Congratulations to our 1,120 New Alumni!

More than 850 students marched in NMU’s Winter 2022 commencement ceremony on April 30, with a total of 1,120 students graduating.  The Superior Dome was filled with energy and excitement, with this being the first large, in-person ceremony since pre-COVID in 2019. The graduates hailed from 28 states beyond Michigan, and 10 countries: Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Republic of Korea, Liberia, Norway and Switzerland.

Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directive at NASA and former NMU trustee, delivered the keynote address and received an honorary Doctor of Science degree.

“It is important to me to support institutions with a close tie to their communities,” said Zurbuchen, who grew up in a small mountain town in Switzerland. “I have so much respect for the way that NMU provides more than just education to this country.”

Most recently at NASA, he oversaw the Mars 2020 mission, which includes the Mars rover Perseverance and the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, exploring a region of the Red Planet that may hold evidence of previous microbial life. He also oversaw the final phases of construction, testing and launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which will answer fundamental questions about the origin of galaxies and stars, and also help to identify exoplanets surrounding other stars.

In September 2021, Asteroid No. 289116, discovered in 2004, was named Zurbuchen in honor of his lifetime of space-related scientific work by the WGSBN, an International Astronomical Union working group in charge of naming small planets and comets.

John W. Berry Jr., a 1971 NMU accounting and finance graduate who is recognized for his roles as a highly regarded business leader and philanthropist, also received an honorary Doctor of Business degree. He is a past recipient of Northern’s highest alumni honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and has supported his alma mater through student scholarships and athletic capital projects.


Missy Holmquist

Missie Holmquist Joins NMU Board of Trustees

Melissa “Missie” Holmquist ’02 BS, ’04 MAE has been appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the NMU Board of Trustees. She is the president and CEO of Upper Peninsula Health Plan (UPHP) in Marquette.

“I am honored to be appointed and really excited to serve on Northern’s board,” Holmquist said. “Most importantly, I am eager to give back to the university that gave me so much. I look forward to helping to shape the future vision for NMU.”

Holmquist began working at UPHP after graduating from NMU with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and continued while completing a master’s in education—school counseling.

Holmquist started at UPHP as a receptionist. Promotions to positions in claims, utilization management, operations and government programs followed. She was appointed chief operations officer before assuming the role of president and CEO in 2018.

She also serves as secretary of the Medicaid Health Plans Board of Directors, a role she accepted to ensure that smaller health plans in rural areas had a voice. She is also treasurer for InvestUP, former vice president of the Economic Club of Marquette County and a member of Marquette Ambassadors.

“I appreciated the increased access students have to their professors at Northern, compared with larger institutions,” said Holmquist. “My psychology degree helped me to gain insight on people, which translates extremely well to a professional environment.”

- Melissa Holmquist


Indoor Agriculture

Innovative Ideas

SISU: the Innovation Institute at NMU has announced the recipients of 2021-2022 Program Incentive Funds (PIF). Five programs have been chosen to move on to the next steps of innovation.

Recipients include...

Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute  to fund the creation of an NMU Automotive cybersecurity certificate program.

Center for Teaching and Learning to assemble a Faculty Learning Community (FLC) to explore the HyFlex, a course delivery model combining face-to-face  and online learning.

Fresh Water, Fresh Voices, a collaboration between English Graduate Programs; Earth, Environmental and Geographical Sciences; and Fresh Coast Film Festival. This will produce a local conference offering an “interdisciplinary experiential learning opportunity that centers on NMU’s unique landscape and established leadership in sustainability and graduate writing programs.”

Indoor Agriculture Program to assist in the creation of a commercial crop lab in the former aviation hangar located at NMU’s Jacobetti Complex.

Construction Management and Trimball Labs to enhance learning activities by incorporating new virtual reality technology and developing higher quality labs for a new fully online degree.

SISU is always accepting new innovations—including from alumni—via the submission form at



NMU a Cyber Defense Center of Excellence

Northern Michigan University is the first Upper Peninsula institution to be designated as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE), a program jointly sponsored by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security.

The goal of the CAE-CDE program is two-fold: to reduce vulnerability in the nation’s information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in cyber defense; and to produce a growing number of professionals with expertise in the discipline, contributing to the advancement of state-of-the-art cyber defense knowledge and practice.

