Northern Michigan University Request for Alma Mater Compositions

The Invitation

Northern Michigan University invites submissions of original alma mater compositions in recognition of its 125th anniversary celebration in 2024.  The alma mater will debut during the Fall 2024 semester. 

Typical Characteristics of an Alma Mater

An alma mater is traditionally used as a musical symbol at official institutional events, such as commencement, an investiture, award ceremonies and sometimes at the beginning or end of alumni and/or sporting events. Most alma maters have these characteristics:

  • They are a rather short song form (commonly 16 bars), usually 4 phrases – AABA, AABC
  • They are medium to slow tempo (fight songs are faster in tempo)
  • They have lyrics that pertain to the institutions distinctiveness whether that be through its history, mission, location, academic offerings, unique collegiate tradition or feature, or social personality
  • They are tonal (vs. atonal) and straightforward in harmony with common, easily perceived chord progressions
  • They often have a special moment of music and/or lyrics included

Criteria for Participation

The NMU Alma Mater Work Group invites current students, alumni, faculty and staff of Northern Michigan University, along with residents of the Upper Peninsula, to submit musical works (lyrics and music) as NMU’s potential alma mater. Entrants must be 18 years or older on the date of submission and must be residents of the United States. NMU employees and their dependents are eligible to submit entries, but members of the NMU Alma Mater Work Group and their dependents are not eligible to participate. 


Northern Michigan University will award the following respective monetary awards for selected creations:

  • First Place, $2,000
  • Second Place, $1,000
  • Third Place, $500

The University reserves the right to mix and match lyrics and music from all submissions, and will award entrants for their individual or collective parts of the lyrics/music combination. For example, if lyrics from one entry and music from another are selected as the top entries, the award of $2,000 will be split evenly between to the two creators ($1,000 to each entrant). 

Selection Criteria

Northern is looking for an alma mater that reflects the “NMU Experience” of today in a song that is easy to sing and remember. Submissions to the NMU Alma Mater search should include the following:

  • Lyrics and/or music original to the entrant. No artificial intelligence (AI) creations accepted. No public domain available pieces.
  • The lyrics and/or music shall have a minimum of one verse and a maximum of three verses. 
  • The song must include mention of Northern Michigan University, Northern and/or NMU at some point in the lyrics.
  • The music and lyrics must be uplifting.
  • The words and themes will be judged for what best captures and expresses the aspirations of the NMU community through the 21st century and beyond.
  • The lyrics will represent shared experiences of being part of the NMU community, such as:
    • Aspects of the learning community or learning experience 
    • Aspects of the campus community; the personality of Northern
    • Elements of the NMU campus
    • Northern traditions
    • Aspirations regarding future success of all students and community members
    • The impact of the seasons
    • The impact of the proximity of Lake Superior
    • The tie to the U.P.’s Native American history and culture
    • The impact of the U.P.’s natural beauty (lakes, rivers, forests, wind, etc.)

The NMU Alma Mater Work Group will review and evaluate submissions and make recommendations to the NMU Executive Committee who will advise President Brock Tessman on a recommendation to bring to the NMU Board of Trustees for official approval. The University reserves the right to not select any of the submissions produced through this search as the chosen alma mater.

How to Enter

All submissions must be received no later than the close of business (5 p.m. EST) on Friday, March 15, 2024

To make a submission, eligible entrants must complete the NMU Alma Mater application found at You can submit a maximum of 5 files with a 10MB per file limit, which could be any combination of file format types. For instance, you may want to send a lyrics submission in a Word document, but a music file as a PDF, along with a video file of you playing the music on an instrument and singing the lyrics. The file types the electronic application accepts include: gif, jpg, jpeg, png, bmp, txt, rtf, html, odf, pdf, doc, docx, ppt, pptx, xls, xlsx, avi, midi, mov, mp3, ogg, wav, mp4, webm, musx, xml, mscz and mscx.

Hardcopy submissions can also be sent to:

Cindy Paavola, Assistant to the President
NMU President’s Office
1401 Presque Isle Avenue
Marquette, MI  49855

The awardee(s) will be notified on Friday, April 26, 2024.  The selected entrant(s) and submission(s) will be publicly announced no later than Wednesday, May 29, 2024. 

