Editorial — Construction of the Northern Enterprise Center

CAMPUS DEVELOPMENT — NMU announced it will receive state funding for the Northern Enterprise Center. This graphic is based on renderings posted by the university with their original announcement for the project.
CAMPUS DEVELOPMENT — NMU announced it will receive state funding for the Northern Enterprise Center. This graphic is based on renderings posted by the university with their original announcement for the project.
Deirdre Northrup-Riesterer

In the last few years, NMU has been making renovations to its campus to increase student success and bring in more prospective students who share similar values of having energy-efficient, program-specific learning environments. With these plans, one in particular is controversially circulating campus: building the Northern Enterprise Center. The Enterprise Center would be a hub for business and entrepreneurship students, built on the southeast side of the academic mall near the McClintock building.

The plans for construction estimate $19 million in total funding, $13 million of which being funding from the state. With NMU’s new sustainability plan, The Enterprise Center would be built to be carbon-neutral, as 60-80% of NMU’s emissions are from heating buildings in the winter. 

With the looming changes and construction on campus, the student body is wary of how this will affect their well-being. As we have seen with the library renovations, uprooting and relocating critical elements of what makes a college campus has a significant impact on student satisfaction. Students are only at NMU for three to five years, and while there are long-term benefits to these renovations, so much change alters the integrity of many students’ college experience. With resources and public spaces being less available, the current student body feels less cared for by their university. 

The other problem with this new construction plan is the location of the building. If they’re going to put it in front of Hedgcock, they’d have to potentially tear up the grass and cut out the strip of woods between McClintock and where the new business center would be, meaning they’d also have to make the TFA parking lot substantially larger. Additionally, there is skepticism about how the new building would fit in the first place– it would have to have a lot of vertical square footage to have room for all of their plans for it, creating a sort of tower. Aesthetically, its new modern look imitating Jamrich Hall would homogenize the appearance of the campus; if every building looks the same, the campus loses personality, character, and culture. 

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When so much funding is put towards unnecessary and taxing projects like the Enterprise Center, it leaves students confused as to why the necessary things they need to thrive aren’t being obliged instead. The limited campus housing and public social spaces are the two largest things students advocate for. There is a gap in what the administrators believe would improve student success and what students believe would improve student success.

According to NMU’s 2021 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), 34% of students don’t feel valued by NMU’s institution, and 37% of students ranked the quality of their interactions with administrative staff below 67% effective. This means that at Northern, there are discrepancies between the effectiveness the administrators think they have as compared to what they actually have. 

Some argue that while annoying, this construction is imperative. A large population of NMU’s students are in business and marketing, and once the building is in use, it will make these students feel more supported and have a community. These factors are ultimately the biggest goal for student satisfaction. If prospective students see that campus has program-specific buildings, they will potentially feel more inclined and comfortable to come to NMU. The campus as it is today is very small because there is a lot of value in the outdoorsy environment and culture, but with a larger, modern, and carbon-neutral campus, NMU will be valued for more than its geographical location.

While this counterargument holds weight, the administration must consider what actually would increase student well-being and increase student population. The Enterprise Center is being built on the assumption that it will increase student satisfaction, but if administrators were listening to what students actually believe will help, the funds would be allocated to different things, like more student housing. One student said, “We’re not mad that you’re building things, we’re mad you’re not building things that we need.”

When students’ basic needs aren’t met, their academic performance and overall mental health decreases. The Enterprise Center is not a necessity; but housing, parking and social public spaces are. In 2024, there is a shortage of all of these necessities. If the goal is truly to improve student success, the administrators need to listen to the students instead of simply building something flashy and impressive. 

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