Dear Alumni and Friends, 

The theme of this Northern Magazine is innovation and you’ll see plenty of examples of exactly that as you make your way through the various articles. 

During my tenure at Northern, we’ve talked a lot about innovation, but more importantly, we’ve been innovative in our thinking, our new programs and services and in how we’ve approached the transformation that higher education has been undergoing—even before the pandemic.

Dealing with this past year’s COVID crisis called for us to continue with our innovative ways. I believe because we have an innovative culture on campus, we approached the challenges of the pandemic a bit differently than many institutions, and it allowed us to succeed in ways that some places just aren’t able to do. No matter what the coronavirus-related issue was, we began with the attitude of looking at how we could safely continue to do what needed to be done. We relied on our campus expertise and creativity. We made sure that as many voices as possible had an opportunity to give input. Then we acted. I had many of my colleagues asking, “How was your campus able to do that this year?”

There were, of course, some things that simply could not be continued safely in the normal fashion due to COVID-19. But overall, our campus community took great pride in being able to hold as much face-to-face instruction, on-campus living and working and modified campus activities as possible. And collectively, we worked hard to keep our COVID-19 case numbers low. Now, we look forward to a return to a more pre-pandemic state for the next academic year.

During the pandemic, our students, faculty and staff continued to move the university forward in strategic and innovative ways on non-COVID fronts as well. As president, I am incredibly proud of that. You will see that sisu in the pages ahead. There are many important things that Northern teaches its students on the way to graduation. Two of the greatest lessons are how to persevere and thrive in the face of challenges and to become comfortable and good at innovation.

Those two skills—determination and innovation—can take you far as an individual or an organization, just as the Wildcats you’ll read about demonstrate. Focusing on innovation is exactly what we are doing as we look to the future and introduce another set of strategic plan initiatives beginning this fall. We’re excited to see where these new ideas take us. Thank you for your continued support in our next endeavors.

Best wishes for a healthy and safe summer.

President Fritz Erickson

NMU President Fritz Erickson