Minutes of the Formal Session


Friday, December 15, 2023


A formal session of the Board of Trustees of Northern Michigan University was held on Friday, December 15, 2023, in Peninsula II Conference Room, Northern Center, Northern Michigan University, Marquette, Michigan.  The meeting was convened at 9:20 a.m., by Chair Stephen E. Young.


Trustees present included:

Mr. Stephen E. Young, Chair

Mr. Steven W. Lindberg

Ms. Lisa I. Fittante

Mr. Gregory J. Seppanen

Ms. Melissa A. Holmquist

Mr. Greg M. Toutant

Ms. Brigitte R. LaPointe-Dunham

Dr. Brock F. Tessman, ex officio


Trustees absent included:

Ms. Alexis M. Hart, Vice Chair


Senior Staff and Counsel present included:

Ms. Cathy A. Andrew, Secretary of the Board of Trustees

Mr. Michael J. Bath, Chief of Police / Safety Director

Mr. Brad Canale, Chief Executive Officer – NMU Foundation

Mr. Richard B. Comley, Athletic Director

Ms. Rhea E. Dever, Vice President – People, Culture, and Wellbeing

Ms. Laura J. Glover, Sr. Executive Assistant to the President

Dr. Christine G. Greer, Associate Vice President – Student Affairs and Student Success and Dean of Students

Dr. Derek J. Hall, Chief Marketing Officer

Ms. Deanna K. Hemmila, Executive Director – Board/Government Relations

Dr. Dale P. Kapla, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Mr. Jeff Korpi, Associate Vice President – Northern Student Experience

Mr. R. Gavin Leach, Vice President for Finance and Administration and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees

Ms. Cindy L. Paavola, Assistant to the President – Strategic Initiatives

Dr. Abigail K. Wyche, Assistant Vice President – Wellbeing

Mr. Carrick Craig, Legal Counsel

Ms. Ashley Higginson, Legal Counsel    


The meeting was live-streamed on YouTube at:



Secretary Andrew took roll call of the Trustees and noted a quorum was met with seven Trustees present.



The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Toutant, seconded by Trustee Holmquist, and supported by a vote of 7 – 0, to approve the agenda as presented.



Dr. Brandon Canfield addressed the Board regarding enrollment and marketing of the Medicinal Plant Chemistry program.


Ms. Isabelle Honkomp addressed the Board regarding the SHINE Department’s positive impact on her during her time at NMU.


Ms. Paige Whaley addressed the Board regarding the importance of sustainability on campus and student involvement.


Ms. Lauren Sparks addressed the Board regarding her experience at Granite Island while enrolled in EN508.


Mr. Jonas Trombetta addressed the Board regarding NMU’s indirect carbon emissions and university supported public transit.


Chair Young thanked the speakers for their comments.



President Tessman introduced the four sustainability items being presented: Green Fund/Zero Waste Projects, Sustainability Leadership Position, Divest Proposal/Investment Policy (which will require formal Board action), and the Carbon Neutrality Master Plan, noting these items fit around NMU’s investment in sustainability, a comprehensive term which includes financial, social, community, and the rural U.P.  The items being discussed today focus on environmental sustainability and he emphasized the key was to think of these initiatives in terms of investment and alignment; investments – material investments and investments in NMU’s core values.


·       Green Fund/Zero Waste Projects – President Tessman outlined a few of the green fund projects on campus which are funded by a student fee and are part of the EcoReps student organization through SHINE, which include composting operations, a clover lawn, a rain garden, beekeeping, solar projects, among others.  He noted that the Board has expressed an interest in working more closely with the EcoReps and their green fund projects and the administration would like to connect the Board with the EcoReps asking the Trustees to consider a signature Board of Trustees sponsored green fund project in 2024 by working with the students and Dr. Jes Thompson and Dr. Ryan Stock.


Other projects the EcoReps have been implementing are “zero waste events.”  These events are centered around managing the waste that’s generated from events NMU might host.  President Tessman has asked the Board to sponsor a zero-waste event in 2024 and has requested permission to begin the planning process.


Chair Young thanked President Tessman for his work on this process.


