Dear NMC Family,

As you are well aware, our world has changed dramatically in the matter of a couple of months, since the start of the semester; since COVID-19 entered our daily newsfeed and conversations, affecting our wider world, our country, and even right here in Michigan and at NMC.

In an effort to more effectively support student and campus safety, last week we decided to transition from face-to-face classes to virtual; to afford us social distancing precaution, while also seeking to minimize disruption to student learning. After sharing this decision with our campus community last Friday, I spent the rest of the morning and Saturday meeting one-on-one with students, to listen to their reactions, and to better understand their concerns about such a transition. I heard three consistent themes from them:

  1. they understand the ‘why’ of making changes to support student safety, and they support this decision;
  2. they are anxious about the transition from face-to-face to virtual learning, yet willing to make the change; and
  3. they have trust and confidence in their instructors to help support them, as they have always done.

In other words, despite the unprecedented change in student learning from face-to-face to virtual learning, our NMC students, like students around the country, are embracing the challenge.

Likewise, our faculty and staff, who we’re asking to do some serious ‘heavy lifting’ to convert from face-to-face teaching to the virtual learning environment in less than a week’s time, have responded with an equal sense of belief that ‘we can do this.’ In my conversations with employees, like students, they share a level of to-be-expected anxiousness. Yes, this will likely be the hardest thing we’ve ever done as educators. But, I am seeing employees respond to the challenge, clearly focused on supporting student success. It has been humbling to see our NMC faculty and staff going above and beyond to help address the challenges we are facing.

All of us are adapting to a situation that is changing more rapidly than we could have ever imagined. In this time of great volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity — yes, a true VUCA environment — there are questions for which we do not have ready answers and challenges that do not have easy solutions. Decisions made one day may not seem to make sense even 24 hours later. But, the NMC family has pulled together to figure it out, together. And, I am proud of how we’re collectively trying to do the best we can.

While there are many things we cannot change, there are actions we can take to make this situation less stressful. I have asked HR to work with supervisors on the following:

  • find ways to temporarily suspend the need to draw from your sick and vacation leave;
  • provide flexibility in your work schedule; and
  • allow for the possibility to work from home.

HR will be following up Tuesday, March 17, with specific guidance on how we will implement this. We have the responsibility to continue evaluating this constantly changing situation. Our intention is to afford you flexibility during this time of hardship.

Please understand that to continue to provide services to our students, and provide continuity to the college, we need all employees to remain committed during this crisis. What you do is very important, and we need your help over these next few weeks. There will be a time when the immediate threat of this virus has passed, and we can return to normal. Until the COVID-19 risk has passed, we will be as flexible and accommodating as possible.

Northwestern Michigan College was founded by the entrepreneurially-minded spirit of local citizens. These citizens had a possibilitarian spirit, a characteristic of resourcefulness believing that they could achieve more than was previously imagined. This organizational DNA has been passed along, since the college’s founding in 1951. Today, that spirit of resourcefulness lives on in each and every NMC family member — our staff and faculty, students, and alumni. Now, we are faced with a crucible, a challenge unlike no other. We must remind ourselves who we are and where we’ve come from. We must draw on our possibilitarian spirit and resourcefulness to serve our students and weather this challenge. In our 1951 NMC college brochure, there was a tagline which read, “Community Centered, Community Serving.” The actions we are taking will not only protect our staff and faculty, they will also keep our community safe and healthy. Let’s continue to exhibit our community mindedness, and please extend care toward each other. Assume positive intent, and support one another. Together we will overcome.

Thank you.


Nick Nissley, Ed.D. | President | Northwestern Michigan College | 231.995.1010