plan will evolve and change given your input, our successes and yes, our failures. It is not fixed in stone and it is certainly not coming from the top down. However, I firmly believe that without a road map, we will miss opportunity and worse, atrophy by constantly being in a reactive mode or remaining content with the status quo. Staying the same is not an option. And doing something a particular way because we always did it that way will drain the creativity right out of us.

This academic master plan, The "Road Map to 2015 and Beyond" will be a powerful guide to inspire and direct our decisions.  It is my expectation that departmental and unit plans will complement and connect to the Road Map. In fact, over time all units and many of you individually will be asked how your own professional and your unit's goals reflect Road Map items. And please, please don't believe that if your unit is not specifically mentioned that you are being left out. I promise you will have our attention if your great idea, that grant or a new program or even your current program can be connected to the Road Map.

There will also be challenges beyond our control that will affect our movement on the Road Map. There is a growing economic cloud over this country that will continue to plague Michigan's own efforts to dig out of past and current trouble. Our students and their families will decide in tough economic times how best to acquire and afford a university education. Students themselves change their attitudes and their majors often and without notice. Yes, even our faculty, staff and administration change and evolve, too. Throughout our journey, I expect us to be resilient and agile, and to act in the best interests of our students and the university. This Road Map guides us over these bumps.

Perhaps my second most important message today – right behind this opening discussion of the Road Map – is that I have been and remain impressed with quality of people we have here. The talent is broad, diverse and it is deep. If some of the ideas you read and talk about take some part of your breath away, I've done my job. Know that these ideas represent the high regard I have for Northern. Talented people are worthy of substantial challenges and goals. The small army that has helped me draft this plan has a firm belief that our aspirations reflect the deep well of talent here at Northern. This isn't about getting by. It's about being the best at delivering the Northern experience today and all the way to 2015.
Let's begin by checking out the map.