Success Story: Barbecue first date leads to 54-year marriage

May 18, 2016

Art and Judy McManusAmid the throngs bent on a buffalo burger, Cupid once shot an arrow.

On Sunday, his targets — Art McManus and Judy Couturier — plan to attend their 55th NMC Barbecue. They had their first date at the 1962 event (pictured below).

“My girlfriend and I were riding through town, and we met him and his friend. And he asked me to go to the Barbecue the next day,” recalled Judy, who was then 18.

There must have been something in the air besides the scent of barbecue. Six months later, Art and Judy were married. As they embarked on a life raising three children, running a family cherry farm, and professional careers, they always kept the Barbecue date on their calendar.

“Rain, sleet or snow, we’ve been there,” she said. “We just have never missed one.”

The McManuses fill the day with tradition, from visiting the classroom displays to the cakewalk to the newer “buffalo cam” photo opportunity. (Granddaughter Alica Revett is pictured at last year’s event below.) Their entourage has grown from two to as many as 17, now extending to a third generation.

NMC Barbecue in the 1960sThey support NMC for the opportunities it offers residents. All three of their children attended NMC, with one attending Ferris State University through the University Center as well. A grandson is currently enrolled in Davenport University at NMC’s University Center.

“It’s a good thing for the community,” Judy McManus said. “It’s good that (NMC) has all these other universities and colleges that participate with them. It makes it easier for the kids.”

Their Barbecue commitment will be tested this year. The McManuses will be celebrating their granddaughter’s hockey championship at a Tigers game in Detroit Saturday. But they’ll be up bright and early Sunday morning, headed home for the annual picnic under the pines.

“It’s a tradition. We can’t miss it,” Judy McManus said.

Success Story: Campaign’s comprehensive nature aligns with COVID-19 needs

October 28, 2020

Be What's Possible campaign logoEmergency temporary housing for three NMC students. Steel-toed boots that enabled a welding student to stay enrolled. Internet hotspots for students who suddenly needed to attend classes virtually. All were made possible this year through the NMC Foundation’s Be What’s Possible $35 million fundraising campaign.

Such direct, crisis relief funding was possible because of the campaign’s comprehensive design, a decision made in 2016. Back then, launching Be What’s Possible seemed ambitious: It’s 10 times the size of any previous NMC campaign, and aimed at multiple priorities simultaneously, instead of a specific capital project.

Then the coronavirus hit just six months after the final, public phase was announced in October 2019. The ambitious, comprehensive campaign proved to be exactly the solution for students weathering the pandemic.

One of the campaign’s four priorities, The Fund for NMC, is dedicated to the college’s most urgent needs. That fund immediately pivoted to crisis relief. Dollars directed to the Office of Student Life paid for the three students’ short-term hotel stays, until more permanent solutions were found.

“I was going to be staying in my truck, sleeping in my vehicle,” said Elyce Newcomb, a culinary student from Sault Ste. Marie who received housing assistance in September. “I didn’t want to leave my college classes.”

Carly McCall“(The pandemic) shifted the priority message to student support,” said campaign coordinator Carly McCall (left). “It really shifted the attention onto general, unrestricted support.”

NMC’s Office of Financial Aid was another vehicle to route assistance.

“We were able to take those dollars raised, and transfer them, through financial aid, directly to the students,” said Rebecca Teahen, associate vice president of resource development.

That opportunity to directly support students resonated with donors like Bob and Kathy Garvey of Williamsburg, new NMC donors this year.

“After COVID it was health, food, education. Those things sort of came to the forefront in terms of our giving,” said Bob Garvey. A newspaper story he read on student needs propelled the semi-retired lawyer to donate to support NMC scholarships.

“A lot of students are in service jobs, and I thought, ‘Man, these kids are between a rock and a hard place.’ ” Garvey said.

Many other donors thought the same thing. April 2020 became the Foundation’s fifth highest donor month ever. The second quarter of 2020, with more than 1,300 donors, was its second-highest quarter ever. Teahen said the “significant participation” was a silver lining to the pandemic.

“We know that philanthropy and giving is a way to connect, connect with your community and connect neighbors,” she said.

It’s never been more critical. The three housing requests are an indicator of how dire community need is due to COVID. Prior to 2020, Dean of Student Life Lisa Thomas said she’s housed just one student. But community programs and agencies she would normally rely on are pinched for funds, volunteers and time.

Bruce Byl and Susie JanisNow the ambitious Be What’s Possible campaign, co-chaired by NMC alumni Bruce Byl and Susie Janis (right), is looking eminently doable, with just $3 million left to raise. That makes all kinds of things possible for NMC in the future.

“It changes the nature of how we can operate, to know that this community can support on that level,” McCall said.

Be What’s Possible expects to achieve its goal and conclude in the first half of 2021. In addition to the college’s most urgent needs, supported by The Fund for NMC, and scholarships, which the Garveys donated to, the priorities include:

  • Innovative Facilities – To create places where students and the community can connect to resources and with each other. Focused on the Timothy J. Nelson Innovation Center and the expansion of the Dennos Museum, gifts for other facilities are also welcome.
  • Strong Programs – To stay at the forefront of educational innovation and drive economic growth through top-notch learning opportunities in all areas, from language arts to engineering technology.

