Takeaways from Dec. 7 board of trustees committee meetings

President Bob Davies (left) gives a report to the CMU Board of Trustees at its formal session on Sept. 22, 2022 in the Bovee University Center's Lake Superior room.

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees met in committees on Dec. 7 to prepare for its formal session on Dec. 8. 

Discussion topics included expansion of CMU's medical and health care programs, international students, finances and a new certificate program. The Student Government Association also asked the board to consider adding menstrual products to campus bathrooms.   

The board will also vote, at the formal session, whether to reorganize several departments in the College of the Arts and Media, which would include a merger of journalism, communication and broadcast and cinematic arts. 

A livestream of the Dec. 8 formal session will be available on the board website, along with recordings of the committee meetings. 

Health Care Special Committee 

The Health Care Special Committee was created in February. It's purpose is to examine the state of health care in the region and make recommendations that will help CMU meet health care needs. 

The committee will bring three recommendations for approval at the Dec. 8 formal session. 

For the College of Health Professions, Trustee Sharon Heath said the committee recommends increasing class sizes in CMU's physician's assistant, physical therapy and nursing programs. She also said the committee recommends changing the nursing program to be four years long. Currently, CMU's RN-to-BSN program allows students to earn their  Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree within 12 months. 

Trustee Michael Sandler said the committee has two recommendations for the College of Medicine (CMED): 

  • Maintain and create relationships with clinics
  • Accept more students into CMED each year   

"If you wish to advance health care – and with the graying if the population – we need to analyze and explore the size of the entering class," Sandler said. "There is a large demand for young people to enter medicine. We have literally hundreds of well-qualified applicants that we do not accept because we simply do not have room for them. 

"Also, if we were to be able to expand the class on a yearly basis, it would result in – likely – more physicians in Michigan -- specifically in Mid Michigan and the underserved rural areas of Michigan. To some extent, it could also be urban areas that are underserved."

If the resolution with both recommendations is passed by the board at the Dec. 8 session, Sandler said the Health Care Special Committee will be dissolved. 

Academic and Student Affairs Committee 

Provost Nancy Mathews presented an update about CMU's strategic plans. She said administrators will hold meetings with more than 30 "engagement groups" to collect feedback about CMU's academic planning.

Mathews listed a few question ideas that could be asked during the meetings. 

"What about CMU do you value most and want to carry forward," Mathews said. "What are issues for CMU to address in our changing landscape? What will distinguish or differentiate CMU in the future?"     

Ling Zhang, director of graduate and international recruitment, and Jennifer DeHaemers, vice president of Student Recruitment and Retention, gave a presentation about CMU's successes in recruiting more international students

There were 623 new international students in Fall 2022, Zhang said. She listed several factors that boosted CMU's international recruitment: 

  • Hiring agents to recruit students in other countries during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Simplifying the international application process by moving most of the steps underneath her office 
  • Sending students their I-20 immigration form faster than other universities 
  • High school recruiters 
  • Virtual recruitment fairs, sometimes held late at night to account for time zone differences 

DeHaemers said international students "bring a global perspective, especially to the domestic students they may meet in class."

She also said international students have helped bring money to CMU. In the 2021-22 year, international students brought $13.3 million to CMU and the community, DeHaemers said. 

Trustee Todd Anson asked how well the international recruitment team can "forecast" global issues when deciding where to recruit students from. 

"I wish we had a crystal ball," Ling said. "That way we can look at – this is the region we should recruit in and this is the region we should avoid."

Zhang and DeHaemers both said it it important to monitor the political and economic situations of different regions. Zhang said, in January 2020 at the start of the pandemic, CMU was recruiting heavily in China, but was able to switch to recruiting from other parts of Asia. 

Chair Richard Studley asked if international students felt they were being welcomed to Mount Pleasant. Zhang said she has not heard of any negative interactions between CMU's international students and the community. DeHaemers said she has heard some international students may have difficulty with housing, for example, if they have not been able to build up a credit history in the U.S. 

Studley also asked whether recruiting "from parts of the world that are more contentious" could bring challenges to CMU. 

DeHaemers said students do "not bring those challenges with them." She said CMU's recruitment strategy includes going to countries where they are more likely to get new students.  

Erica Johnson, director of the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center, gave a presentation about Alternative Breaks. The program gives gives students service opportunities that focus on learning through experiences, she said. 

Last year, CMU students gave 2,800 hours of service to local organizations, Johnson said, which equals over $68,000.

ALL IN recognized CMU as one of the 2022 Most Engaged Campus for College Student Voting, Johnson said. 

CMU is also applying for a First-gen Forward designation from the Center for First-Generation Student Success, she said. The award would give CMU national recognition – and resources – for supporting first-generation students.  

Stan Shingles, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs, talked about Central Michigan Life's recent induction into the Pacemaker 100 in October, an award from the Associate Collegiate Press. The publication is one of only two student newspapers in Michigan to receive the award. 

Many students  said they wanted more space on campus for lounging, playing games and other activities, Shingles said, and CMU has been working to repurpose some space on campus for student use. He said this includes University Lanes, which was previously a bowling alley in the Student Activities Center.           

Finance and Facilities Committee 

Demolition of the Northwest apartment complex is on schedule based on the 2021 Master Plan

The 60 to 70-year-old buildings that currently host approximately 340 residents are set to be demolished in 2024, after a planning and design period in 2023. 

Vice President of Finance and Facilities Mary Hill brought the $6 million budget to the committee for preliminary approval before the formal Board of Trustees session on Dec. 8 at 11:00 a.m.

Hill also brought the deferred maintenance project budget to the committee for approval, requesting $5.7 million. 