The Legalities

All entrants acknowledge and agree that their creations, upon submission, become the property of Northern Michigan University and will not be returned to the entrant. As a term of entry, those awarded first place agree that all copyright and intellectual property ownership, including the right to make derivative use of the submission in any media, is transferred to the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University and entrants agree to execute a written transfer and assignment of the copyrights and all intellectual property rights to the Board. Entrants are encouraged to retain copies of their submissions. Each entrant grants to NMU the right to display, reproduce, perform, promote and otherwise use their submission(s) in any way that it sees fit, without notification to or further consent of the entrant(s).

Entrants certify that the submission is their own original work and does not infringe on the rights of any other material or copyright. In the event a claim of infringement is made with regard to any submission, the University reserves the right to seek indemnification from the entrant. 

The NMU Alma Mater Composition Request (the “Request”) is sponsored by Northern Michigan University (the “University”). The Request is governed by these Official Rules as well as by the laws of the State of Michigan and applicable federal law, without regard to any conflicts of laws principles. The Request is void where prohibited or restricted by law. The entrant bears any responsibility to pay applicable taxes on any prize money received. By making a submission, each entrant agrees to abide by these Official Rules and by the decisions of the University with respect to the interpretation and application thereof, all of which are final and binding. 

Notification and Acceptance

The awardee(s) will be required to respond to the award notification within the time specified in the notification and may be required to: 1) provide their full mailing address for the purpose of receiving the award, which address must be within the United States; 2) sign and return a release of liability, declaration of eligibility, and a publicity release permitting the University to use their name, voice and likeness for promotion (without further compensation); 3) sign an assignment that transfers all rights in and to the winning entry to the University; 4) verify their Social Security Number or other taxpayer identification number; and 5) take possession of the award at the time and by the method specified by the University. If the originally selected first-place finisher(s) does not respond within the required time period or is not willing to comply with the foregoing terms, another entrant may be selected by the University to receive the award.


The University maintains the sole discretion to disqualify any entrant who it determines has failed to comply with the rules of the NMU Alma Mater Composition Request. Any submission or portion that is, in the University’s sole discretion, inappropriate, defamatory or otherwise violates or infringes (or may infringe) any copyright, trademark or other proprietary right of any person, living or deceased (including, but not limited to, rights of privacy or publicity or portrayal in a false light) or entity, or is otherwise objectionable, in the University’s sole discretion, will not be considered and may be disqualified. NMU also reserves the right to not select any entry and make no awards.


Each entrant represents and warrants that they have the right to grant any and all rights provided herein, free and clear of all claims and encumbrances, without violating the rights of any other person or entity. 

Each entrant further represents to the University that: 1) the submission is original with the entrant and was not copied from any other source, including artificial intelligence (AI); 2) neither the submission nor any right title or interest therein is subject to any lien, claim, license, royalty arrangement or dispute of any kind or nature; 3) the submission does not and will not contain any matter that infringes upon or violates any copyright, trademark, trade secret or other priority right of a third party, or that is libelous, injurious, violates any right of privacy or that otherwise violates any law; and 4) to the best of the entrant’s knowledge, no claim of any such infringement or violation has been threatened or asserted against the entrant.


By submitting a proposed NMU Alma Mater, each entrant grants to the University the right to publish such entrant’s name, image, city and state of residence, both online and in print, in connection with the administration and promotion of the selected creative work. The awardee(s) will be invited to attend in-person or virtually the University’s debut of the chosen alma mater submission(s), but is/are not required to do so and will not be compensated for travel.


Alma Mater Work Group Members

Alumni Relations: 

  • Robyn Stille, executive director of NMU Alumni Relations 
  • Chris Charboneau – chair, NMU Alumni Advisory Board


  • Karl Mohr, biology major, NMU Marching Band member
  • Alex Watanen, graduate student, Master of English – Creative Writing


  • Erin Colwitz, Music
  • Steve Grugin, Music
  • Andy Poe, Mathematics and Computer Science


  • Rachel Harris, director, Center for Student Enrichment
  • Cindy Paavola, assistant to the president, Executive Council
  • Dan Truckey, director, Beaumier Heritage Center