“It allows donors to give in the way that makes sense for them,” Teahen said. “People want to help. Even when times are tough, they want to have a way to help their community.”

Success Story: Movie, panel discussion aims to illuminate impact of war

November 8, 2017

Since 2012, NMC has prioritized the success of student veterans on campus with a host of initiatives led by the office of Military and Veterans Services — from customized orientation to a veterans lounge to efforts to convert service into credits.

Almost Sunrise documentary imageTonight, some NMC veterans will take a step toward connecting the broader community with the experience of contemporary military service by taking part in a panel discussion following the 7 p.m. free screening of Almost Sunrise at Milliken Auditorium. The documentary tells the story of two veterans who embark on a cross-country hike in an effort to heal the psychological wounds left by their military service.

Construction technology student Fernando Cruz is familiar with that restless urge. An Army reservist between 1997 and 2010 who was deployed to Iraq for a year, he too crisscrossed the U.S. for work after his discharge.

“It’s not coincidental,” said Cruz, now of Kingsley, of his nomadic work transporting vehicles, and later for a drill rig company. “I was getting away. I had to get away.”

The father of twin 18-month-old sons, Cruz, 37, thinks there’s a “big disconnect” between civilians and military members. Tonight, he’ll try to help make that connection.

Veterans Day commemoration

Presented by NMC’s chapter of Student Veterans of America and 22 to None, an organization dedicated to stopping veteran suicide, the film comes as NMC prepares to commemorate Veterans Day on campus. The following events are scheduled for Monday, Nov. 13:

  • 8:30 a.m. – Free breakfast for all veterans and active duty military in the Hawk Owl Cafe in West Hall.
  • 9:20 a.m. – Walk of Honor. The campus community is invited to line up along the sidewalks from West Hall to the flagpoles west of the Tanis Building. Led by the Traverse City Central High School drum line, veterans will walk from West Hall to the flagpoles.
  • 9:30 a.m. – Flag-raising ceremony conducted by the VFW with the Traverse City Central High School band.
  • 10 a.m.–noon – Coffee and cake served in West Hall for the entire campus community in honor of veterans.

About five percent of NMC students are veterans. For the third consecutive year NMC has been certified as a Gold-Level Veteran-Friendly School by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency. NMC was also named the fifth-best “Best for Vets” community college nationwide by Military Times in 2016.

NMC will also focus on the student veteran transition in the January 2018 issue of Nexus, which will be published as the nation marks the ten-year anniversary of the post-9/11 GI Bill®, which granted educational benefits to veterans serving after Sept. 11, 2001.

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government Web site at

Success Story: NMC alumna addresses University of Michigan commencement

April 20, 2016

Kathryn BertodattoMost college students accumulate credits to earn their degree. NMC alumna Kathryn Bertodatto also accumulated miles — 30,000, in fact.

Photo credit: Michigan Photography, Scott Soderberg

On Saturday, Bertodatto, a 2014 graduate of NMC, spoke to an audience of 50,000 as the University of Michigan’s student commencement speaker. She told the Michigan Stadium spectators, including university president Mark Schlissel and former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, that she had commuted from Traverse City so as not to disrupt her young children’s education. That meant racking up some 30,000 miles in pursuit of her bachelor’s degree in English.

“The crowd erupted, and I had to compose myself,” said Bertodatto, who sometimes left Traverse City at 3 or 4 a.m. to make an 8:30 a.m. class in Ann Arbor. She packed her classes into three and a half days so she could return to Traverse City in time to pick up her sons from elementary school Thursday afternoons.

Recalling “crying in the stairwell,” Bertodatto, 31, said the transfer was difficult at first, when she felt intimidated by the intellect of her peers at the prestigious university. But by having courage — the title of her speech — she gradually gained confidence. It was all worth it, she said.

“If I’m going to work this hard to get a degree, I’m going to have it be from one of the best universities in the nation,” she said.

She credited NMC for preparing her well. During her NMC years she traveled to Brazil to teach English for a month, and also worked in what is now the office of International Services and Service Learning.

“I’m so proud of how far I’ve come, and NMC has been such a huge part of that journey,” she said, adding that President Schlissel sent her a personal email after the ceremony. “It’s amazing to have people who have such influence know my name.”

The commencement ceremony itself was a blur, both literally and figuratively, Bertodatto said, noting that it was a very windy day.

“I was trying to get my message across and not eat my hair,” she said.

A writer, Bertodatto has completed a children’s book manuscript that she plans to submit for publication. A novel is next on her to-do list. And with the odometer approaching 200,000 miles, she’s looking forward to keeping her 2004 Honda Pilot parked more.

“I need a new car, but we’re going to see how the writing pans out, first,” she said.

Success story: Breaking New Terroir

Viticulture student Kurtis BerryCollaborative Viticulture Students Reach Beyond the 45th Parallel

May 20, 2015

Kurtis Berry

Like a grapevine twining up a trellis, NMC’s collaborative viticulture program is growing tendrils of its own and is poised for a growth spurt this summer.