These funds, pending approval at the formal session, are intended to make general fixes around campus:

  • Maintenance repairs
  • Architectural changes
  • Civil works
  • Safety improvements
  • Electrical for fire alarms

The planning for these projects is intended for winter and spring of 2023 so construction can happen in summer and fall of the same year.

The investment management team has its next annual meeting at the end of January 2023 to set up an investment plan that will achieve a long-term real return of 4.75% annually.

After setting up a plan, monthly meetings are intended to review asset allocations, managers, performance and liquidity needs for annual spending distribution. These updates are also brought to the board.  

“We are generally a bit more conservative with our investments,” said Trustee Edward Plawecki. “Sometimes we may not hit a home run, like a few years ago, but we still have a good return.”

Hill gave an update on investments from 2022, providing a general revenue summary. There was an investment loss of 10%, she said. 

Both the endowment fund and operating cash spending were within a pre-approved range.

"Our operating cash that we use -- that's where they invest that cash to make some more dollars on what we have," Plawecki said.  

Trustees-Faculty Liaison Committee 

Biology faculty member Wiline Pangle introduced a new program she is directing from the College of Science and Engineering called Integration of Science Technology and Engineering (InSciTE). 

The program intends on creating an equitable, student-driven environment for undergraduate students to develop skills on interdisciplinary communication, collaboration and real-world problems to become culturally competent and effective leaders, Pangle said. 

InSciTE is a 15-credit certificate that students can apply for to compliment their major, it is not a major itself, Pangle said. 

Currently the program is going through an approval process, but Pangle was able to present the program in its entirety. The InSciTE certificate is a four-year program. It begins during freshman year and when students get to their fourth year, it will be a capstone course from fall to spring. 

Pangle said the first year course would be about students working together in team-building activities, which would set up a culture of belonging early on. The second-year course would center around communication and the third-year course would add project management, both skills Pangle said employers are looking for. 

The fourth-year course would be a capstone project, including a student-driven research program.

Heath said InScite would be “transformational” and she had never heard of anything it.  

“I’m thinking, ‘student led?’” Heath said. “… It is something that’s very new because normally you walk in class, you have the syllabus, it’s already defined and that’s what it is. But to engage around something that students are interested in, and to facilitate that, that’s remarkable.” 

Studley said to Pangle that if there were any barriers that needed to be removed, “we’ll help you remove them.”

“And if there are barriers that need to be smashed, we’ll do that too,” he said.

Trustees-Student Liaison Committee

Reneé Watson, vice president of student affairs, shared the results of a canned food drive that was discussed during the September board meeting. Around 10,000 pounds of food were donated and just over $2,000 were raised to help supply 504 students with food, she said.  

Residence Housing Association Director Ryan Biller said this semester was the "rebuilding semester" because a new code of conduct and updated constitution were made.

RHA is proposing to create an app where students can report food issues, Biller said.  

"When someone has an undercooked hamburger and then reports it two weeks later at a meeting, it's really hard to track down why that happened or who was responsible for that," said Biller. "Whereas if they report it on the app, it's time stamped so they can look through their records and can check the temperature of the food at that time."

Biller also said several Northwest Apartments residents have shared concerns about the safety of the crosswalk at the bend of Bellows Street and West Campus Drive, which is in front of the driveway to the apartments.  

The Northwest Apartment Hall council drafted legislation after a survey revealed about 85% of residents had near-misses with cars while crossing the crosswalk. The legislation urged CMU to make safety corrections in the area.

In response, Biller said he met with CMU police and an engineer to create a plan. The plan would place two radar signs on either side of the crosswalk and a crosswalk sign in the center crosswalk so that drivers can see the crosswalk and increase lighting in the area. If approved by CMU, the change could come next semester.

Biller also said students are concerned about parking lot usage in residential and commuter lots on campus. 

"Many students have noticed that there has been a lack of parking enforcement and that people are parking on the grass or illegally parking in spots that are not designated for residential or any matter," said Biller.

Legislation has been introduced by some people in RHA to ask Parking Services to reevaluate parking lot designators and parking passes for residential and commuter lots. Biller said RHA has asked Parking Services to attend their next meeting and speak, but they have not expressed interest. 

Program Board President Maezie Ervin said she is looking to implement an on-campus text message system so that students can opt-in for texts about upcoming events. She said she hopes it will be available next semester.

Ervin also said Program Board wants to bring back the Maroonziee, a carnival for CMU students. 

For next semester, Program Board and Sexual Assault Peer Advocates have teamed up to create a safe space at all events in case someone is in an abusive situation. One of the ideas was to have a graphic on the back of bathroom doors with different options for people in an abusive situation.

Student Government Association gave an update on a program that would place menstrual hygiene products, including organic tampons, in bathrooms. SGA's goal is to have products available bathrooms across campus, but only eight bathrooms are currently being filled.

"We're approved to hand them out in eight (bathrooms), but our budget is not sustainable for us to supply eight bathrooms consistently," said Natalie Brant, Vice President of SGA. 

A three-year plan was created for a cost breakdown. Year one provides enough products for all eight bathrooms for a full year and the year two plan would eight more bathrooms for a total of 16 bathrooms stocked on campus.

According to the presentation from SGA, supplying everyone on campus 110 cases of menstrual products would cost over $13,000, not including installing dispensers. 

With 284 bathrooms in academic and student service buildings, the total cost of installing dispensers would amount to over $28,000.  

SGA President Taylor Idema suggested that the funds come from university funding since SGA's $24,000 budget would not cover the cost. 

"I think a good first start would be to show commitment to provide those products, or the funding for those products, so that we can continue the work what you've done into next semester," Watson said.

SGA and Watson will work together to figure out the budget.