NMU aims for ‘distinctive’ mission vision

Von Lanier

A process has begun to develop both a new mission and vision of the university in accordance with ongoing strategic planning initiatives.

“The hard part with the strategic plan is that you’ll always have more great ideas than you‘re going to have resources, but that’s where some of the mission and the vision comes in,” said Cindy Paavola, assistant to the president for strategic initiatives.

“So you take your resources and you say, ‘Now out of all these fantastic ideas, which ones are the best ideas for right now?’— based on where we want to bring the university, that’s your vision, or how we’re serving, that’s our mission,” Paavola said.

“The mission is who we are right now, the vision is who we aspire to be as a university,” she later added.

The purpose of a new mission and vision is to correlate NMU’s seven core values with implementation of the strategic plan, Paavola said. Recently, two rewritten mission and vision proposal draft statements were brought before the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee (SPBAC) in December. Paavola is one member of a four-person mission revision writing group who submitted the proposals. The group consists of one administrator, one faculty member a staff member and one student.

Paavola said this week, the group will send an informal survey back to [SPBAC] that has at least both half a dozen mission and vision statements along with a qualtrics survey to get quantitative numbers on the most well-received drafts and some feedback. A pilot-survey will also be given to ASNMU and some of the students the Student Leader Fellowship Program. If proposals in the survey gain traction amongst both the student groups and SPBAC, then another survey will be sent campus-wide to gather further insight.

“We wanted to have about the same number of students as we have on the committee so if something really bubbles to the top, we can say it’s bubbling because faculty and staff like it as well as students,” she said.  Prior to NMU President Fritz Erickson’s nomination, there was more focus on finding the most cohesive vision for the strategic plan rather than creating a new mission and vision for the university, Paavola said.

“People really felt like we could put together a framework for the strategic plan and then make a decision related to the mission and vision—which is how it ended up happening,” she added.

Based on the identified core values of the university, a set of four strategic focus areas was determined in addition to four strategic outcomes on how to improve Northern. The focus areas are academic excellence, student success, domestic and global outreach and engagement, as well as investment in innovation. The outcomes are: enhancing prestige and coming up with new and responsive approaches, expanding partnerships and growing enrollment. These focal points helped Paavola’s group come up with the drafts recently submitted to SPBAC.

NMU’s current mission statement reads reviewed by SPBAC reads, “[NMU] challenges its students to think independently and critically, develop lifelong learning habits, acquire career skills, embrace diversity and become productive citizens in the regional and global community.”

The current vision of NMU is, “[NMU] will become the university of choice in the Midwest for students seeking a quality academic program with individualized attention in a high-tech learning environment.” By the end of February, Paavola hopes her group will be far enough along to send out a campus-wide email to gather more feedback. By no later than May, she hopes to reach a final recommendation for a new mission and vision.

“I think the core values and the strategic plan both show that we’re willing to be leaders, that we’re not afraid to do things different than other people—because it works for us, not because that’s the goal. What I hope is that the mission and vision shows that boldness to be innovative,” she said.