Two students in the five-year-old program are breaking new terroir with their summer internships. Kurtis Berry (right)(above) is the first to intern overseas, at Vignamato winery and vineyard in Marche, Italy, while Ethan Baker (below) is the first to head to the Pacific Northwest. He’ll spend his summer at Winemakers, LLC, a vineyard management company in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

Worldwide, the wine industry traces its history back hundreds of years, so those are impressive placements for students from a program that just began in 2010. Viticulture is the newest plant science certificate option offered by Michigan State University at NMC’s University Center. About 28 students are now enrolled, simultaneously pursing an associate’s degree from NMC and an MSU viticulture certificate.

Berry and Baker will complete their internships while on hiatus from their jobs in the regional wine industry, at Brys Estate and 45 North, respectively. The latter is named for the 45th parallel of latitude, which makes both northwest Michigan and Washington suited to grow wine grapes.

Viticulture student Ethan Baker“I chose Washington because, parallel-wise, it’s very similar to Michigan,” Baker said. Yet the industry there operates on a completely different scale. Winemakers LLC manages about 1,200 acres of vineyards — equivalent to almost half the wine grape acreage in the entire state of Michigan.

Ethan Baker

“It’s not an experience I could get in this area,” Baker, 22, said.

That’s exactly the point, said viticulture program coordinator Brian Matchett.

“Our industry, the grape and wine industry in Michigan, is going to be stronger if you have experiences in another part of the country, or another part of the world,” Matchett said.

Berry, 25, is equally enthusiastic, even though he doesn’t speak much Italian.

“I’m thrilled. I think it’s going to open my eyes about old world viticulture,” he said. “It’s going to open my eyes to the industry as a whole.”

Both students will return to Traverse City in August. Baker plans to graduate from the viticulture program this December and Berry in May 2016.

Learn more about the NMC-MSU viticulture and other plant science programs »

Success Story: Alumnus will share native Zimbabwe with Netflix audiences

April 3, 2019

Godwin JabangweGodwin Jabangwe says life’s put him in the right place at the right time, taking him from his native Zimbabwe to an NMC classroom to another in Grand Rapids to Los Angeles.

Now the former visual communications student-turned-screenwriter will bring that serendipity full circle, taking Netflix audiences back to Zimbabwe after closing a “monster” sale for his first feature film, Tunga, inspired by the mythology of the Shona culture in that African country.

“Even now, it doesn’t feel real. It’s so crazy and unexpected,” said Jabangwe, 35, who attended NMC from 2007-2010 and discovered screenwriting while working in the Beckett Building computer lab.

“That’s actually how I started writing. I would have eight-hour shifts,” he said. “You reached the end of the Internet.”

Jabangwe’s deal is the first to come out of Imagine Impact, a talent incubator founded by Hollywood heavyweights Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (below, right) and headed by Tyler Mitchell (below, left) in 2018.

Tyler Mitchell, Godwin Jabangwe and Brian Grazer“They bring in talented writers who are seeking a breakthrough,” Jabangwe said. He’d been working on the Tunga idea but joining the Impact class, which paired writers with mentors, allowed him to focus. The experience ended in February with a pitch day to potential buyers, which Jabangwe called both “very exciting” and “terrifying.” Netflix won Tunga in a four-way bidding war. (Watch video of Jabangwe celebrating his deal.)

Though he’s a long way from NMC, where he followed his older brother, Succeed, Jabangwe’s path from Traverse City is one of steady progress. He lived in the NMC apartments and took his first film class here. The college was small enough that he could adapt to the U.S., but big enough to allow him to dream.

“I’d always wanted to be in film somehow,” he said. “NMC allowed me to settle into life in the United States without getting too much of a culture shock.”

(Spring international student enrollment stands at 48 students. International students help achieve NMC’s strategic direction of ensuring learners are prepared for success in a global society and economy.)

Following NMC, Jabangwe earned a bachelor’s degree in film from Grand Valley State University. He aspired to UCLA’s prestigious screenwriting program, but didn’t think he could get in. Instead, he enrolled in a master’s degree program in computer science. He got his acceptance from UCLA during class one day.

“I just got up and packed my bags and walked out,” he said. “I packed up my little car and drove to LA.”

Jabangwe will now continue development of the Tunga script. There is no announced release date yet.

Success Story: Making Uncle Sam proud

November 11, 2015

Helicopter rescue of a climber in Washington's Olympic Mountain RangeLifesaving has been all in a day’s work for Doug Lathrop for more than 25 years.

As a helicopter rescue swimmer and advanced helicopter rescue school instructor for the U.S. Coast Guard, Lathrop’s descended to places like Washington’s Olympic Mountain Range (left) where he plucked a climber who had fractured a knee and cracked ribs in a fall. He worked in nine states, including Alaska, and was certified as an EMT.

So when he started thinking about life after the Coast Guard, nursing seemed like a natural path. And Lathrop, 50, knew right where he wanted to start that second career: NMC.

At 25, Seth DuMoulin is on the opposite side of his Coast Guard career. But like Lathrop, he, too, attends NMC using military benefits, fitting in classes around his active duty schedule at USCG Air Station Traverse City in pursuit of an engineering degree.

