The President's Community Connection

President Fritz EricksonMarch 4, 2020


Dear NMU Community Connection Members,

This week the Northern Michigan University campus is quiet with most students and many faculty off enjoying their spring break. The break marks the halfway mark of the semester and reminds us that once the students and faculty return there will be only eight weeks remaining of the academic year. Time always seems to speed up between spring break and commencement for me. I thought I’d take the opportunity to catch you up on some items that don’t necessarily show up in Northern Today, the news blog we regularly send you.


FIGHTING VIRUSES: A part of Northern’s Emergency Planning Team works as the pandemic/long-term emergency planning unit and is led by Mike Bath, NMU Chief of Police. As you can imagine, the unit has been busy since mid-February with the news about the  novel coronavirus COVID-19. This group has been meeting weekly to discuss logistics in the event that a COVID-19 outbreak reaches campus. The group is coordinating efforts with Marquette County public health officials and with the UP Health System-Marquette’s infectious disease specialists on testing and quarantine plans. Along with preparing for the possibility of COVID-19 on campus, we are actively working to control the spread of influenza. Northern is following the U.S. State Department and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and recommendations regarding student, faculty and staff international travel, and state-directed guidelines for higher education institutions.

NMU VS. MTU HOCKEY: If you’re a local sports fan, you’re probably aware that Northern earned home ice for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs and will meet rival Michigan Tech. This is a best-of-three series with a 7 p.m. faceoff Friday and 6 p.m. start times for Saturday and Sunday, if necessary. As of right now, the game is sold out. However, NMU is required to hold 1,200 tickets for students, per our athletics fee policy, through Tuesday of a home game week.  As I mentioned above, students are on spring break, so we don’t anticipate selling all of that allotment.  If not, Northern will make any unsold student tickets available to the public as of noon TODAY, Wednesday, March 4. They will be available online at or in-person at the ticket office at the Berry Events Center. We expect those tickets to fly out the door, so do not delay if you need tickets. To all attending the games this weekend, please note that the U.P. Builders Show is taking place at the Superior Dome, which may impact where you decide to park. To those unable to get tickets, WLUC-TV will be televising the games. Check the station’s website or social media to find out which channel.


SPEAKING OF SPORTS: The Wildcats have certainly been on a roll of late. Last night the men’s basketball team upset top-seeded and No. 11 nationally ranked Ferris State 79-69 on the road in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament quarterfinal action. The ‘Cats will face Northwood University Saturday (March 7). The women dropped their road quarterfinal 80-67 to UW-Parkside Tuesday. The NMU men’s and women’s Nordic ski teams hosted the NCAA Regional Championships two weeks ago and captured both titles. NMU has sent full teams for both men and women to the NCAA Championships (March 12-14). In swimming and diving, the NMU women won the GLIAC title for the first time since 2002 while the men finished third. The ‘Cats have qualified 19 to compete at NCAA Division II Championships (March 10-14). NMU’s women’s club hockey team won the Central Collegiate Women’s Hockey Association’s Division II conference crown Sunday and will compete at the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championship (March 25-29). The track and field team finished fourth at the GLIAC Indoor Championships. Former Wildcat runner Kameron Burmeister of Menominee qualified and finished 165th of 390 competitors at the recent U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. The NMU Olympic Training Site weightlifting team won the co-ed division of the USA Weightlifting National University Championships. Michaela McIntosh (bronze) and Lukas Zielke (gold) medaled at the Under-25 National Championships. OTS wrestler Riley Briggs earned the bronze medal at the recent Granma Cup in Havana, Cuba. 

WILDCAT WEEKEND: Northern’s spring open house, known as Wildcat Weekend, takes place March 13-14 and like previous years, will have 900-950 participants between prospective students and their family members. Thank you for any assistance you provide our visitors whether it be giving directions around town or sharing your own NMU story. If you have a storefront or marquee sign, I hope you will consider welcoming the participating families with a welcome sign or message. I often hear from these visitors about how surprised they are to see so much support for the university throughout the business district.  Thank you for that.


