For the first time in two years, Welcome Weekend on the Northwood University campus will be buzzing with activity as students return for the 2021-22 academic year.
COVID-19 restrictions tempered last year’s activities, but a full slate of events are planned throughout the weekend this year.
“We are enthusiastic about welcoming new and returning students to our beautiful campus,” said Northwood President Kent MacDonald. “Our faculty and staff have put in a tremendous amount of effort over the past several months to ensure a positive student experience and to update protocols for maintaining safe and healthy living and learning environments.”
While many students, mostly athletes, have already arrived, move-in takes place in earnest on Friday. The day will be capped by a gathering downtown Midland from 5-7 p.m., when students and parents will have an opportunity to check out local businesses. Midland Mayor Maureen Donker is also scheduled to greet students and parents and welcome them to the community.
Saturday features several activities for students, including breakfast and a kayaking adventure with President MacDonald and his wife, Mary-Ellen MacPhee. New students will attend an opening convocation in the afternoon, followed by a dinner and social gathering at the Student Union. Additional academic programming is planned for Sunday.
At a kick-off breakfast meeting for staff and faculty on Tuesday morning, MacDonald acknowledged the work that has gone into preparations for this welcome week and academic year. He reiterated that vaccinations against COVID-19 and masking will not be mandated for students or faculty and staff but will be strongly encouraged.
“In line with our Northwood values of personal freedom and individual responsibility, we are not mandating vaccinations for students, faculty, or staff before returning to campus this fall, and along with masking, our policy is ‘neither required, both recommended, personal choices respected.’
Initial surveys indicate Northwood’s faculty, staff, and student population are vaccinated at a higher rate than the local community and state.
“We have demonstrated the power of The Northwood Idea and that our approach works since we were able to stay open last school year when we had the option. We continue to encourage everyone at Northwood to take care of themselves and others as they have done the past year and a half, and I am optimistic the 2021-22 academic year will provide tremendous opportunities for our students,” said MacDonald.
Economics Associate Professor Cliff Harris and Executive Assistant Margie Knapik hosted the kick-off event. Other speakers included Academic Vice President and Provost Kristin Stehouwer, Dean of Student Affairs Andy Cripe, and Human Resources Manager and Benefits Specialist Lori Isenhart.
“We’re excited that housing and dining services are back to pre-COVID-19 status,” said Cripe. “That means open dining areas, housing with roommates, and additional social opportunities. But like many places across the country, we are short-staffed and looking for workers, particularly in foodservice.”
As students return to campus, among the new sights they will see is a revamped Mall Walk that runs through the heart of campus and will feature new gathering spots for social and academic purposes. The project was also designed to help protect academic spaces from future flooding. Enhancements include a completely renovated library, including a learning commons that supports student success.
Less visible but perhaps more significant, Northwood recently approved a five-year strategic plan, an ambitious set of activities to enhance the student experience while further differentiating Northwood in the higher education marketplace.
“There is no doubt the plan will create a very different kind of learning experience for our students,” said Stehouwer. “Focusing on this year, I’m very excited that our students will be able to learn face-to-face in the classrooms at full capacity as they advance their education and prepare for success in their careers.”
Following the Tuesday morning gathering, many staff and faculty members spent a portion of their day painting, weeding, cleaning, and more as part of the second annual Campus Beautification Day organized by Human Resources, NU Unite committee, and the Physical Plant.
“We have an attractive campus here in Midland,” said MacDonald. “It was great to see so many in our community roll up their sleeves and work to make it even better, whether weeding, cleaning, painting, or whatever task they took on. I’m pleased to say students and visitors will see our campus looking its best, and we look forward to a wonderful year.”