Investiture of President Tessman Marks a New Era for NMU
NMU is on the rise in so many ways,” NMU President Brock Tessman said in his investiture ceremony on Sept. 29. “Faculty excellence in and out of the classroom. Distinctive academic and workforce training programs. Positive enrollment growth. A growing partnership with a vibrant community in one of the most beautiful natural settings in the world. And there is even more to look forward to as we head into the next year, one in which we will publicly launch our next major fundraising campaign and formally celebrate our 125th anniversary as, in my opinion, the flagship university of Upper Michigan.”
The ceremony weaved symbolism tied to Northern's past, present and future with Tessman's tributes to family, friends and mentors. His mother, Dr. Deirdre Tessman, a leader in the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, helped to place the Chain of Office around his neck. The chain displays the official NMU seal encircled with two laurel branches. Engraved banners listing Northern presidents and their years in office are linked to the medallion.
I want to be very clear when I say that this university always has been, and always will be, defined by our students.
- Dr. Brock Tessman
The procession included 124 NMU students—one for each year the institution has existed. There were also 94 Graveraet Elementary students, including both of Tessman’s young daughters' classes, who led the Pledge of Allegiance.
“The 1st and 3rd graders who stood before you will inherit a world that is more complex, and perhaps heavier, than we can imagine. But they can look to our current students to see the opportunity they have—no matter what their background—to lead the kind of change that they believe in and the kind of change that may lighten the load for future generations. And our current students can't help but be inspired by our alumni, women and men who have preceded them and gone on to reshape the world in every field and every far-flung place."
Gwen Feamster, president of the student government organization ASNMU, said Tessman has already made an impact on students. “We have seen his openness to change and willingness to help the students here,” she said. “I have seen how he cares to know students, whether over hot wings, casually outside Starbucks, or even playing in the Dead River Games. I believe having Dr. Tessman will benefit the student experience at Northern and ensure our growth as an institution in the years to come. Thank you for diving in headfirst as soon as you arrived, even before you had completed the move. Thank you for taking the time to listen to multiple perspectives and for your dedication to students and to learning. … Just as you've said you have our backs, we have yours.”
With the proliferation of generative Artificial Intelligence (AI), Tessman said it will be increasingly important that Northern continues to be defined by uniquely human qualities that AI cannot touch. These include a sense of belonging; a deep appreciation for the area's history, geography and lore; an unwavering commitment to academic freedom; and by demonstrating “sisu” in the context of “a consistent, courageous approach toward challenges that at first seem to exceed our capacities.”
You can watch the investiture ceremony on YouTube on NMUAV Streaming.
NMU in Solid Position with Increased Enrollment
Fueled by increases in nearly every student segment, Northern Michigan University's total enrollment is higher this fall despite the challenging demographic climate facing many regional comprehensive institutions nationwide.
NMU's 10th day enrollment report shows increases of almost 10% for new freshmen and 15% for both new transfers and graduate students. These helped to offset the large graduating class in May and boost the total headcount by 3.3%, to 7,197. The increase in new freshmen is partly attributed to a new program that enables non-Michigan resident students to receive the in-state tuition rate.
NMU's online Global Campus enrollment has swelled by about 45%, mostly because of the overlapping increase in graduate students pursuing its applied workforce leadership program as part of grant-funded educational opportunities made available to Michigan teachers.
A newly renovated Jacobetti Complex opened its doors this fall, with modern, dynamic and highly efficient teaching and learning spaces. The design features many flexible spaces that can grow and change with evolving industry needs, and more collaborative spaces, such as the new Innovation Hall. The renovation also helps Northern toward its sustainability and carbon neutrality goals.
“This is a game changer for future students, for the future workforce and the regional economy," said Steve VandenAvond, dean of the College of Technology and Occupational Sciences.
“For as long as I've been working in Jacobetti, we've provided our students with a quality education that has provided them with successful careers and meaningful lives. The renovation won't change that, but it will provide a better learning environment, and hopefully attract more students. The jobs our students fill, including electrical and mechanical engineering, industrial electricians, power technicians, CNC technicians and K-12 technology teachers, are some of those in the highest demand in the country, and vital for the regional and national economy,” said Michael Rudisill, Engineering Technology department head and professor.