OTHER EVENTS: This year’s Sigma Xi Distinguished lecturer is Dr. Steve Ackerman presenting, “The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald: The Ship, the Song, and the Storm,” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 at the Northern Center.  A scene from NMU theater professor Shelley Russell’s Holdin' Our Own: The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald will be performed and award-winning song leader and educator Jason McInnes will lead a singalong. The event is free and open to the public.  Some other dates that may be of interest to community members: Beaumier U.P. Heritage Center Lecture Series on Yooper stereotypes, March 16; Cats, the final main stage production of Forest Roberts Theatre, is March 27-April 4; there are 19 Music Department-affiliated performances from March 11-April 26, including the April 22-24 NMU Jazz Festival; final exam week is April 27-May 2. Commencement is 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 2, in the Superior Dome. The public is invited to attend. Learn more about what's happening on campus at


COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER: At its February meeting, the NMU Board of Trustees approved three to receive honorary degrees at the May commencement ceremony:  Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA; John Berry ’71, chair and CEO of Berry Investments, Inc.; and Mary Lincoln Campbell, managing director/founder of EDF Ventures. Zurbuchen, a former vice chair of the NMU Board of Trustees, will also be the commencement speaker. Campbell is a former chair of the board. During his board service, Dr. Zurbuchen not only made it a goal to get to know the university but also the Upper Peninsula. He became a friend to many in our community during his visits to the U.P. He has tentatively scheduled to do several presentations on his NASA experience during his return to Marquette; more details to come.


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:  Last Wednesday (Feb. 26) Northern presented testimony in Joint Capital Outlay Subcommittee on the Career-Tech and Engineering renovation project. The testimony went well and we hope the legislature moves quickly on the supplemental bill that is needed for our project and several others at universities and community colleges to move forward. Our hope is that we can move from planning to the construction phase by December. We also had a series of meetings with legislators who sit on either the House or Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittees. As was announced in February, the Governor’s Executive Budget calls for a 2.5% increase in higher ed funding. The House and Senate are expected to release their recommendations in late March. Last Monday (Feb. 24), it was announced that Invent @ NMU will receive an additional $400,000 in funding from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Michigan Strategic Fund for a one-year extension of operations. We are very appreciative of that support. 

GOOD FOOD: Northern’s hospitality and tourism management program is getting set to open the Chez Nous Restaurant in the Jacobetti Complex on Tuesday, March 17. It will serve lunches by reservation on Tuesday and Thursdays for five weeks from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Community members are welcome to make reservations via Facebook (@cheznous), email ( or by calling 227-1981. The student-created lunches are fabulous. Speaking of outstanding meals, Jan and I always look forward to attending the annual spring fundraiser for the program, known as the Main Event.  This five-course themed meal will be held Saturday, April 18. Watch for more event details, including how to make reservations; space will be limited. Finally, if you’ve not yet checked out the new Wildcat Den, you should. It is located on the first floor of the Northern Center, between the Barnes and Noble-NMU Bookstore and Flagstar Bank. Enjoy the great pub-style food and the game room atmosphere with dart boards, video game areas, shuffle board, and more.


ART OPPORTUNITIES: Northern’s DeVos Art Museum is supporting several hands-on art opportunities for community members, including a free, two-hour oil painting lesson with Bernie Park on Friday, March 20. You can click here to reserve your spot. Also available is a free, two-hour weaving workshop with Carol Irving. The sign-up form will be posted at on March 9. Most of the supplies are included, but students should bring a natural element to work into their weaving, such as feathers, sticks, beads, unique fabrics, yarns, ribbons, string, rope, paper, etc. Final call for entries for the 2020 North of the 45th exhibit; deadline for entries is March 16. The juried exhibit is open to residents of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin who live north of the 45th parallel + 1 degree of this area.  Learn about the entry details and prizes at


Thank you for your continued support of Northern.

Fritz Erickson, President