·       Sustainability Leadership Position – President Tessman noted the sustainability work occurring on campus and within the community – academically, operationally, and externally.   He formally announced the university has appointed Dr. Jessica Thompson to serve as an assistant vice president of sustainability along with maintaining her position as the director of SHINE.  Dr. Thompson’s role is integrating all of the different sustainability components on and off campus – serving as a connector and champion of these efforts pushing NMU forward in an integrated way.


·       Divest Proposal / Investment Policy – Vice President Leach provided a report on NMU’s investments and ways in which the university can divest the NMU endowment fund of fossil fuel investments.  He noted that the university does not currently have any direct investments in fossil fuels but has some indirect passive investments in companies through funds, with about 6% exposure in those passive investments.  Vice President Leach said they have been working with the investment firm over the past year-and-a-half to identify potential scenarios and develop a plan that would allow the investment and maintain the primary fiduciary responsibility of maximizing returns on the endowment fund.  The plan before the Trustees is expected to achieve a higher expected rate of return and will minimize the change in volatility of the expected return for endowment which will enable the university to meet those fiduciary responsibilities and investments, aligning the investments with the university’s core values.  NMU is focusing on the plan to divest endowment direct or indirect passive investments in fossil fuels by 2028.  Leach said the Trustees have been provided with a revised Investment Policy outlining this divestment plan which requires special action and a vote by the Board.  The university is aiming to achieve a 50% investment by the end of calendar year 2025, shifting investment of up to 15% into sustainable investments by 2028, and will also halt any new investments in those funds now that have any fossil fuels.


The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Seppanen and seconded by Trustee Holmquist that the NMU Board of Trustees approve the revised NMU Investment Policy.


Trustee Seppanen thanked the students and faculty who have been advocating for this over the past few years.  He noted that the investment firm and Vice President Leach have done a phenomenal job of making this work and this puts the university at the forefront of moving in the right direction in terms of sustainability.


Trustee Toutant pointed out the thorough and thoughtful approach taken in working through the complexities of this process.


Chair Young thanked Vice President Leach and his team noting the amount of work to get to this point and it being an important part of the package the university and Board is undertaking in sustainability.  He thanked the students for bringing this item to the table and keeping it on the table.


Being no further discussion, Chair Young called the question.


On a roll-call vote, the Board voted as follows:


                                    Aye                                                     Nay


                              Lisa I. Fittante

                              Melissa A. Holmquist

                              Brigitte R. LaPointe-Dunham

                              Steven W. Lindberg

                              Gregory J. Seppanen

                              Greg M. Toutant

                              Stephen E. Young


The motion carried.


·       Carbon Neutrality Master Plan – Ms. Kathy Richards, Associate Vice President for Engineering/Planning/Facilities provided a report on the Carbon Neutrality Master Plan.  (Addendum #1)



Interim Provost Kapla introduced Ms. Rebekah Allen, an English/Creative Writing major, from Davison, Michigan, who will represent the graduating class of fall 2023 at Commencement ceremonies tomorrow, Saturday, December 16, 2023.  Chair Young congratulated Ms. Allen and presented her with a plaque.  A photo was taken.



President Tessman introduced Dr. Stacy Boyer-Davis, Associate Professor of accounting, Walker L. Cisler College of Business, who was selected by the students as the Student Choice Award Recipient and December 2023 Commencement Speaker. 



Dr. Russell Magnaghi, NMU historian, provided a report on “Art and Design on Campus.”  (Addendum #2)


The meeting recessed at 10:30 a.m.


The meeting reconvened at 10:47 a.m.



Ms. Gwen Feamster, President – ASNMU, provided a report on the semester accomplishments. (Addendum #3)



Mr. Tyler Thompson, Administrative Assistant – College of Graduation Studies and Research, President of UAW Local 1950 – TOP Union, also representing the AP Union and AFSCME Union (Staff Labor Council). Mr. Thompson provided an update on university staff.  (Addendum #4)



President Tessman reported on university accomplishments since the last meeting.  His report is appended to these minutes.  (Addendum #5)




Academic Affairs

Trustee Fittante, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee, reported on a meeting held earlier today, December 15, 2023.  A copy of the report is appended to these minutes.  (Addendum #6)


Finance Committee

Trustee Seppanen, Acting Chair of the Finance Committee, reported on a meeting held Thursday, December 14, 2023.  A copy of the report is appended to these minutes.  (Addendum #7)



The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Seppanen, seconded by Trustee Toutant, and supported by a vote of 7 – 0, to approve the Formal Recommendations.  (Addendum #8)



Chair Young asked for nominations from the floor.