Engineering technology major Dan Burnett said, “it was very exciting to walk into the building this fall to brand new classrooms, labs, lab equipment and furniture throughout, and know that I would be one of the first graduates fortunate enough to experience it all.”
NMU’s commitment to providing a comprehensive approach to wellness that revolves around intentional care for the whole person has taken a tangible step forward with the newly constructed WellBeing Center. The $6.5 million, 13,500-square-foot facility houses both the NMU Health Center and Counseling and Consultation Services. It is located by the residence halls, off Lincoln Avenue. Clients enter through doors leading into a central hallway dividing the Health Center and Counseling and Consultation Services, so a level of privacy and confidentiality is achieved.
In the Health Center section, an airy central nurses' station is surrounded by four exam rooms on each side, each of which includes new wall-mounted diagnostic tools. A conference room facilitates staff training and meetings, and a drive-thru pharmacy adds convenience.
In Counseling and Consultation Services (CCS), the professional staff members address students' mental health-related concerns. “We have online scheduling for phone screening appointments and daily walk-ins,” said Angie Stebbins, CCS department head. “We offer individual, group and consultation services to NMU students. The office provides a telehealth option for students who commute or find it easier to attend therapy sessions virtually. Additionally, students who have a provider at home and want to continue seeing them have the ability to utilize our confidential telehealth office located within CCS.”
Emotional crisis appointments are available daily for those who feel an urgent need for support. And a new case management services director will lead a CARE Team to identify, assess and intervene with individuals who are struggling or who demonstrate concerning or threatening behavior. Using a strengths-based, goal-focused approach, case managers work with those who come to the attention of the CARE Team, and stay connected with them as they find ways to overcome the obstacles that put them at risk.
"I am so thrilled to have these critical physical and mental health services under one roof, and in a location that is visible and accessible to a wide array of members of our community,” said Abigail Wyche, assistant vice president for Campus Wellbeing. “It is a major milestone along our path to more tightly weaving our net of holistic wellbeing support for our campus."
The Behavior Education Assessment and Research (BEAR) Center has a new home, in a renovated building on Presque Isle Avenue next to the Rice Paddy. This university clinic and research facility run by the Psychological Sciences Department provides behavior and learning support for the region’s children and adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities and/or traumatic brain injury. The move has allowed the staff of faculty members and applied behavior analysis students to expand their clinical offerings and the number of clients they can see and serve in a more comfortable, bright and refined space.
Aspire Eases College Transition
The new Aspire Summer Bridge & Scholars Program is designed to help select incoming freshmen—first-generation students and those with financial or academic challenges—make a successful transition to college by jumpstarting their education before the fall semester. The 20 participants earned four free college credits through a hybrid Native American experience course that included four weeks of online instruction followed by a one-week on-campus experience in August. Nine days before the start of the semester, they moved into their residence halls early at no additional charge, received their laptops and had their orientation fees waived. They had time to explore campus and Marquette, enjoy field trips, leadership trainings, a service project and team-building activities to help them establish important connections before the semester began. They even traveled to Mackinac Island for the NMU Arts & Athletics Showcase. The students are from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Aspire program is funded by an anonymous donor who gave faculty, staff, and students the trust needed for us to develop a high-quality bridge program to test out ways in which NMU can improve its connections to students and our ability to increase student retention.
said Joe Lubig '91 BS, '00 MAE, Center for Native American Studies department head and associate dean of the School of Education, Leadership & Public Service. “The first-year students who chose to do this are amazing. They have jumped right in with the coursework, mentoring sessions and service activities. It has been inspiring to see these students who took a chance on this new program come together and rally around its purpose. NMU faculty and staff are excited to get feedback from this first Aspire group so we can modify and improve the program for future Aspire cohorts.”
Seven current NMU students who completed the Student Leader Fellowship Program are mentoring the freshmen, who in turn will be encouraged to mentor future Aspire participants.
