Catching Up

NMU is at a Turning Point

“As author Charles Dickens might point out, we are facing conflicting challenges. On one hand, we must deal with budget reductions that will minimize the impact on students. On the other hand, this is the time for investment and innovation,” wrote NMU President Fritz Erickson in an October update to the campus. He emphasized that “the opportunities we have right now to change Northern Michigan University in transformational ways far outweigh the challenges.”

Due to an enrollment drop of about 400 students, the university faces a $2.8 million deficit. While short-term plans are in place to increase enrollment through expanded marketing, growth of off-campus and online offerings, the ShareNorthern referral program and other initiatives, the university’s new, longer-term strategic plan is being developed in a collaborative manner. Alumni may view the draft at and provide input to
The precursor to the development of the plan are Northern’s Core Values, which were adopted at the start of the fall semester.

Erickson added, “It is critically important to understand that we must do both – budget reductions and investments – right now in order to navigate the changing times.” Part of that investment involves early plans for:

• A public-private partnership to replace Quad I residence halls (built in 1964) and the Summit/Center Street apartments (built in 1958)

• Renovating and updating the University Center (1959) with a dynamic area for student organization offices and activities and an addition that could serve as a regional conference center, accommodating up to 1,000 people, which could also allow the university to bring in bigger draw speakers and performers.

• An Academic Teaching and Business Innovation Center, possibly integrating an upgrade to the McClintock Building. This is the number two item on the university capital outlay request to the State of Michigan, after renovation of the Learning Resources Center.


Cat Packs Feed Elemetary Students on Weekends

Students helping with Cat Packs

Thanks to Cat Packs, 50 students from North Star Academy in Marquette enjoy healthy, free lunches every weekend.

The idea grew from a discussion spearheaded by students in the NMU Center for Student Enrichment and a group of NMU affiliates concerned about youth hunger and the realization that students who receive free or reduced meals during the school week often do not on the weekends. A key leader in the program, Hannah Lewis ‘12 BS, ‘15 MPA, a coordinator in the NMU Center for Student Enrichment, said 15-20 students volunteer each week along with community members. On Thursday afternoons they meet at the Salvation Army to help prepare the packs. All dry components are packed up as much as possible and other items such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, yogurt and cheese sticks are added Friday. Food is delivered to North Star (an NMU charter K-12 school) so that students receive their Cat Packs at the end of the school day Friday. “The teachers and the principals handle the distribution so the volunteers don’t see the students, to avoid any embarrassment or issues,” Lewis explained.

The results have been very positive, both for the schools and for the students involved. “The feedback from the schools is that the kids are so excited. Other programs similar to this have noted that by giving out the food on Fridays, the schools saw a decrease in skip days from students. They stopped skipping school on pack day.”

Each pack generally includes a sandwich, yogurt, oatmeal, a granola bar, apple, banana, carrots/celery/ranch cup, sweet peas or green beans, cherries, a fruit snack and some sort of dry good like canned ravioli or macaroni and cheese.

Approximately $300 is needed each week for the food, adding up to about $11,000 for the school year. A number of fundraisers have been held, and Coldwell Banker Schmidt Realtors is partnering with the program, but there is still a long way to go. To offer support, email, call (906) 227-2466 or visit



  • Northern is ranked #1 for Friendliest Students among all Michigan public universities by Niche Online
  • NMU offers one of the 15 most affordable bachelor’s degrees in entrepreneurship nationwide, according to a ranking released by
  • Northern’s online Master’s in Public Administration program is ranked in the Top 50 by Top Management Degrees
  • NMU is in the 50 Most Affordable Online Master’s in Special Education Degree Programs 2015, compiled by
  • Northern was ranked in the Top 20 for Best College Dorms in Michigan by Niche Online
  • NMU is listed as a Top 200 School for Native Americans in STEM by Winds of Change magazineg
  • Marquette is one of the 50 Safest College Towns in America, according to The SafeWise Report
  • Marquette is named one of the 10 Best Small Cities in America by NerdWallet
  • Marquette is listed as one of the 25 Best Places to Travel in the World by Top Gear (calling it the “adventure capital of the North”)

Top Thinkers, Hot Topics

During the winter 2016 semester, the Political Science Department is offering a two-credit-hour special topics course, “Great Decisions: Critical Global Issues,” featuring world renowned experts addressing critical global issues: the rise of ISIS, Cuba and U.S. relations, North Korea, climate change, Kurdistan and others. NMU’s zoom classroom technology will allow NMU students to interact with retired U.S. generals, U.S. ambassadors, Harvard University professors and other experts involved with global issues. The course will initially be offered on-campus but may expand to an online offering. The department has also recently established a chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha and had its initial induction ceremony in April, welcoming its first alumni members.

Good Catch

Students Fishing

Northern Michigan University students Brandon Bissell of Adrian and Justin Brown of Bear Lake finished first among 82 teams at the 2015 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Midwestern Regional. The fishing competition was held on the Mississippi River, spanning both Wisconsin and Minnesota waters. The duo took a strategic risk on the final day to secure a come-from-behind victory, using a method called culling—replacing smaller fish with larger catches—which is illegal in Minnesota but acceptable on the Wisconsin side of the river.

The two men became good friends as members of the NMU Bass Fishing Team, a club sport at the university, but had never shared a boat before the regional. Three allotted practice days leading up to the tournament allowed them to become acclimated to each other’s fishing techniques and the water.

The NMU duo went on to compete in the College Series National Championship where they placed 31st in the tournament.


NMU biologist helps document new area, rare whale species

Thousands of new species of animals are described each year. Few are mammals and even fewer of those are as large as a standard school bus. While it may seem hard for a whale to hide, it took two years for a team of conservation biologists, including NMU professor Alec Lindsay, to provide the first-ever scientific documentation of the extremely rare “Omura’s whale” living in the wild off the coast of Madagascar. They published the first descriptions of this species in the Royal Society Open Science journal on Oct. 14.

A field research team headed by Salvatore Cerchio of the New England Aquarium and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution began seeing unusually marked whales in 2013 while they were documenting other marine mammals and strongly suspected these were the first sightings of Omura’s whales in the wild. To confirm it beyond any doubt, they required supporting DNA evidence. They had collected skin biopsies, but still needed a research team to perform the genetic analyses.

“Sal came to me and asked if we could sequence and analyze the DNA from some mysterious whale samples,” said Lindsay. “I was excited to be able to contribute.”

Bringing the London Stage to campus


​Northern’s cultural landscape has expanded programming that brings world-class performances and performers to the university. This fall has featured high-definition broadcasts of London’s Royal Opera and Royal Ballet performances of the Brecht/Weil opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny and the ballet Swan Lake. Upcoming are Mozart’s Le Nozze de Figaro on February 14 and Kenneth MacMillan’s poignant setting of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet on April 10, both in Jamrich Hall. If you are in town or nearby, please plan on attending these very special events with an after-glow reception. In addition, NMU will host Akropolis, a multi-award winning reed quartet, as artist-in residence. These events are sponsored by the NMU Department of Music and privately funded, in part, by NMU’s Siril Endowment for the Music Arts.