Takeaways from CMU Board of Trustees Sept. 21 committee meetings

CMU to put temporary hold on $135 million residence hall project

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees met for its formal session Feb. 17 in the Bovee University Center President's Conference Room.

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees met in committees on Sept. 21 to prepare for its Sept. 22 formal meeting. 

Meetings went from 12:45 to 6 p.m. in the President's Conference Room in the Bovee University Center. Each session was livestreamed and 25 seats were available for in-person attendees. 

The trustees discussed health care, collaboration for student success, campus construction projects, Critical Engagements and student life. 

During the Finance and Facilities Committee meeting, President Bob Davies announced that CMU is putting a temporary hold on the $135 million Washington Commons Project

The board will meet for its formal session at 10 a.m. on Sept. 22 in the same room. The session will be also be livestreamed and have in-person seating. 

Anyone wanting to make a public comment must submit a request to address the board. According to the board website, electronic submissions are no longer being accepted, but hard copy submissions can be submitted to Board Secretary Mary Jane Flanagan until the start of the meeting.  

Health Care Special Committee 

Tom Masterson, dean of the College of Health Professions discussed the state of health care in the region and what CMU is doing to meet health care needs. 

CMU has been working to expand some of its medical programs, Masterson said. Currently, there are plans to increase the size of its physical therapy program by 12 students. Approval is required from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). 

Masterson said CMU can submit its application with CAPTE by Sept. 1, 2023 and the program will be notified by mid-November 2023 if the change is approved. The earliest CMU could see the increase of PT students on campus is May 2025, he said.        

In August, CMU was approved to increase its physician assistant program from 40 to 60 students, Masterson said. The change will take effect in May 2023. He said the expansion will also involve hiring more faculty and staff positions.  

Masterson said "it's been five years of asking" for the program expansion. 

Demand for nurses is high in Michigan because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Masterson said. Currently, CMU offers registered nurses the chance to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN) in less than 12 months. CMU also works with Mid Michigan College to offer the Joint Nursing Education Program, which helps students earn their Associate's Degree in Nursing and their BSN.    

The job market for nurses is expected to grow, Masterson said, and CMU is working on planning a four-year residential program for students to earn their BSN.   

Trustee Isaiah Oliver asked if CMU's nursing program would prioritize admitting underserved demographics of students. Masterson said the nursing programs are trying to attract a diverse group of students.   

Academic and Student Affairs Committee 

Provost Nancy Mathews, Vice President of Student Affairs Reneé Watson and Vice President for Recruitment and Retention Jennifer DeHaemers discussed how to collaborate between different offices. 

The discussion focused on “interactions and synergy between Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and Student Recruitment and Retention.” Another key theme was various activities students can get involved in to help them be successful on campus. 

DeHaemers talked about the importance of student success resources like mentors and career development. New student orientation, websites and social media are all ways students can discover resources, she said.

“Our parent Facebook group is actually a good resource,” DeHaemers said, “because you’ll see a parent that says, ‘my student needs help with chemistry. Where do they go to get tutoring?’ And other parents will jump in and say, ‘my student had the same problem. Here’s where you go.’”  

Mathews said word-of-mouth communication by students and faculty is also helpful. Watson also discussed the importance of building on student experiences beyond freshman year. 

Mathews also explained the review process for getting programs changed. Last year, she said, CMU started using an online system, Watermark, to propose new programs. The process of getting approved by various committees begins in September and ends with a vote from the Academic Senate in June, Mathews said.       

Finance and Facilities Committee 

President Bob Davies announced CMU is putting a pause on the Washington Commons Project. 

“It is the prudent decision therefore to not move forward on the Washington Commons independent living style project.” Davies said. 

According to Davies, this decision factored in the interests of the student body in terms of opportunities as well as "living within our means." 

Davies did not mention the plans for the near future of Lot 22, which is the site of the project. Last semester, students and faculty voiced concerns about the removing of one of CMU's most used commuter lots in exchange for Lot 75, which is further from academic buildings.  

Some smaller aspects of the project will continue to be put into action, Davies said, and the only part being put on hold is the construction of the complex itself.  

Director of Residence Life Kathleen Gardner introduced Jonathan Webb, associate vice president for Facilities Management, to give an update on campus construction projects from the summer. 

These include the completed construction on Troutman Hall, installation of artificial turf on sports fields and the completion of Lot 75. There were about 100 individual projects taken on over the summer, some of which are continuing into the school year, Webb said.  

“It sends a very clear message about our value and continued investment in our learning communities here at CMU,” Gardner said after Webb’s presentation.

An investment report was given by Chenae Edwards, a consultant for NEPC, giving a brief update on CMU's investment program.

Asset performance was down 5.2%, according to Edwards, but this is not the only indicator for success.

“However, on a relative basis, the performance (of assets) outperforms two of our primary investment objectives,” Edwards said. 

Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee 

Christi Brookes, interim associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), and History, World Languages and Cultures faculty member Greg Smith presented on the Critical Engagements project.

Critical Engagements is an annual collaborative project from CLASS, taking on a different topic every year and engaging specialists from all over CMU and the world to explore the topics with events and discussions.

This year's theme is "Cities, Coasts and Everywhere Else." 

"How we talk about geography and topography reveals deep-seated assumptions that go well beyond land and how we use it," the Critical Engagements blog said. "This year, we will examine the complexities of the urban-rural continuum in the United States and beyond. From redlining and racism to urban farms and sustainability, from city-based models of social organization to their many historical and modern alternatives, from national parks to the wilderness next door—we’ll get beyond the usual categories and encourage fresh ways of thinking about the spaces we share." 

Last year's theme was "Deep Waters" and included discussions of protecting the Great Lakes. Critical Engagements was also a part of the Gifts of the River Film Festival

During the meeting, Smith quoted another faculty member’s review of the program, who called Critical Engagements the "best idea at CMU that nobody knows about.”

Trustees-Student Liaison Committee

The committee discussed updates on the Student Food Pantry, Residence Housing Association (RHA) and Student Government Association (SGA). 

Carter Woolley gave the update on the Student Food Pantry. The food pantry has recently partnered with Comprehensive Inventory Solutions as an additional food source and to diversify the food they offer.

Stan Shingles, assistant vice president of University Recreaction and Student Engagement, talked more about the Homecoming Food Drive this year. There will be an open house at the volunteer center from 9 to 11 a.m. on Oct. 8 in the Bovee University Center room 106.  

"The food pantry is designed to build community within our university," Shingles said.

SGA President Taylor Idema gave an update on campus life. Idema asked what student engagement would look like in a post-pandemic campus. She discussed the increased participation in campus events like Leadership Safari, home football games and CMU and You Day. 

Idema also discussed bringing more attention to international students and how to better assist them. Many international students do not have furniture or warm clothing when they arrive on campus, she said. 

SGA Vice President Natalie Brant discussed the new SGA treasurer and cabinet positions. Last year, she advocated for adding a Student Disability Services Liaison to the committee and this year, it was approved.

Program Board President Maezie Ervin updated the board on the Spring Concert, being more intentional about creating new events and being inclusive.  

To improve communication, Director of the Residence Hall Association Ryan Biller said he wants RHA to work with SGA to have a liaison that reports to both associations. 

Biller said RHA is meeting on Sept. 22 with Chartwells, CMU's food provider, to discuss meal passes for student workers, more diverse food options and advertising meal times for the dining halls.