International Experiences Return after COVID
Community Resilience in Puerto Rico
Complementing a course that explores community resilience in the face of adversity and the intricate interplay of human needs, services and communications systems, nine NMU students, Communications and Media Studies Professor Sara Potter and community health advocate Kristen Karls ‘07 BA completed a 10-day immersive experience in Puerto Rico this summer.
In addition to delving into Puerto Rican culture, students engaged with and learned from community-based groups specializing in a broad range of areas. These included food sovereignty, urban agroecology, street art and murals as tools for social activism, wellbeing and disaster preparedness, environmental sustainability, eco-tourism, and women-led/supported community development.
"Something that made this immersive trip so special is that we can read articles, and see pictures for the whole semester, but without the in-person element of actually having been in Puerto Rico there is so much missing,” said Emilia Nelson, a senior communication studies major. “Being there, we got to see the struggles first hand, but it was honestly most inspiring to see the way the communities worked together to be themselves, to be better for the future and to uplift one another. They also overcome so many challenges. It opened my eyes on how we as a community in Marquette do or don't work together to overcome some of our local challenges. I even frequently thought back to my home town to compare the community experiences."
The initial phase of the visit included a stop at Finca Neo Jibairo, a private ecological farm. “This experience shed light on the challenges faced by Puerto Rican farmers post-Hurricane Maria and highlighted the development of adaptive systems to combat climate change,” Potter said. “With a staggering 90% of Puerto Rico's food being imported, this farm tour underscored the pivotal role played by local small farms and urban agroecology in advancing food sovereignty as a fundamental human right.”
Culture in Context: Spain
Twenty students participated in this four-week, faculty-led excursion this summer, studying at the prestigious University of Salamanca, founded in 1218.
Guided by Professor Amy Orf, they studied Spanish language, history, culture and society. They visited historical and cultural sites including two medieval cathedrals, a Roman bridge, several art museums, a bullfighting museum and took a flamenco-dancing class. They also explored the historic cities of Mérida, Cáceres and Ávila. Students stayed with host families.
A study abroad experience is the best way for students to improve their ability to speak a language and get to know the culture of those who speak it, and there is no better place to do so than Salamanc
- Professor Amy Orf
Students also enjoyed enriching experiences in Vienna, Austria and Stratford, Ontario.
U.P. Teams That Played the Packers
Green Bay Packers fans and Upper Peninsula history buffs can stream Linked to Legends: The U.P. Teams that Played the Packers for free on WNMU-TV's website, wnmutv.nmu.edu.
The Emmy-nominated documentary produced by Northern Michigan University Communications Professor Dwight Brady unearths the century-old stories of five U.P. communities and their teams that played the Packers and other NFL teams from 1919-1926.
The 70-minute documentary not only highlights the history of the games between the Packers and the U.P. teams; it dives into the personal triumphs and tragedies associated with many of the players and coaches from that era.
Carl Holm's Legacy Honored
A dedication ceremony was held this summer for a memorial display case and named annual scholarship honoring the legacy of Carl Holm ’70 BA, ’76 MAE, who worked 42 years in Housing and Residence Life, retiring as its director. A committee of colleagues, friends and family raised more than $15,000 for both projects.
The positive communities that flourished at the “house” level under Holm's direction and support continue to exist today.
“Carl built a model residence hall program still referenced in housing and student affairs circles across the nation,”
said Jeff Korpi '03 BS, '15 MS, who worked under Holm, succeeded him as director and now serves as associate vice president of the Northern Student Experience.
“He developed six chief student affairs officers working across the nation. Carl's housing model emphasized the value of student relationships and engagement, with student interests at the center of everything. It is not a stretch to say that Carl had a positive impact on thousands of students during his time at NMU.”
Dave Bonsall '74 BS, former director of the Center for Student Enrichment at NMU, added, “Carl always made time to spend a few minutes talking with people, and the conversation always focused on you: what are you interested in, how's life going? If you had a challenge going on, he would give you some really useful advice. This was always sprinkled with a lot of wit and humor. It was just always an engagement you left feeling better about when you ran into Carl."