In his fall convocation address, Northern Michigan University President Les Wong said it will take “one Q and three Rs”—quality, recruitment, retention and revenue production—for Northern to “stay on top of its game” and weather Michigan’s struggling economy. “I remain guarded and very concerned about the ability of the State of Michigan to deliver our appropriation as promised,” Wong said. “A 1 percent increase is moving in the right direction, but it does not cover escalating operational costs or provide any kind of tuition relief. The budget model approved by the NMU Board of Trustees for this year included $1.8 million in cuts and reallocations needed to balance the budget. Our current appropriation is equivalent in dollars to 1998, but we’re serving one-third more students now. We’re concerned about access and affordability and we remain vigilant about preserving program quality while costs continue to rise.” Wong said enrollment has rebounded from last year’s first minor decline after a decade of growth. There is a projected 2.5 percent increase in first-time, full-time baccalaureate freshmen this fall. Third-semester retention is up, but Wong encouraged each NMU employee to find a small way to contribute to the retention effort. The Q and three Rs also tie into the “Road Map to 2015” strategic plan Wong unveiled last spring. He highlighted some positive steps toward the road map’s four major goals: innovation, meaningful lives, leveraging campus attributes and community engagement. “You will be receiving information soon on the Wildcat Innovation Fund,” he said. “I am serious about providing dollars for and supporting innovative ideas. We are in the process of clarifying the application process, goals and benchmarks. Despite the state’s situation, we made a commitment to finance creative efforts and we are going to honor that commitment." Wong said priorities related to the meaningful lives goal include the Honors Program, reinvigorating liberal studies, making NMU more friendly to transfer students and improving academic advising. Community engagement—already a component of Superior Edge and Student Leader Fellowship Program—will be the subject of an application NMU will file on Sept.1. The university will seek the Carnegie Foundation’s designation of “Community-Engaged Campus.” Also related to the road map, Wong said Northern continues to distinguish itself in the area of information technology. NMU is working with several IT industry leaders with next-generation wireless that will transform Web activity, teaching and learning. "What you may not know is that many of these industry leaders are already on campus as part of their own research and development of new products. I'm amazed and excited by what I've been shown and how our students and staff are involved." Wong said priorities for this academic year include a site visit for the Higher Learning Commission’s re-accreditation process and a revised university mission statement.
August 20, 2008