Presidential search narrowed: Four finalists set to give public presentations at NMU

Cody Boyer

Note: Cindy Paavola was misquoted earlier in this piece that the Presidential search Advisory Committee would bring a recommendation to the NMU Board of trustees. “In this search the PSAC was charged to select the finalists. The NMU board of Trustees now completely takes over the selection process; the work of the PSAC is completed.” 

The Northern Michigan University presidential search advisory committee selected four finalists, shortening the list of possible future presidents for NMU.

On Wednesday, March 26, NMU announced the names of the four remaining candidates after narrowing a list down to 10. The announcement comes one week before the four candidates will begin visiting the university to speak in public forums.

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NMU Director of Communications and Marketing Cindy Paavola said the university is satisfied with the results of the search process thus far.

“We were delighted and very pleased by the application pool,” Paavola said.  “We had 54 applicants and they represented diverse backgrounds, types of schools and types of experiences at the administrative level. The candidates will now come to campus and will make public presentations to give the community a better idea of how they will fit at Northern, what their agendas will be. It will give students and other members of the community a chance to ask them questions related to who will be their next president.”

The four candidates include Cynthia Pemberton,  provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Dickinson State University in Dickinson, N.D.; Robert Ackerman,  professor of law and former dean at the Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, Mich.; Fritz Erickson,  provost and vice president for academic affairs at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich. and Greg Cant, founding dean of the Offutt School of Business and Robert J. Johnson chair in economics and business administration at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn.

According to NMU’s press release, the candidates will be travelling to NMU over the next two weeks to give five to seven minute presentations to the public. Paavola said the institution hopes students, faculty and community members, alike, will make it to the presentations.

“We encourage students to attend the public forums,” Paavola said. “There is a link on the website with [the candidates’] resumes now. People can review their resumes to get informed about the candidates if they cannot make it to the presentations.”

On Tuesday, April 1, Pemberton will be speaking at NMU followed by Ackerman on Thursday, April 3. The following week, Erickson will speak on Tuesday, April 8 while Cant will conclude the candidate presentations on Thursday, April 10. According to Communications and Marketing, each presentation will take place at 4 p.m. and the location of the presentations has yet to be decided.

Erickson said there are many facets of strength behind the atmosphere at NMU.

“I think the world of NMU and the Marquette community,” Erickson said. “Northern has a long reputation of being a student-focused, centered university. That combined with the degree program, the faculty and the environment of the Marquette community are so important

to my wife and me.”

Set to speak on Thursday of next week, Ackerman said having the opportunity to apply for leadership at NMU after leading at Wayne State is an honor.

“It is a terrific school,” Ackerman said. “I’ve been in Michigan for almost six years. I’ve always seen Northern Michigan out of the corner of my eye and I’ve always seen it as a beautiful campus and an enviable location with many engaged students. It is the kind of place that is already running well but has tremendous upside, in terms of future development.”

Pemberton, who is slated to appear in the first presentation on April 1, said the opportunity is very exciting for her as she will be travelling from North Dakota.

“Northern Michigan University is a wonderful place with a vibrant living-learning community,” Pemberton said. “I am both excited and honored to be given the opportunity to come to campus, and look forward to listening, learning and engaging students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community in conversations about NMU and the future we might create together.

Having led in institutions from Western Australia University and Central Washington University to Concordia College, Cant said the number of robust programs, entrepreneurial studies and business programs makes NMU a good school to lead in a pristine environment.

“An important part of my skillset is to work as a partner to those who run the university itself,” Cant said. “Central Washington is a university of somewhat similar size to Marquette and NMU. It’s located in the mountains of Washington state. From what I understand of the university, there is a number of features that range behind the beautiful environment of the U.P. As a community, that is a very attractive place to be.”

According to Communications and Marketing, each candidate will be scheduled for a final individual interview with the presidential search advisory committee. Paavola said the committee will decide a final candidate before moving them to the next step.

“Then, the search committee takes all of this information and will work to come to a consensus, as a committee, and will come forward to the Board of Trustees with a recommendation,” Paavola said. “That’s just a recommendation. The board takes over at that point and they (the trustees) will review the choice from the committee. They may go through all of the gathered input again if they feel they have to, but if they feel the committee chose appropriately,  documented its choice and reasoning well, they can just move forward and choose the next president.”

In December, 2013, interim president David Haynes announced he will not be returning to the NMU faculty at the end of his two-year term. According to Communications and Marketing, a successor should be decided by no later than Sunday, July 1.

For more information about the backgrounds of each candidate, check out www.nmu.edu/presidentialsearch/finalists for detailed resumes and biographies.

Sook Wilkinson, chair of the NMU Board of Trustees, and Pemberton were unavailable for comment before press time.