It was moved by Trustee Fittante and seconded by Trustee LaPointe-Dunham to elect Trustee Stephen E. Young – Chair and Trustee Alexis M. Hart – Vice-Chair of the NMU Board of Trustees for calendar year 2024.


Discussion followed:


Trustee Fittante thanked Chair Young and Vice Chair Hart for their work over the past two years, their willingness to take on these roles again in 2024, and appreciates the hard work and effort these positions require.


Trustee Young said he is humbled and appreciates the confidence and support of his fellow Trustees and looks forward to 2024.


Being no further discussion, Chair Young called the question.


On a roll-call vote, the Board voted as follows:


                                    Aye                                                     Nay


                              Lisa I. Fittante

                              Melissa A. Holmquist

                              Brigitte R. LaPointe-Dunham

                              Steven W. Lindberg

                              Gregory J. Seppanen

                              Greg M. Toutant

                              Stephen E. Young


The motion carried.



Chair Young recommended the following Standing Committee make-ups for calendar year 2024, the same committee structure as 2023:


Academic Affairs Committee:

Trustee Lisa I. Fittante – Chair

Trustee Steven W. Lindberg

Trustee Gregory J. Seppanen

Trustee Greg M. Toutant


Finance Committee:

Trustee Alexis Hart – Chair

Trustee Melissa A. Holmquist

Trustee Brigitte R. LaPointe-Dunham

Trustee Gregory J. Seppanen


Executive Committee:

Trustee Stephen E. Young – Chair

Trustee Lisa I. Fittante

Trustee Alexis M. Hart


Ad Hoc Policy Review Committee:

Trustee Melissa A. Holmquist – Chair

Trustee Lisa I. Fittante

Trustee Steven W. Lindberg

Trustee Greg M. Toutant


Chair Young announced that Trustee Lisa I. Fittante and Trustee Alexis M. Hart will serve as ex officio appointments to the NMU Foundation Board of Trustees for calendar year 2024.


Chair Young noted that he and President Tessman will serve as ex-officio members of the Academic Affairs and Finance Committees.


The following action was taken:


It was moved by Trustee Toutant, seconded by Trustee Lindberg, that the Northern Michigan University Board of Trustees approve the recommended appointments to the Board standing committees for Calendar Year 2024.


Being no discussion, Chair Young called the question.


The motion was supported unanimously by a vote of 7 – 0.



President Tessman made this announcement for the public record.



·       Trustee Holmquist recognized Wildcat cross-country runner, Ms. Madi Szymanski, a sophomore, who qualified for the NCAA championships where she finished 65th out of 260 runners.  Madi also finished fourth at the GLIAC championships.  She set a record while earning her trip to the national meet with 12th place at the NCAA regional championships.  The Wildcat Cross Country Team finished ninth out of 32 teams at the NCAA regionals, NMU’s first top 10 finish since 2017.  Madi was joined by Coach Jenny Ryan.  A photo was taken.


·       Trustee Lindberg recognized members of the Women’s Soccer Team for their outstanding success this fall.  Members present were:  Brenna Musser (Co-Captain), Izzy Brusilow (Co-Captain), Paige Britton, Calihan Bearden, Ashley Kock, along with Head Coach Jon Sandoval, and Assistant Coach Laura Wayland.  The team captured both the GLIAC regular and tournament titles – the program’s first-ever conference championship.  These titles, along with the team’s high national ranking throughout the year, enabled Northern to be a host site for the first round of the NCAA Tournament – another program first.  The team finished 16-2-4 overall and 9-1-4 in conference action and closed the year ranked 8th in the nation.  A photo was taken.