Lathrop and DuMoulin are among the 5 percent of NMC students who are veterans or active-duty military. They share an academic distinction, too: Both are on the dean’s list.

Traverse City station

A California native, Lathrop and his family were first stationed in Traverse City from 2000 to 2004, and his youngest son was born here. Other stations followed, and then the family of five returned for a second stint in 2009. In 2013 Lathrop left for his last Coast Guard post, in North Carolina. He rejoined his family in Kingsley in 2014, and started classes at NMC that fall.

While he credits the Coast Guard for instilling his work ethic, the pre-ADN student said it’s NMC faculty and staff who have inspired an enthusiasm for learning that didn’t exist the first time he tried college.

“They definitely set veterans up for success here at the college,” said Lathrop, who aspires to earn a master’s degree and teach nursing himself.

Writing instructors Janet Lively and Jennifer Witt were especially significant, he said, so much so that he’s now employed in NMC’s Writing & Reading Center.

“I wasn’t a very good writer the first time,” he said. “NMC really allowed me to take off with my writing.”

College support ‘critical’

NMC student and U.S. veteran Seth DuMoulinDuMoulin (right) agreed college support has been critical to his persistence. An avionics electrical technician for the Coast Guard, he started in fall 2013 and almost every semester, duties and deployments have prevented regular attendance.

“NMC has been really good at working around it,” he said. In spring 2014, for instance, the Coast Guard sent him to two different out-of-state trainings held mid-semester.

“I had to complete the semester load in two weeks,” DuMoulin said of his intermediate algebra class. Instructor Jim Szczechowski let him take the final a month and a half early and DuMoulin earned a 4.0.

He missed the fall 2014 semester altogether due to an international deployment. He was enrolled and expecting to resume classes in spring 2015 when yet another deployment forced him to miss the first week. Even back in Traverse City, his shift scheduling meant he missed another two classes per month. DuMoulin still landed on the dean’s list.

Like Lathrop, DuMoulin said the Coast Guard helped cultivate him into a student. He enlisted in 2010, after an unfulfilling post-high school graduation year working in a Youngstown, Ohio, Pizza Hut. “My study habits weren’t the best from high school,” he said.

Now, he prides himself on his academic reputation. His instructors know that if duty calls, he won’t use it as an excuse.

“They know I’m going to try on my part to stay caught up,” he said.

DuMoulin also tries to visit his two-year-old son back in Ohio as often as he can, and is thinking ahead to summer 2017, when his commitment at Air Station Traverse City will expire. He’d like to find an engineering job in Colorado, where he could snowboard. Whether military or civilian, his advice for student success is simple.

“I realized all I needed to do was care. That went a long way,” he said.

Success story: Museum expansion, new student housing break ground

August 31, 2016

Residence hall groundbreakingStudents returning to classes this week will find construction projects poised on both ends of main campus, as the facilities of NMC’s future learners move from paper to reality.

NMC broke ground on a new student residence hall and fitness center July 11. That was followed by an Aug. 15 groundbreaking for an expansion of the Dennos Museum Center.

Both projects will update aging campus infrastructure and allow the college to meet the needs and expectations of twenty-first century students.

“Combined, these projects show the dedication of our NMC employees, donors, community, business and governmental partners all working together to help ensure our learners are successful,” said President Timothy J. Nelson. “It’s an exciting time as we see years of hard work begin to materialize and we continue to invest in the future of education.”

Residence Hall

Located on the north side of East Hall, the residence hall will accommodate 140 students beginning in the fall 2017 semester. Current student housing at NMC has been at capacity for three years, and existing housing is more than 40 years old. NMC is self-funding the $8.8-million project.

Dennos expansion

Dennos expansion groundbreakingLocated on the southeast side of the existing museum, the project includes two new permanent collection galleries, a new sculpture gallery, a larger Inuit art gallery, additional classroom space and storage and loading dock improvements. Built in 1991, the expansion is targeted for completion in 2017, capping the Museum’s 25th anniversary year. The $5 million project was spearheaded by major gifts from Richard and Diana Milock and Dudley and Barbara Smith.

Also on the drawing board in 2017 is NMC’s renovation of West Hall into a student innovation center. Using a state planning grant, the college will move into design phase, conducting interview with designers and architects next year, and returning to the state for construction authorization by October 2018.

As envisioned, the project would almost double the size of West Hall, from 20,000 to 38,000 square feet. It would provide for 13 adaptive, technology-rich learning spaces to be used across the curriculum for simulation, team-based and project learning. Nelson noted the support of local legislators Representative Larry Inman (R-Traverse City), Senator Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City) and Senator Darwin Booher (R-Evart) has been integral to the project’s progress.

Success Story: Two TC students forge forward this fall

December 19, 2018

NMC seeks to help each student achieve their personal definition of success. As the fall 2018 semester concludes, enjoy a tale of two very diverse students, each succeeding in her own way.

Maria LeggettThis semester, on the heels of an internship in Seattle and a study-abroad trip to Italy, Maria Leggett, 27, completed the requirements for her culinary degree and co-founded a student group, all while working in two Traverse City restaurants.

