NMU’s new president discusses mental health, goals for presidency


Dallas Wiertella/NW

NEW CHAPTER – Brock Tessman talks with students during his visit to campus on Sept. 20. Tessman was recently hired as NMU’s 17th president and starts his term on Feb. 1.

Katarina Rothhorn, Editor-in-Chief

At 10 a.m. on Sept. 29, NMU’s Board of Trustees officially announced Brock Tessman as NMU’s 17th president. He was selected out of four final candidates who visited campus during the weeks of Sept. 12 and 19. 

After meeting with students, staff and faculty and touring campus, Tessman had a final interview with the Board of Trustees before being hired. His term will officially start on Feb. 1, but Tessman and his family will be visiting campus and the Marquette area in October. 

“I know there is an opportunity to build on some real positive momentum and positive trust in terms of the campus culture and environment,” Tessman said. “I know there’s an opportunity to further engage students on issues related to mental health on campus, diversity, equity, inclusivity and belonging. I know there’s a great deal of interest among students in sustainability, so I want to engage that early on.”

Coming into this position, Tessman is looking to listen and learn from the NMU community. While he has some ideas on how to improve the Northern experience, he says his main priority is getting more familiar with the culture here on campus.

In particular, Tessman has a background in supporting Indigenous students in Montana and hopes to bring some of his knowledge to NMU. 

“At Northern I think that this is an area of recognized excellence, the Center for Native American Studies, the bachelors program in Native American studies is outstanding already. I can’t wait to tour the space and get to meet some of the faculty and staff and students who are most connected to that work,” Tessman said. “I’m looking forward to learning more and working with the entire campus to take the next level in terms of enrollment, student success and then I’d say presence and respect on NMU’s campus with respect to the Indigenous population.”

Tessman is also focused on the mental health challenges facing students and faculty all over the US. 

“My approach is really about moving from mental health and wellness as a private or individual challenge toward treating it as a public health challenge,” Tessman said. “Thinking about multifaceted treatment, you can add all of the new counseling resources that you wanted. One could argue that that’s an important step, but that alone is not sufficient for solving such a complex challenge or even tackling it head on.” 

With this public health approach to mental health, Tessman is looking to better support students, faculty and staff. He also believes better supporting students academically and through academic counseling, retention rates will improve. 

“Our efforts moving forward will be even more squarely focused on supporting the students we do have so that they stick around,” Tessman said. “They have that opportunity to earn the credential they sought out to achieve and then enter the Marquette workforce, UP workforce, the Michigan workforce as soon as possible with the least amount of debt possible and equipped to make a difference right away.”

Some of the ways Tessman believes this can be achieved is through specialist academic counseling, mental health discussions and improved career connections. 

“If students can understand what that light is at the end of their educational tunnel, they’re much more likely to persist,” Tessman said. “Having student success specialists or advisors that have the time, the ability, to really serve as a comprehensive support for individuals that might be having some personal challenges or not feeling like they belong in an interview, maybe some specific financial challenges. Having an advisor that can connect students to other resources on campus and that has that line of trust, it makes a huge difference.”

As a former track and field athlete in college, Tessman says he also understands the importance of collegiate athletics as a support system for students and community builder for campus. He plans to support all levels of athletics on campus and encourage the further integration of the natural beauty around Marquette into NMU life as well. 

“I try to get up for a jog every day, some days there’s not enough time, but I think being actively engaged in that world is exciting to me,” Tessman said. “Marquette is outstanding by any standard in the country, based on what it has to offer. Not just a natural beauty, but access to that beauty. It’s a tough combination to achieve and Marquette has got it and I’d love to be part of developing that even further.”

Despite being hired as NMU’s 17th president less than 24 hours ago, Tessman is already engaging with campus, listening to concerns and drafting potential solutions for the future. He is looking forward to moving his wife and two daughters to Marquette in the coming months and becoming further integrated in the Marquette and NMU communities. 

“I hope that this next chapter is filled with additional energy, additional engagement, even greater attention to student success,” Tessman said. “I can’t wait to get on the ground, work with the fine team in place and get rolling on this next chapter. It is truly an honor.”