NMU offers four options for students seeking education in information assurance and cyber defense. These range from an academic minor and certificate to associate and bachelor’s degrees.

“This will enable us to offer new opportunities to Northern students, whether that’s through increased collaboration with industry partners, enhanced internships available only to students from CAE-CDE institutions, or having them help us plan and run summer youth camps,” said Professor Jim Marquardson. “One of the requirements of achieving this status is that we give students a certificate upon graduation that says their degree was approved by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security. That’s something they can definitely use to their advantage with prospective employers.”

Marquardson added that NMU would not have achieved the designation without the Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute located on campus. “That was a necessary component because it shows we are focusing not only on the classroom, but extending the reach into the community.” 

NMU honored as one of the most transfer-friendly colleges in the U.S.

NMU was named to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK) 2022 Transfer Honor Roll, which recognizes excellence in the development and support of dynamic and innovative pathways for community college transfer students. NMU is one of three public universities in Michigan and one of 171 colleges and universities in the nation to receive this award. Around one-fifth of NMU’s student body is comprised of transfer students.

The Transfer Honor Roll is determined by 40 key metrics related to the support and success of transfer students, including college cost and financial aid, campus life for transfer, admission practices, and bachelor’s degree completion. 

NMU and U.P. History just a Click Away

Many digital collections documenting the history of the Upper Peninsula are now freely accessible and searchable on the U.P. Digital Network (UPLINK) at, hosted by the Central U.P. and Northern Michigan University Archives.

NMU digitized materials, ranging from yearbooks and historical photos to audio interviews and videos, are also accessible online. Collections already online or soon to be available include the following: newspapers such as The Mining Journal (1916-1924, with more to follow) and Grand Marais Gazette; business records from the Copper Range Company and others; lighthouse records from Ontonagon; and oral history collections related to Italian Americans, the Marquette Women’s Center and more. 

New Jacobetti

▴  A rendering of the of what the former Jacobetti Complex will look like after extensive renovations and upgrades.

Big Changes Coming to Northern's Campus

Last fall, the NMU Board voted to invest $90.6 million in capital projects, major maintenance and campus improvements. Each project is a direct investment in NMU students, in faculty, and in the quality of academic programs and student services. Bond proceeds will cover slightly more than one-third of the total cost. Other funding sources include capital and maintenance reserves, state capital outlay funds and private donor support. 

“Timing is really what’s driving these investments,” said Gavin Leach ’85 BS, ’99 MPA, vice president for Finance and Administration. “We have a series of bonds that are expiring and we want to take advantage of the low interest rates during this limited window and reinvest in priority projects through a bond issuance without a major impact to the university’s budget structure. We can also refinance some of the bonds that aren’t expiring at the lower rate. This is an excellent opportunity to make campus improvements while the cost to the university is lower.”

The priority capital projects and associated costs are:

  • Transformation of the Jacobetti Complex into a career and engineering tech facility. This was previously approved for $20 million in capital outlay funding from the State of Michigan.
  • Northern Enterprise Center. This project next to the McClintock Building will provide a new, identifiable home for the College of Business and other academic programs currently located outside of the academic mall.
  • New Health and Wellness Center to improve the campus community’s access to physical and mental health services. 
  • Harden Hall Library modernization. The second and third floors will be renovated and specialty centers such as All Campus Tutoring, the Writing Center and the Central U.P. and NMU Archives will be relocated.
  • New science labs. The project will address the need for additional teaching labs for high-demand programs in biology, chemistry, psychology and nursing. 
  • Renovation of existing unoccupied space in the Northern Center to accommodate the cosmetology and hospitality management programs, which were located in the Jacobetti Complex.
  • New facility for the NMU Behavior Education Assessment and Research (BEAR) Center to better serve patients, improve instructional delivery and training for students and provide space for program expansion. 
  • McClintock classroom upgrades associated with the Northern Enterprise Center.
  • West Hall and Gries Hall, where many memories were made over the past 57 years, are being demolished.
  • Major maintenance projects include replacing the Berry Events Center’s existing ice-making system and the turf in the Superior Dome.