The College of Business had its origins in business education beginning in 1914 at a time when the mission of Northern Michigan University was teacher preparation. With expanding programs, the name Department of Commerce was assigned in 1933.

By 1966, the need for business graduates had increased to permit the formation of a School of Business with three departments of accounting and finance, business education, and commerce and industry with offices in Kaye and Payne Halls, located near where Cohodas Hall stands today.

In 1967, Walker L. Cisler, then president and general manager of Detroit Edison, pledged support to Northern’s business programs and the academic area was renamed the Walker L. Cisler School of Management. During World War II, Mr. Cisler served as an officer in the military specializing in providing power and electricity. He received numerous honors and recognitions, such as the Croix de Guerre, Bronze Star, and Legion of Merit. He also served as an international consultant in power and energy while leading Detroit Edison Corporation.

With a vision of technology in business, Northern created programs in computer information and office systems in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Faculty offices were moved to the Learning Resources Building, later to Magers Hall, and in 2005 to Cohodas Hall, where it currently serves about 700 majors each year.

In 2002, the College of Business attained accreditation of educational programs through the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This accreditation is a mark of the outstanding education and commitment to student development and preparation for the working world.

The College of Business was reorganized in 1996, with the disbanding of the departmental concept. Under that structure, an associate dean assisted the dean in college administration, with faculty committees in each discipline to support the details of education in management, marketing, entrepreneurship, finance, accounting, information systems, and the two-year degrees. Given the importance of student internship and Northern’s emphasis on quality student services, the college also had a coordinator of internships and student services.

The Masters of Business Administration program was re-established in the fall of 2010, with 28 students enrolled. This graduate program joined the 10 bachelor’s programs, 4 associate degrees, and 8 minors that the College of Business offers to students.

In 2015, the College of Business was reorganized into two discipline areas: Management, Marketing and Entrepreneurship and Accounting, Finance and Information Systems. Internships are coordinated by the assistant department heads for each department. There are also many opportunities for students to get involved outside the classroom – study abroad, student organizations, and events like the New Business Venture Competition.