The Student News Site of Northern Michigan University

The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

Meet the Staff
Rachel Pott
Rachel Pott
News Writer

I am a marketing major about to start my second year at Northern Michigan University, however, this will be my third year in college. I previously attended a small community college...

The North Wind Editorial Sessions
About us

The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Photo Courtesy of Heather Maurer
4Reels club to host 24-Hour Film Challenge
Amelia Kashian April 18, 2024

Rebranding set to become a part of a broader plan

From a new president to a new brand and everything in between, current NMU students are witnessing a broad institutional transition.

Steven Neiheisel Ph.D., the vice president for enrollment management and student services, was hired as a new position in November 2013. Previously, enrollment and student services was a responsibility of the the provost and vice president of academic affairs. By hiring Neiheisel, NMU created a more specialized position lead by an expert — he has worked in higher education for over 30 years with an emphasis on enrollment.

“My position brought all of the enrollment pieces and student services pieces together,” Neiheisel said. “Then with the Identity, Brand and Marketing (IBM) unit we brought all of the marketing together.”

According to Neiheisel, the marketing was handled by a single person who focused mainly on recruitment materials prior to his hiring.

Story continues below advertisement

“We weren’t marketing the institution or having an institutional brand identity, which is critical in today’s enrollment and higher education environment,” Neiheisel said. “From a retention standpoint it gives us a chance to make sure that the services and the message and the story we tell is consistent.”

Neiheisel disclosed that Michigan is experiencing a 20 percent decline in high school graduates, resulting in a smaller in-state recruitment pool. He said the new brand will help create a higher profile presence for NMU out-of-state in terms of positive image, which will aid enrollment growth.

The rebranding effort had already begun by the time of Neiheisel’s arrival. The reason NMU decided to begin a rebranding effort in the first place goes back directly to enrollment trends.

“It’s all connected,” Neiheisel said.

Fall 2006 was the most recent year of enrollment growth. The past eight years saw five years of stability followed by three years of decline. Therefore, NMU saw a need to create an institutional brand. However, the process did not roll out as smoothly as planned.

“We stumbled,” Neiheisel said in regards to the criticism received by campus when the tagline “Fearless Minds” was released without the context of the campaign.

Since then, moves have been made internally to combine and expand efforts toward the rebranding within the university.

Thomas Isaacson, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the communication and performance studies department, acted as an interim assistant vice president of the IBM office over the summer. He was excited to see the changes.

“These functions are integrated and I think the more integrated they are, the more effective they are,” Isaacson said.

Derek Hall took over the assistant vice president of the IBM position mid-summer. One of his biggest responsibilities is assembling his own team.

Neiheisel explained that funding has been reallocated from the student services fund to help Hall hire a team of experts that will eventually include positions such as an art director and a web developer.

“We need more staff on it, if we’re going to internalize it,” Neiheisel said. “The key was to find somebody like Derek and then help them build their team.”

Hall has spent 26 years working in higher education communications, including 18 years with Utah Valley University. During his time there, enrollment grew from 7,000 students to 24,000 students.

Hall emphasized the importance of bringing communications and marketing operations in-house for expense and control reasons.

“It’s too expensive to have people doing it (marketing) for you,” Hall said. “To own that is important because we control that and we work with not only admissions but everyone across campus and our expectation is as a university we will brand ourselves together and show ourselves as one cohesive unit to the external world.”

The IBM office continues to grow.  According to Hall, the functions it will now serve include communications and media relations, publications, web development, an art division, constituent relationship management, a new media coordinator and marketing.

Another new member to the IBM office team this summer was a social media coordinator. Lucy Hough, who previously worked in admissions, took the job. She explained that the addition of her position provides direct management of the university’s social media strategy.

Hough said that she sees many advantages to the new IBM office and the specialization of staff.

“With more people we’re able to do the things we’ve always wanted to do,” Hough said. “We’re able to do so much more to highlight how awesome Northern is.”

Ultimately, according to hall, the IBM office plan as of now is to begin to roll the brand out, hire more staff for the office and then reach out to the rest of campus.

More to Discover