NMU President Erickson pursues a busy schedule, Places all emphasis on ‘students first’

Katie Bultman

Within the past week, NMU students have had the opportunity to witness the new president of the university, Fritz Erickson,  helping with freshman move-in, attending Late Night at the PEIF and participating in the ice bucket challenge.

“I spend a lot of time helping students move in and transition, because that’s a really important part of what we do,” President Erickson said. “My expectations this year are for me to learn as much as I can about our university, our students, our faculty here, our staff and as much as I can about our community.

Before school began, Erickson spent time getting to know NMU’s campus and students. Over the weekend he  helped students move in to the residence halls, attended band practice, and made an appearance at Fall Fest. (Analicia Honkanen/NW)
Before school began, Erickson spent time getting to know NMU’s campus and students. Over the weekend he helped students move in to the residence halls, attended band practice, and made an appearance at Fall Fest. (Analicia Honkanen/NW)

“I like to be an active participant, and so I’m looking forward to engaging and participating in everything and anything.”

Erickson spent the Friday before school began getting to know the campus and the students.

He said he was able to watch the band practice in the morning, visit the volleyball team and meet with the cheerleaders.

This year, Erickson also began a new tradition. He and his wife were available to help students move in that afternoon, which started a chain reaction with other professors and staff on campus after his announcement.

Dean of Students and Student Services Christine Greer said the professors haven’t helped with move-in day at NMU since before her arrival in 2001.

“The president said, ‘I’m helping move in, who else helps?’ and we thought, ‘great idea!’” Greer said. “So we just decided we were going to invite all faculty and staff. I had over 70 responses and we got t-shirts. I think it was really good.”

Friday evening, President Erickson also stopped by the PEIF for the opening weekend events.

“Every place has its own culture,” Erickson said. “Every place has its own history, and so for me, trying to learn that culture and history is really important.

“Every decision that we make has a back-story and so what I want to learn from as many people as possible is what those back stories are on the various issues.”

President Erickson is working to build a foundation that he said places an emphasis on students first. ASNMU President junior secondary education English and  theatre major Kat Klawes said the president made the student-body government one of his priorities by meeting with her early in the morning his first day on campus.

“He’s got such a personal touch,” Klawes said. “He’s helped us with a lot of our programs already and has given us great feedback and advice about how to go about something.”

Along with ASNMU, President Erickson has agreed to host a “Let’s Chat” session in Starbucks that opens the floor to student questions. Klawes said the details are still in order, but more information will be available in the near future.

In the time Erickson has been in office, he has met with Gov. Rick Snyder, the president of Michigan Technological University and the president of Lake Superior State University. In these meetings, they discussed measures to collaborate with one another with businesses and other schools in the Upper Peninsula.

Erickson said he has also started a plan to reach out to other parts of the state that would be beneficial for students across the U.P. as well as the Lower Peninsula. He also said he plans to set up more partnerships with high schools in order to help students earn credits and cut costs in the long run.

“It’s hard to narrow it down to the most important issue, other than, our goal is to expand our reach to more students and to new student populations,” Erickson said. “That includes a more diverse student body. That includes opportunities to engage more communities and to support students who may not always have thought that college was an option for them. But if we can provide the right kind of support and help, we can find ways for students to be very successful when they come to college.”

Publicity director for ASNMU, junior graphic communications major Alex Nekvasil, said that people really seem to like the new president.

“They think he’s really personable,” Nekvasil said. “He did the ice bucket challenge (Monday). It makes him a bit more casual and a bit more relatable to students. I think he’s going to be a wonderful president and I look forward to working with him and to have a better light on campus.”

Erickson said he tries hard not to rush to make a judgment.

“I like to get as many different perspectives as I possibly can,” Erickson said. “Fortunately, people have been really willing to share their views and perspectives with me.”