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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.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Jessica Thompson named Assistant Vice President of Sustainability

NMU Alumna, professor appointed to assist in advancing NMU’s sustainability initiatives.
SUSTAINABILITY+APPOINTMENT+%E2%80%94Director+of+Sustainability+Hub+for+Innovation+and+Environment%2C+Jes+Thompson%2C+appointed+to+Assistant+Vice+President+of+Sustainability.
Photo Courtesy of Jes Thompson
SUSTAINABILITY APPOINTMENT —Director of Sustainability Hub for Innovation and Environment, Jes Thompson, appointed to Assistant Vice President of Sustainability.

Jessica Thompson has been appointed as the Assistant Vice President of Sustainability at Northern, becoming the first person to fill this new position, created to further advance Northern’s university-wide sustainability efforts and visions. 

“What is exciting is that one of the main focus areas of [Northern’s] Strategic Plan is called building a culture of sustainability and it actually outlines what our goal is,” Thompson said. 

In addition to fulfilling this section of the Strategic Plan, Thompson has other objectives to help achieve Northern’s goals.

“I have three main areas. The first is directly related to campus and operations. We have a new Carbon Neutrality Plan and I am going to be the person to help monitor and make sure we are identifying projects and funding to move that forward,” Thompson said. “Then there are things related to curriculum, and how can we find a way so that every student that graduates from Northern has some sense of sustainability, social justice, economic sustainability, and how we can make sure that these threads are a part of their experience.”

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The third part of this new role is outreach and engagement with the community. All of these objectives build on the sustainability efforts already in place at Northern.

“I think what is exciting is that Northern is moving in the right direction, and they are actually doing it quickly when we look at divestment. Now we are talking about being divested fully by 2028,” Thompson said. 

While Thompson is new to this position, she is familiar with the efforts of advancing sustainability, specifically here at Northern.

Thompson earned her bachelor’s degree in communication and public relations in 2001 from NMU. She has since been working as the faculty director for SHINE to enhance sustainability at Northern while also teaching public relations courses at NMU’s College of Business.

“I had this great opportunity to work in different colleges. I have been in a College of Natural Resources, a College of Engineering, a College of Arts and Sciences, a College of Humanities and most recently the College of Business,” Thompson said. “I think that having a lot of interdisciplinary interactions and collaborations helps me work with people that are speaking different jargons and have different perspectives on problems.”

In addition to this position, there are also several student interns working in the sustainability hub on composting, climate change, clothing swaps and landscaping.

Thompson says her communications background will help in this new role to foster new sustainability initiatives at Northern.

“I am going out to different departments and asking ‘What are your needs?’ ‘What are some issues?’ ‘What are some things that are important to you?’ and helping people to connect. Really, I see myself as doing a little bit of matchmaking. Just having this like map and being able to create space and facilitate when people have new ideas,” Thompson said. 

One thing Thompson says she hopes to achieve is something that other universities have already incorporated into their sustainability efforts.

“I have noticed and I am learning that other universities have taken their general education courses and repackaged them to have a sustainability-focused general education experience,” Thompson said. “They are doing this at Virginia Tech, called Pathways.”

With these new goals in place, Thompson hopes to measure and see progress through the survey of students’ awareness of sustainability initiatives, which is conducted every three years. This survey has continuously shown that less than 50% of students are aware. 

“For the first time in many years, this feels like a priority. I think we are actually starting to walk the talk,” Thompson said.

Thompson says she encourages students to get involved with these efforts.

SHINE is hosting Marquette 2049 on Jan. 31 from 12:00-2:30 p.m. in Northern Center Ballroom III to examine what climate change issues will affect Marquette over the next 25 years.

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About the Contributor
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 near my hometown, Charlevoix, Mi. In high school, I was a part of my school’s journalism program and helped to produce bi-weekly student newspapers. In my free time, I enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, boating, fishing, and biking. I also love to work out, read, paint, and bake.