She’s come a long way since she first enrolled, after graduating from Traverse City West High School in 2010. Then she studied business, but found it wasn’t for her. Leggett left and tried a range of jobs — factory work, banking, and the food industry. After three years she decided to give college a second try, re-enrolling in fall 2016. Her passion for food led her to the Great Lakes Culinary Institute.

She’s most proud of the student group, Spoonful of Foodies, which works to spread Traverse City’s “super foodie town” culture to the college, working with the food pantry to offer cooking demonstrations.

“Simple recipes that college students who have limited equipment can prepare,” Leggett said. “Some students just don’t know how to cook.”

While she clearly does, Leggett says she loves learning and plans to go on a second study abroad trip to Italy in the spring, while continuing to work at Trattoria Stella and The Good Bowl. Eventually she’d like to combine ethnic cuisines and work in a fusion-style kitchen.

Hannah KrohnHannah Krohn, 20, is also a Traverse City native, graduating from Grand Traverse Academy in 2017. She maintains a 4.0 grade point average, serves on NMC Student Government, is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the international community college honor society, and three other college groups, all while managing severe dyslexia.

This semester, her class in Western Civilization helped Krohn to enhance and refine a language of symbols and color coding that she uses to compensate for poor reading fluency of traditional, written text. Her textbooks are audio and tests are read aloud, but her original language is key to effective studying.

“It’s the semester when I’m feeling the impact,” of the effort she’s put forth since enrolling in fall 2017, Krohn said. The Writing and Reading Center helped her create a resume that earned her a summer job as a behavioral technician, working with autistic children.

Her 4.0 GPA notwithstanding, her proudest achievement is the independent study in ceramics that she was approved for this semester. Post-graduation in 2020, she’d like to use her sculpting skills working as an installer for three-dimensional pieces in aquariums and museums.

In the meantime, she loves NMC.

“I really like the environment. There’s a small community and they’re very accepting here,” Krohn said.

Success Story: Culinary alumnus carves career path at retail market

February 8, 2017

Culinary Institute alumnus and Plum Markets vice president Randy WeedConsider the ideal working conditions for a chef, and Randy Weed has it all: Recipe development responsibility, gigantic pantry full of top-quality ingredients, and satisfied, often repeat customers.

The twist is that Weed wields his talents in the kitchen of an upscale grocery store, rather than a restaurant. The 1996 NMC culinary graduate is the vice president of culinary at Plum Market, an upscale retail grocer with six locations in metro Detroit and Chicago.

Weed’s career path illustrates the options available to current Great Lakes Culinary Institute students, who on Feb. 24 will host A Taste of Success, a strolling dinner of international cuisines and the program’s biggest scholarship fundraiser.

“When I started out in this career, the last place I ever wanted to work was a grocery store,” said Weed. But he’s found his passion for food, kindled at NMC by instructors like the late Lucy House and Pete Peterson, is stoked daily at Plum.

“My goal has always been to have the highest quality food we can get. There is no better pantry than what I could access here,” said Weed, who supervises eight other chefs and creates the recipes served up at six different stations in the store, from an all-organic salad bar to a hot bar to a carving station whose all-natural meat entrees change themes daily, from Asian to chophouse to Latin. Plum also offers in-store cafes and catering.

“It’s the next step in the evolution of what’s going on with food,” Weed said. “We don’t look at other retail markets as being our competition. We look at other fine restaurants.”

He would know. As a student, Weed did an internship at Tapawingo, Peterson’s legendary restaurant in Ellsworth, which closed in 2009. He later worked at other high-end northern Michigan restaurants including Latitude in Bay Harbor and the Garland Resort & Country Club east of Gaylord. After moving downstate, he cooked in top-tier restaurants including the now-closed Golden Mushroom and Roast in Detroit.

Plum Markets store interiorThe interior of a Plum Market storeHe’s thrilled to have landed at Plum, which has doubled its locations since he joined the company seven years ago. Besides his daily kitchen duties, Weed enjoys tasks like last year’s trip to Spain, to develop a partnership with the world’s largest purveyor of Spanish olive oil.

“Everything I learned at NMC and all the different experiences prepared me for it,” he said.

Weed’s advice to current culinary students?

“Work for the job that you want, not the job that you have. You can always do a little more, learn a little more, try to be a little better.”

And remember that even with a VP in your title, certain tasks in the kitchen always need to be done.

“That’s an example of Lucy House. She was never afraid to sweep and mop the floor.”

Tickets to A Taste of Success are $100 each. Sponsor tables are also available. Buy online and support culinary student success.

Success story: NMC students increasingly tap state scholarships

October 12, 2022

NMC graduates at the 2022 commencement celebration

The ranks of adult learners attending NMC on the Michigan Reconnect scholarship more than doubled this fall, as the program that seeks to improve the state’s talent pipeline surpassed the $500,000 mark in funds awarded locally.

Meanwhile, a new state aid program, the Michigan Achievement Scholarship will make college more affordable for high school graduates attending NMC full-time next fall. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation Tuesday.

“There’s never been a better time to improve your earning potential through higher education,” said NMC President Nick Nissley. “Together, Michigan Reconnect and Michigan Achievement mean NMC has dedicated state scholarships available for our two largest student pools: high school graduates and adult learners without a credential.”

