Dear NMC community,

One of the points of pride for our college is how many of you have dedicated decades of your careers here to serve our learners. That expertise and historical knowledge have been invaluable to me as I work to learn more about how we can best meet the needs of all of our stakeholders. But with that longevity, we will eventually begin to see some transitions and must take time to recognize and honor those individuals who have helped create the college we know and love today.

It is my privilege to thank Marguerite Cotto for her nearly four decades of service to Northwestern Michigan College as she prepares to retire at the end of 2021. It is incredibly rare to demonstrate such service to one organization these days, but we can all agree how rare she is in many ways.

While the math may seem impossible when you consider her youthful spirit, she started her career at NMC in 1979 as a Spanish instructor. It was a long way from the University of Puerto Rico where she focused on Soil Science and Hispanic Studies, but her adventuresome attitude has been a common thread through her varied interests. In northern Michigan she planted roots, began to grow and flourish. She advanced to become academic chair where she developed one of the richest modern language programs of its kind in the state. She was later tapped to lead the University Center. In that role, her diplomatic leadership style united independent minded institutions under a common goal. That strength also positioned her to lead a group of programs as diverse as College for Kids and the new Marine Center as Vice President of Lifelong & Professional Learning.

One of her natural strengths is her ability to connect with a wide variety of people from different backgrounds including our tech advisory boards, WNMC DJs, water studies students in Costa Rica and new education partners in China. From agriculture, to audio-tech, to Unmanned Aerial Systems and much more, she sees the unique value in every program NMC might offer our learners, and is a strong advocate for those behind it. Another strength is her ability to see endless possibilities. That vision led to the important turn-around of a once challenged aviation program to a well-respected success story. She also championed one of the largest employee initiatives in NMC history with the multi-year Talent Project which revamped compensation, employee recognition and talent development.

As we look toward a future without Marguerite at our college, we plan to use the same vision she so often demonstrates. The LPL division has served us well in supporting programs once outside of the traditional academic structure. As those programs have grown and evolved, it’s time now to reassess how best to meet the needs of the learners served by these departments. In the coming weeks we will be sharing how the LPL portfolio will be re-imagined. The mature programs that Marguerite has nurtured will integrate with our core academic programs, under Stephen Siciliano’s leadership. Those emerging programs, and those in the midst of transformation, will find guidance from a new Vice President of Strategy, Innovation, and Partnerships. We will continue to update you on these developing plans. Our goal is to complete a smooth transition with Marguerite before her retirement at the end of 2021.

Our NMC community is incredibly fortunate to have had the leadership of Marguerite for as long as we have. I hope we will all continue to be inspired and to demonstrate the spirit of lifelong learning that she encapsulates like few others can.


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

Northwestern Michigan College

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