Gov. Rick Snyder has accepted Northern Michigan University’s invitation to speak at commencement on Saturday, May 5. He was nominated because of his support of key NMU initiatives, including the Educational Access Network, Invent@NMU and career and technical education.
Snyder recently created the Michigan Consortium of Advanced Networks to extend broadband internet across the state. He signed the executive order after a roundtable attended by NMU president Fritz Erickson. Snyder has praised NMU’s effort to expand internet access throughout the Upper Peninsula through its Educational Access Network. The EAN combines the coverage and speed of the university’s revolutionary LTE system with a growing array of courses for professional and personal development. Snyder also points to NMU as an example of how partnerships can aid the effort. NMU works with U.P. municipalities to install the required LTE transmitters on existing public infrastructure.
The governor singled out Invent@NMU and introduced student and staff representatives during his 2016 State of the State address. He also has visited the on-campus facility. Invent@NMU gives students real-world experience helping clients take physical products from concept to market. Under the guidance of professional mentors, students develop competitive skill sets related to design, manufacturing and marketing. Snyder has helped NMU to identify state funding sources for both Invent@NMU and the EAN.
In October 2012, Snyder signed a bill authorizing construction of the new Jamrich Hall—NMU’s primary academic building—with $33.4 million in state funding. The three-story facility opened for the fall 2014 semester. It houses classrooms, departmental offices, a Starbucks and an auditorium.
NMU offers several career and technical education (CTE) programs that prepare students for high-demand, high-skill and relatively high-wage occupations. The university also participates in Marquette-Alger Technical Middle College, a program that enables students form Marquette and Alger Counties to earn a high school diploma and a significant number of college credits toward an NMU associate degree or a technical certificate at no cost. Snyder is a staunch advocate of CTE. In his 2015 State of the State, he introduced and thanked those involved for their “innovative work” and said it demonstrates “the kind of creativity that makes Michigan great.”
Erickson addressed dissension related to inviting Snyder to serve as commencement speaker. He said anyone has an opportunity to nominate a speaker and the unfiltered recommendations are sent to the commencement committee for discussion and a vote. Some names have been rejected, but Snyder’s was accepted. The vote wasn’t unanimous, he said, but the NMU Board of Trustees gave final approval to extend the invitation.
“I respect those who disagree with that selection,” said Erickson at a university forum. “In my mind, it was an important selection to make because it reflects our commitment to consider multiple opinions and perspectives. We don’t hold a litmus test for people who come to our campus and present. Universities should support the free exchange of ideas.”
Snyder became Michigan’s 48th governor in 2011. According to his website, the Battle Creek native began his career with accounting firm PwC (formerly Coopers & Lybrand). He later joined Gateway as president and COO, then returned to Michigan to co-found an Ann Arbor-based venture capital fund. Snyder is an alumnus of the University of Michigan, where he earned three degrees.