Second NMU presidential hopeful visits campus

MARQUETTE – Diversity was the topic of the hour Tuesday as the second candidate for the presidency of Northern Michigan University answered questions during a public forum.

“Universities are at their very best when we embrace a diverse set of ideas, when we look for ways in which we can promote an open dialogue, share and exchange views and so much of my work … has been around promoting diversity in its fullest sense,” said Fritz Erickson to a packed house gathered in the Bottum University Center’s Marquette and Nicolet rooms.

Erickson was the second of four finalists in the search for NMU’s newest president to visit campus this month.

Erickson is currently the provost and vice president for academic affairs at Ferris State University in Big Rapids. He formerly was dean of the College of Professional and Graduate Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, dean and professor in the College of Education and Human Development at Eastern Washington University and chairman of the education department/professor of education and psychology at Michigan Tech University.

Erickson has an interdisciplinary Ed.D. in educational psychology, technology and research methodology and a master’s in curriculum and instruction, both from the University of Northern Colorado, and a bachelor’s in social sciences from Western Michigan University.

He opened Tuesday’s forum with a brief comment about the outstanding people he had met as he walked the campus earlier this week before taking questions for roughly an hour, discussing topics such as enrollment, academic programming, leadership style, collective bargaining and diversity.

He spoke of a number of initiatives and programming decisions he was a part of at Ferris State, including the creation of a Center for Latino Studies. Erickson said the center had more than doubled the number of Latino students at the university.

“It has been a real benefit for our Latino students because it has provided them with a place and an identity,” Erickson said.

Erickson also spoke about the need for academic diversity and flexibility, citing the creation of 57 new programs and cutting of 32 in the last four years alone. He added that not a single faculty or staff member had been cut during the process.

“You might think that’s a real radical shift but much of that is a redesign of existing programs, it’s a repackaging, it’s a modernization of programs that have come in,” Erickson said.

A public feedback session was scheduled for 2 p.m. today in the Peter White Lounge of the University Center when students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members can share their thoughts on Erickson. Similar sessions will be held after every candidate visit.

The remaining finalists along with their scheduled visits are:

– Greg Cant, founding dean of the Offutt School of Business and Robert J. Johnson chair in economics and business administration at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., at NMU Thursday.

– Cynthia Pemberton, the provost and vice president for academic affairs and professor of education at Dickinson State University in Dickinson, N.D., at NMU April 15.

Pemberton’s original site visit, scheduled for April 2, was canceled due to inclement weather in the Dakotas at the time of her travel.

All public forums will be at 4 p.m. on their respective dates in the University Center.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.