University Forum Review

Thursday 22, 2018

President Fritz Erickson and Vice President Gavin Leach updated the campus community on the Strategic Resource Allocation project, upcoming facilities projects, the state budget and other topics at the March 21 university forum.

Here are highlights of what was presented. The full forum is available for viewing here.

1. SRA project: The academic team has received 200 of 356 templates, according to Provost Kerri Schuiling. The support team had fewer template submissions to consider, so it has completed its review and is preparing a final report. Both teams’ reports and recommendations will be released to the campus community at the same time. “Once we get it all, we’re going to share it all,” Erickson said. “You will have more input than the submission of documents. We are absolutely committed to making this an open, transparent process where people have an opportunity to weigh in on what the recommendations are.”

2. New JED Campus initiative: NMU has joined a 12-university cohort with the goal of developing strategic plans for dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. NMU completed a self-assessment in January and Erickson said the feedback from consultants was very constructive.  The JED Campus website states the program is “designed to guide schools through a collaborative process of comprehensive systems, program and policy development with customized support to build upon existing student mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention efforts.”

3. State budget: Leach said this fiscal year is still tight, so conservative spending is urged through June 30. While freshman enrollment was up 11 percent, overall enrollment declined by three percent due to larger graduating classes. Revenues are also a little below targeted amounts, and that will likely continue for about one year. NMU used $1 million in reserves to balance this fiscal year’s budget. Leach said the university’s liability for the Michigan Public School Employees’ Retirement System (MPSERS) increased from $46 million to $54 million. This year, there will be an additional $16 million liability for health care. “We have no control over the MPSERS piece of our budget,” he said. “It’s a state mandate and it fluctuates every year.”

4. Capital outlay: Erickson said Gov. Rick Snyder did not include capital outlay in his executive budget, but indicated he might be supportive of Senate and House efforts to include it. Erickson testified before the Joint Capital Outlay Committee two weeks ago and NMU’s project to renovate the Jacobetti Complex ranked second on the state priority list. “We’re very excited because they’ve typically funded the top three projects. Being second is no guarantee, but if we don’t get the money this year, we’ll be positioned well for next year. We want to do something really different; not just physical enhancements, but real integration of career and technical education into our overall offerings.”

5. Facilities projects:

   a. The Woods: Leach reported that the Maple East and West residence halls, along with classrooms and a tutoring center in the facilities, will be completed this summer and ready for occupancy in the fall. Site restoration around the Woods will begin this summer, as will demolition of the Summit Center apartments and Gant Hall. Spalding will remain as potential overflow space.

   b. University Center: Barnes and Noble is in the process of relocating to the Peter White Lounge for a year and the North Wind relocated over spring break in preparation for the renovation to begin this summer. Leach said construction drawings are complete, contracts will be awarded the first week of May and demolition will begin the week after commencement. The timeline for the phase-one, south wing project is May 14, 2018-April 2019. Phase II, which involves the Great Lakes Wing, is scheduled for April-July 2019. The renovation includes a ballroom that will seat up to 1,000.

   c. Library renovation: NMU has engaged an architectural firm from Lake Orion, Mich., that has extensive experience in library design. The firm will seek broad campus input on the project, scheduled to be completed over a two-year period beginning in May 2019.

   d. NMU Cancer and Rehabilitation Center: The center, a function of the School of Health and Human Performance, will soon occupy space in the Legacy Building under construction on Washington Street. An open house enabling faculty and staff to tour the facility will be announced at a later date.

   e. Forensic research laboratory: Mechanical and electrical work is underway. The facility will be completed and in use by May 12.

   f. Upcoming donor-funded projects: These include another phase of the campus tree-planting project, flower gardens and a Wildcat statue on the academic mall and a football team room.

6. Enrollment outlook: Applications are up 25-27 percent, with transfer numbers doing particularly well. Erickson said Wildcat Weekend March 16-18 was the largest in NMU history (see related story here). “It helps when recruiting students for them to have a direct personal connection to the university and see all of the faculty and staff who show up to make it a big success.”

Kristi Evans
News Director

Leach and Erickson