·       Trustee Seppanen recognized Mr. Gavin Leach, Vice President for Finance and Administration, and Ms. Deanna Hemmila, Executive Director of Board/Government Relations, for their significant achievements with the state legislator’s approval of the NMU Northern Enterprise Center and providing state leadership with the information needed in addressing the MPSERS issue to the benefit of NMU and several other state universities.  A photo was taken.



Chair Young called former Trustee Steve Mitchell, forward to be honored as Trustee Emeritus.  He noted that he was awarded with this honor on November 3, 2022.  Chair Young presented him with a plaque in honor of his distinguished service to NMU.  A photo was taken.



Chair Young opened the floor to the Trustees for Good of the Order.


Trustee Fittante touched on the following:

·       Noted she enjoyed the time spent with:

o   The NMU Wildpups and the good work of the program

o   The interaction with the students at the ceramic studio (noting the SODA kiln they helped build) and the Sr. Art Exhibit at the DeVos Art Museum (noting how their artwork was impressive and very touching)

·       Enjoyed the College of Business presentation during the Academic Affairs Committee meeting

·       Congratulated the athletes, coaches, Gavin Leach, Deanna Hemmila, Trustee Emeritus Mitchell, and the students graduating tomorrow


Trustee Seppanen commented on the following:

·       Enjoyed the interactions over the past two days in particular the sustainability plan and carbon neutrality, noting the efforts of the students and faculty coming to fruition, as well as the President and Board leaning into it

·       Thanked Trustee Emeritus Mitchell for his comments and congratulated him


Trustee Holmquist touched on the following:

·       Happy to hear about the continued focus and embracing of NMU’s commuter students

·       Excited by the continued commitment to sustainability, the investment plan, carbon neutrality plan, and the steps taken today to move it forward and is proud of the work that has been done

·       Proud of the accomplishments of the students, faculty, staff, and athletes


Trustee LaPointe-Dunham said the following:

·       Excited to hear about the CARE Team and Case Management as it’s going to impact retention and is helpful for the students

·       Excited to hear about the staff onboarding and orientation as that is something that is sometimes overlooked in organizations

·       Enjoyed hearing President Tessman’s report on the progress being made through the Okanagan Charter and how it’s fitting together and going through the phases – excited to be a part of it

·       Shout out to the people of NMU


Trustee Toutant touched on the following:

·       Agreed with the comments made so far

·       Faculty, staff, and students of NMU are resilient

·       Thanked Dr. Wyche for the book, What My Bones Know, (2024 Common Diversity Reader for 2024) she provided to the Trustees and is happy with how it aligns with the Wellness Center available on campus

·       Enjoyed his time spent with the students in the Art and Design program noting the talent and depth of art expression the students had was profound

·       Pleased about the values integration throughout everything NMU is doing

·       Pleased that NMU honors the past, between Trustees Emeriti Steve Mitchell and Scott Holman and others where we look back, see what we’ve done, and how we honor the past


Trustee Lindberg made the following comments:

·       Agreed with the previous comments

·       Noted that living in the community he’s had the opportunity to visit some of the departments on campus – Technology and Occupational Sciences, Communication and Media Studies, College of Business, Theatre and Dance, and U.P. Cyber Security Institute

·       Takeaways from those visits 1) how innovative and creative programming-wise and how NMU is moving forward into the future; 2) the faculty’s interest and mission of doing their care for students, making sure they receive the best possible education and are prepared to go out into the world and lead and obtain a job


Chair Young made the following comments:

·       Thanked the Board for their trust and confidence in him as chair – it means a lot to him

·       Said President Tessman is doing a great job making sure the Board is prepared for the meetings, keeping the Board informed with communication

·       Noted there is a lot to do but progress is being made with the sustainability package being a prime example

·       Thanked Trustee Emeriti Steve Mitchell and Scott Holman for being present at the meeting noting their input is valued

·       Thanked President Tessman’s team for making the Board’s visits productive and comfortable



Chair Young adjourned the meeting at 12:09 p.m.


Respectfully submitted,


/signed/Cathy A. Andrew

Secretary of the Board of Trustees