NMC economic impact data shows that people with an associate degree earn $8,500 more per year than someone with only a high school diploma. 

Launched last year, Michigan Reconnect is available to adults 25 and over who don’t already have a degree or certificate. This semester, 234 students took advantage of the free in-district tuition. Total NMC Reconnect participation stands at 400 students who have received $562,804. Reconnect followed a similar scholarship, Futures for Frontliners, for adult essential workers who stayed on the job through the shutdown phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some 530 NMC students took advantage of Futures for Frontliners, receiving $1.3 million.

Now the Michigan Achievement Scholarship aims to provide similar financial incentive for high school students to attend college. Starting with the high school class of 2023, students will be eligible for up to $2,750/year in aid if they attend a community college full time (12 credits) and demonstrate financial need.

 NMC Director of Financial Aid Linda Berlin estimates that up to 200 2023 high school graduates could qualify for Michigan Achievement, and NMC could award between $300,000–$400,000. 

“This student financial aid program is a historic investment in the future of Michigan’s young people. The more we invest in our colleges and our students, the more prosperous our state will be,” said Brandy Johnson, president of the Michigan Community College Association. 

In addition to those state funds, NMC also awards more than $1 million in institutional,  donor-directed scholarships through the NMC Foundation.

Success story: TC Central student tastes confidence in culinary program

January 6, 2016

Aiden VossWhen Aiden Voss graduates from Traverse City Central High School in June, she’ll simultaneously be just a few credits shy of an NMC culinary degree, thanks to dual enrollment.

The 18-year-old also discovered something even more valuable than the thousands of tuition dollars she saved by dual-enrolling: the confidence to forge her own opportunities.

While dual enrollment at NMC has increased rapidly the last three years — up almost 30 percent this semester vs. spring 2015 — Voss is the first dual-enrolled student in NMC’s culinary program. (Most students take general introductory classes like English, sociology or psychology, which transfer widely.) She had to get special permission from both her high school counselor and Culinary Institute director Fred Laughlin.

“To have that experience of asking for what I want, and pursuing it, and having these people count on me for quality product and quality grades, that’s been huge,” she said.

Voss had the chops to make the ask. At 13, she walked into the Cook’s House, one of the most acclaimed restaurants in Traverse City’s strong restaurant scene, and started staging, or apprenticing. From dishwashing to salads to food prep to the hot line, she learned her way around the entire kitchen.

Academically self-motivated as well, Voss tested out of several classes by the time she entered high school, leaving a gap in her schedule. Armed with her Cook’s House experience, she decided to see if she could dual enroll in the culinary program. Laughlin, who taught Voss in Introduction to Baking, called her an excellent student.

“She is inquisitive, hard-working and always has a smile on her face. She was a joy to have in class,” he said.

Voss kept pushing the bar for her internship credit this past summer, She worked at Chez Panisse, the venerable Berkeley, Calif. restaurant that pioneered the farm-to-table trend of showcasing fresh, local ingredients that has heavily influenced the Traverse City restaurant scene.

Whether it’s in the kitchen or the classroom, Voss looks for one thing.

“It’s the passion that’s important,” she said. She’s seen it outside the culinary program, too. Her Spanish instructor, Charles Fleis, can go on for half an hour on the etymology of a particular word.

“To see such passion, it just shapes you, I think,” she said. “It’s all about the people you’re around.”

Fleis said that phenomenon is circular. Voss and several other dual-enrolled students took his class in the evening, when they could have chosen other activities, and demonstrated curiosity and excitement about the subject.

“That puts fuel in my fire. They then help to motivate me,” said Fleis, who dual-enrolled himself more than 25 years ago, before it was an established practice. As a Kingsley High School senior in 1988-89 he took French at NMC. He went on to earn a PhD and teaches both Spanish and French now.

“I kind of relate to Aiden in that regard. I was impassioned about language and wanted to do something with it,” he said. “It’s not only a good thing economically for  NMC, but it’s wise. It gets students motivated about higher education and what it can do for them.”

Voss’ post-high school plans are still fluid. She’d like to earn a business degree at a small, four-year liberal arts school. She wants to study abroad — Thailand and India are among her top destinations. Eventually, she’d like to return to Traverse City to finish up the culinary degree.

Learn more about dual enrollment »

Success Stories from NMC

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NMC students both past and present, along with faculty, staff and alumni, are achieving success in the classroom and their chosen fields. This section showcases just a few of those successes. Sign up for NMC Now below to get these stories (plus upcoming campus events and media mentions) delivered to your inbox every other week during the fall and spring semesters. You can unsubscribe at any time. (Check out past issues here and below.)

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Success Story: Experiential learning, live from downtown

February 7, 2018

NMC Audio Tech students set up for a 2017 show at the Opera HouseFor NMC Audio Technology students, Picnic at the Opera House is anything but.

Under the direction of instructor Jonah Powell (right, foreground), 20-some students are responsible for all set-up and tear-down, changing the stage between each of the seven acts and mixing audio for both live and television audiences.

“Audio is one of the more critical parts. It’s got to work on TV and it’s got to work in the house,” said Matt Cowall, communications director at the UpNorth Media Center, which broadcasts the free, live show that started its sixth season run today.

