Dear NMC Family,

This week we saw the COVID-19 virus continue to spread and the health consequences reach heightened levels. With the shelter-in-place order in the San Francisco Bay Area and the closing of the US-Canada border, the world surely seems a little darker. But, we’ve also seen numerous executive orders designed to keep us safe, and a federal stimulus package that’s designed to fuel an economic recovery. It is also the end of our first week of transitioning from face-to-face to online learning. While everyone might expect that to be an incredible hurdle, our faculty and staff have boldly accepted the challenge. Departments like our Educational Media Technologies have been there to aid our faculty, and Student Success Coaches have continued to support student success by shifting to virtual coaching. Of course it’s not perfect. And, truth be told, we will experience challenges and conflict as we move ahead. But, that’s the good news. That’s a sign that we care deeply and want to get it right for our students.

When the founders of NMC created our college, it was to meet a need. They didn’t have a set of directions, but had to customize our college to serve our community. We share that same entrepreneurial spirit in our DNA today. The characteristic that defines the NMC family, which I am seeing so clearly during this time of unprecedented stress, is our resourcefulness and our possibilitarian nature. We believe that together, we can achieve more than was originally imagined. That has been the role of community colleges in our society – to serve as epicenters of hope. I’d like to share with you how the NMC Family is doing that. Some examples that I’ve seen this past week, that make me so proud.

  • After we closed the campus Tuesday, Library and Learning Services staff set up a system for students to pick up laptops, internet hot spots and lab course materials outside, so that students can have the tools they need to continue their classes. The staff have creatively figured out how to adhere to social distancing recommendations while minimizing disruption to student learning.
  • Similarly, our Student Life staff have found innovative solutions, to ensure that even though campus is closed, our most vulnerable, food insecure students, can have access to our Food Pantry. Student Life staff have bagged up groceries and personal care items for curbside pickup for students in need.
  • Our Residence Life staff are listening to heartbreaking situations, of students living in the campus apartments who have lost jobs and are now unable to pay rent. Staff are responding compassionately and suspending policies to ensure that our students can remain in campus apartments, even when rent goes unpaid, during this crisis.
  • As some students have chosen to leave our dorms, to go home to be with family, I watched our Residence Life staff help these students carry heavy loads to waiting cars. Heavy lifting is being done literally and figuratively by so many in our college community!
  • We are also keeping the business of the college working at this time with increased efforts from our custodial, maintenance and business office staff to ensure our college is safe and our operations continue.
  • Many of our employees and students work outside of the college as first responders – from nurses in the hospital ER to health care workers in locked-down nursing homes. While employees continue to serve our students, they are also serving the health care needs of our community, keeping others safe.
  • Not only are we taking action, we are also listening. An ombudsman virtual office has been established by Student Services, to ensure that student concerns are understood and addressed individually and systemically. This is a great example of seeking ways for the student voice to be heard directly during this crisis.

Yes, it’s easy to see the darkness that surrounds us this week. But, I’d counter, it’s also easy to see the truly ‘above and beyond’ efforts of our NMC family. Our faculty/staff/students are proving that the possibilitarian spirit is alive and well at NMC. Our campus community is being resourceful, flexible, creative, and compassionate as they seek to serve our students and community during this time of great challenge.

I am a believer of the leadership maxim, begin with the end in mind. A staff member reminded me this week, as she looks ahead, asking herself what might come of this, she suggested, “I really think that this time has bigger gifts that will emerge for us all in how we care for each other.” I also believe that we will grow stronger and closer through this experience. So, let’s keep pulling together.

We will overcome.


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