Final forum of semester covers fall 2021, provost search, strategic plan


Ashley Beronja/NW FINAL FORUM—President Fritz Erickson hosted the last forum of the year covering important plans for the future. These plans included the Fall 2021 semester, upcoming provost search and the strategic plan to improve NMU.

Ayanna Allen

President Fritz Erickson concluded final thoughts for the community with the last public forum for the semester. The forum was held over Zoom on April 14 and discussed future plans that would affect the NMU community. These plans included what the fall semester may look like, the strategic plan “Investing in Innovation,” the Provost Search Committee and more.

As the state of Michigan and NMU continues to make progress with COVID-19 vaccinations, the conversation has been brought up on what the upcoming fall semester would look like. Erickson is confident that NMU is prepared and on track to resume classes, as usual, face-to-face. 

“Our friends at Wayne State have closed up shop because that’s what they needed to do. We didn’t need to do that. It’s not better or worse. You adapt to the situation that you have. As of right now, we do not have a plan to require vaccines,” Erickson said. “However, that is subject to change.”

Erickson is confident that NMU is prepared and on track to resume classes as usual; face to face. 

“Our students and our faculty want to be face-to-face. There is no doubt in my mind … that’s very much who we are,” Erickson said. “There’s an important place for online and I see that online programs are growing and serving populations that need that service, but not at the expense of being face-to-face.”

NMU has stated in the past that while continuing as much face-to-face learning as possible is their goal, on the chance that classes would need to remain with remote learning, Erickson said that the school would be ready to pivot in that direction if needed. While there are still plans to resume complete face-to-face learning, there are concerns that with classes returning to normal there will not be room for new students as there is not enough space. The concern is directed towards STEM programs that require labs.

“Our Board of Trustees adopted a new campus master plan. An important part of that master plan was an addition onto the western hall in West Hall that is dedicated in large parts to lab space,” Erickson said. “We are working very hard and developing the funding mechanisms to be able to do that. We do recognize that there is a serious shortage of space, particularly in the sciences.”

Erickson discussed the addition of new initiatives to the strategic plan in order to help move NMU towards carbon neutrality, efficient equity, increased awareness of mental health and more. Erickson encouraged the NMU community to reach out via email with suggestions towards what could be added to the plan. 

NMU is in the process of becoming more sustainable with the intention of becoming carbon neutral, or at the least: reducing our carbon footprint. However, Erickson was reluctant to make promises. 

“I did receive a request from our students supported by many faculty, many groups and organizations that the university makes the statement that we’ll be carbon neutral by at least 2050. Personally, I am very supportive of that…but, I don’t want to make that statement,” Erickson said. “Not until we have the framework of a plan to do it. I’ve seen too many times where people in my position will make a broad promise to something 30 years down the line knowing full well they’re not going to be around.”

For those interested in contributing suggestions for the plan, email Erickson at [email protected] with the subject line “Strategic Plan” with any ideas before April 19. 

“We really need a vibrant plan of initiatives. Universities coming out of COVID are going to be successful when they have that eye on the future … The eye for new and innovative programs, how we modify certain things we’re doing, where we can make some serious targeted investments and we’re anxious to do that. We have mechanisms coming into place,” Erickson said. 

Continuing with future plans for NMU and announcements, Kerri Schuiling, current provost of NMU, plans to retire in January 2023. NMU has formed a Provost Search Committee as part of the process of replacing her. This committee will contain 25 members that include administrators, faculty, staff and students. 

“My hope is that we can make a selection of a provost by the end of the fall semester and we have the hopes that they will be able to start during the normal academic cycle of next July,” Erickson said, “We will have the great advantage that Kerri is graciously agreed to stay on for a year to work on what I think are going to be critical projects. She will be able to provide a great transition.” 

Derek Hall, chief marketing officer of NMU, closed the meeting with the encouragement for those who have questions to email [email protected] with any further concerns.