That pressure means Picnic, performed each Wednesday in February, offers an ideal experiential learning, or EL, setting. With spring semester now in full swing, audio technology students are among many at NMC gaining from EL, defined as experiences where learning is deepened and enhanced through direct application of knowledge, both in and out of the classroom.

Leaders of a project to expand EL at NMC estimate at least half of students have one experiential class, and are striving to increase that.

NMC success coach Leeann Fountain and student Taylor ByersIt’s a natural fit for classes like Audio Tech.

“We have to make an effort to make it like a classroom,” Powell joked of the program.

Picnic’s four-week run also fulfills the EL requirement of reflection on the experience in order to improve it the next time.

“It allows students the opportunity to tweak something and try it again the next week,” said Kristi Dockter, marketing director at the Opera House.

Classes traditionally taught via lecture and textbook are also working to incorporate EL in order to capitalize on research showing it deepens learning, student engagement, and persistence toward educational goals.

Check out NMC students’ talents as Picnic continues Feb. 14, 21 and 28, from noon–1 p.m. at the City Opera House. Cowall added that the students have enhanced the live side of the event in particular.

“It’s a different beast in the performance space. It’s something we on the TV side aren’t that well versed in,” he said of the house sound. “Having (NMC’s) expertise at the table really makes this thing go.”

Success Story: Skilled trades to transfer, grads showcase NMC’s breadth

April 27, 2022

Commencement 2022 means a quadruple celebration for the Myers-Rockwood family, whose four NMC graduates also illustrate the breadth of learning opportunities at the college.

Bridget Bernhard, David Myers and Olivia RockwoodBridget Bernhard, David Myers and Olivia RockwoodOn May 7, the blended Traverse City clan will celebrate the graduations of brothers David and Jack Myers, stepsister Olivia Rockwood, and David Myers’ fiancee, Bridget Bernhard. All four arrived at NMC via different routes, studied vastly different subjects and have distinctly different future plans. Yet the college was able to serve them all. 

“I really enjoyed it with the vast amount of curriculum I could take,” said Olivia Rockwood, 21, who enrolled in everything from anthropology to life drawing. She enrolled at NMC in the fall of 2020 to “reassess” after a year at Michigan Technological University, which wasn’t a good fit. Armed with her associate degree, this fall Rockwood will transfer to the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in product design.

Stepbrother David Myers, 26, started at NMC in 2013 as a dual-enrolled high school student. Now finishing “my 10-year, two-year degree,” he said being able to attend at his own pace was important to his persistence. 

“I’ve had a lot of great classes. (But) I don’t think I’ve ever had a full-time semester,” said Myers. His next big step is marrying Bernhard in July.

Bernhard, 28, is earning two associate degrees, one of which is in electrical renewable energy. She chose the field after taking time following her 2012 Traverse City West High School graduation to travel in the developing world. At NMC, Bernhard especially appreciated the female instructors she had in the typical male world of skilled trades. She completed an apprenticeship and is considering either pursuing a journeyman electrician’s license or transferring for a four-year degree after her wedding to David Myers.

Youngest sibling Jack Myers, 19, studied computer science and will transfer to a four-year school next year.

Parents Bill Myers and Kris Rockwood have NMC connections, too. Myers is a former NMC trustee and Rockwood, the owner of Press On Juice, has employed NMC culinary graduates.

More than 600 graduates will earn degrees and certificates from NMC in 2022. In-person commencement ceremonies will be held Saturday, May 7 in Milliken Auditorium at the Dennos Museum Center.

Success Story: White Pine Press alumnus is Michigan’s Journalist of the Year

April 25, 2018

White Pine Pres alumnus Garret EllisonReporter Garret Ellison atop the Mackinac BridgeMLive environmental reporter Garret Ellison, a 2006 NMC graduate, has been named the 2017 Michigan Journalist of the Year by the Michigan Press Association.

Ellison, 35, was cited for his “watchdog work” on issues of water use and Great Lakes protection, which reaches a reported online audience of 11 million readers a month. MLive also feeds seven Michigan newspapers.

He says he found his career calling at NMC, after he started publishing photos in the White Pine Press. His writing was “good enough” but it was the timing that was perfect for the 2001 Traverse City West High School graduate, who found himself in the editor’s role when the rest of the staff graduated and longtime faculty advisers retired.

“We decided to redesign it and re-imagine some of the coverage scope,” Ellison said of himself and then new adviser Kim Schneider.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t had the opportunity to helm the White Pine Press in the way I did,” Ellison said. “The White Pine Press was where I learned to be a journalist.”

He still uses those lessons, particularly the instinct to follow his own initiative, on the environmental beat, where he transitioned from business in 2014.

“I always wanted to be an investigative reporter, and I didn’t see much of a path to doing that covering business,” Ellison said. “At the time I didn’t have much environment experience (but) nobody was tasked with covering environment from a statewide perspective.”

It made sense for him to try since he was based in Grand Rapids, MLive’s biggest city. The condition of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac was becoming a bigger issue, so Ellison started paying attention to that. At an editor’s suggestion, he started looking into Nestle’s groundwater withdrawals in northern Michigan. Then came legacy contamination, Superfund sites and more.

