Downtown Marquette early morning

Rural Roots

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Office of Management and Budget, all communities within the Upper Peninsula are rural, and because of its location and the students that it serves, NMU is considered a rural-serving institution (RSI), according to the criteria set forth by the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges. NMU is located on the ancestral and current homelands of the Anishinaabe Three Fires Confederacy and serves rural communities throughout the Upper Peninsula. Northern is uniquely positioned to leverage its geographic location and provide educational programs and research focused on rurality and rural issues. As an important community partner, NMU has a responsibility to contribute to the economic strength and sustainability of the U.P. in a manner that honors its connection to the land, its people and its rich cultural history while fostering the physical and mental health, and the education and employment needs of its residents.  


Cabin in autumn woods

Focus Goals

NMU as a national leader of learning and research


  • Develop and expand academic programs with a rural focus and infuse rural and regional topics into current curricula


  • Leverage our long history of providing access by expanding continuing education opportunities for rural residents and employers


  • Increase and support faculty and student research on rurality

NMU as a resource for Upper Peninsula communities, businesses and residents


  • Coordinate, expand and increase health initiatives in the Upper Peninsula, especially to those that reach out to residents whose rural location hinders their ability to live healthy lives


  • Improve internet access and digital security throughout the region


  • Serve as a catalyst for regional economic and workforce development

Rural Roots Goals Strategy

Item Strategy Oversight Goal Alignment Focus Area Key Metrics Timeline
1 Identify and adopt a definition of rurality and Rural Serving Institution (RSI) Extended Learning All Goals Definitions identified, vetted, and adopted 2022
2 Expand outreach services and applied learning opportunities (e.g., BEAR Center, Speech and Language) Academic Affairs G1, G4

Number of outreach services 

Number of community members served

3 Inventory content on rurality and rural issues in current curricula Academic Affairs G1, G2 Identified areas of need or gaps in existing curricula/programs 2022
4 Provide learning opportunities supportive of research practices honoring Native American culture and traditions Center for Native American Studies G1, G3 Participant enrollment and evaluation survey 2023
5 Develop stackable micro-credentials for continuing education with an alternative credentialing system Extended Learning G2

Micro-credentialing system developed

Number of micro-credentials awarded

6 Spotlight student and faculty research on topics related to rurality Graduate Studies and Research G1, G3 Number of research projects shared 2022
7 Determine feasibility of establishing a system for distributing internal grants to faculty and students for research on rurality.

Extended Learning 

Graduate Studies and Research


G3 Feasibility study complete and, if appropriate, grant funds distributed 2022
8 Identify external grant opportunities related to rurality Graduate Studies and Research G3 Number of applications submitted and awards received 2022
9 Establish a rural research fellows program to bridge Freshman Fellows with McNair Graduate Studies and Research G3 Program enrollment 2023
10 Identify regional health issues and prioritize health care needs Center for Rural Health G4 Needs identified and prioritized 2023
11 Expand Educational Access Network and IT support Finance and Administration G2, G5

Number of EAN service zones

Number of EAN subscribers 

12 Support and expand cybersecurity academic programming and the services offered by the U.P. Cybersecurity Institute Extended Learning G1, G5

Number of educational experiences offered

Sustainable budget model developed

Create a coordinated system of advisory councils using existing committees to provide insights regarding regional talent needs
Academic Affairs G6 Coordinated system of advisory councils developed 2023
14 Inventory regional shared resources and identify gaps Extended Learning G3, G6 Inventory complete and gaps identified 2022
15 Expand community partnerships that benefit NMU students, faculty and staff and the regional economy Extended Learning G6 Number of community partnerships 2023
16 Organize and sponsor a regional conference focused on rurality

Academic Affairs

Extended Learning

G3, G4, G6 Conference attendance and evaluation survey 2023