“You start looking for meatier angles to stuff,” said Ellison, who views investigation as his obligation. “We serve the public. As members of the press, we are uniquely resourced to hold power to account. That, I think is the ultimate point of having a free press.”

Ellison imparts that message to his own students, too. In addition to his daily reporting for MLive, Ellison is now an adjunct journalism instructor at Grand Valley State University.

“It’s a little weird. I’m not so far removed from being on the other side of the coin there,” said Ellison, who went on to Central Michigan University after NMC.

“I really feel a lot of value in the community college experience, and I’m grateful the institution was there for me,” he said.

Success Story: Public phase of $35 million campaign opens

October 9, 2019

Be What's Possible campaign logoNMC today kicked off the public phase of the most ambitious fundraising initiative in its history. Be What’s Possible, the Campaign for NMC, has a goal of raising $35 million in four priority areas.

Eighty percent, or $28 million, has already been raised through leadership gifts. The priority areas are:

  • The Fund for NMC – Flexible funding to help the college meet its highest priorities and greatest needs.
  • Innovative Facilities – To create places where students and the community can connect to resources and with each other. Focused on the Timothy J. Nelson Innovation Center and the expansion of the Dennos Museum, gifts for other facilities are also welcome.
  • Strong Programs – To stay at the forefront of educational innovation and drive economic growth through top-notch learning opportunities in all areas, from language arts to engineering technology.
  • Scholarships – To guarantee access for motivated learners in our community. This campaign seeks to increase the number and breadth of scholarships available to students as well as increasing funding for existing scholarships.

Be What's Possible campaign co-chair Susie Janis Be What’s Possible campaign co-chair Susie JanisThe $35 million goal is more than ten times higher than the college’s most ambitious prior campaign, $3 million for the Great Lakes campus, which opened in 2003-04. Since 2016 the college has been the recipient of ten gifts of $1 million or more, designated in support of programs, scholarships, and facilities, which established the evidence of support for the $35 million goal.

“We believe that the response shown by the community so far is clear evidence of the appreciation and support that the college has in our community,” said campaign co-chair Susie Janis. “We are very grateful to the donors who have already stepped forward to be the leaders of this important endeavor.”

President Timothy J. Nelson said, “NMC has always been the community’s college. This campaign is reflective of this legacy of commitment, and the college and community will reach a new level of achievement together.”

To give to Be What’s Possible, visit or call (231) 995-1021.

Success Story: NMC-Traverse House partnership wins award

February 27, 2019

Brenda Clifton and Scott WilliamsBrenda Clifton and Scott WilliamsDishwasher is not a job that lands on many top-ten career lists, meaning many hospitality employers, including NMC’s Hagerty Center, struggle to find them.

But for someone like Brenda Clifton, it can be life-changing.

“It helps me a lot because it gives me responsibility,” said Clifton, the Hagerty Center’s newest kitchen steward, who was initially hired through a transitional employment partnership with Traverse House, a unit of Northern Lakes Community Mental Health. “People depend on me to be there.”

Next month, the Hagerty Center will accept a statewide award for the partnership, which offers a vulnerable population an important hand up to independence and addresses an NMC strategic goal of building collaborative relationships.

“Of our independently employed individuals, probably 70 percent have been placed in a transitional experience,” said Traverse House Director Hannah Driver. She nominated the Hagerty Center, led by Executive Chef Scott Williams and Director Chad Schenkelberger, for the award, to be presented by state Rep. Larry Inman.

“They had faith in us and faith in our program, and it’s worked out wonderfully,” Driver said. “We choose the best employers.”

Under the program, two Traverse House members work as Hagerty Center kitchen stewards between 12 to 15 hours per week for six to nine months. Traverse House selects the employees, bypassing the interview process. Selected employees get work experience and an employer reference. After the transition period, ideally the individual goes on to independent employment, and a new Traverse House member takes the kitchen steward job.

Clifton, 63, says it’s the best job she’s ever had.

“I love it. The people there are really nice,” said Clifton, who now works up to 20 hours a week. She can walk to work from her home, and it offers structure to her life.

Transitional employees are usually scheduled for shorter shifts during the day. Traverse House provides backup if the employee misses work. Williams credited the entire Hagerty Center team for helping Clifton adapt to the often hectic work environment.

“It can be an intimidating environment, walking into a kitchen, for anybody,” he said, noting that Hagerty meals often seat 200 people.

Since completing the transition period, Clifton can work longer shifts on nights and weekends and doesn’t need much supervision, Williams said.

“She’s a rock star now. We love having her.”

Schenkelberger agreed the center benefits as much as the employee. “This position traditionally has one of the highest turnover rates in the hospitality industry. So this partnership has brought us a sense of security knowing we have additional members of Traverse House looking to fill the position if a spot opens up,” he said.

In fact, Williams is hoping to convert another Traverse House transitional employee to permanent status: Justin Reed, 32. For his part, Reed, a former Goodwill Inn resident, says both employment and housing help him get through daily challenges.

“I would be more hesitant to work at that employer, if there wasn’t support,” he said. “I’m a strong advocate for mental health services.”