Speakers selected for NMU opening ceremony | News, Sports, Jobs

Diana Lafferty, assistant professor of wildlife ecology, will be the faculty’s keynote speaker during Saturday’s commencement ceremony at Northern Michigan University. Lafferty received NMU’s Excellence in Teaching Award 2021-22. (Photo courtesy of NMU)

Jeff Ferrington completed a bachelor’s degree in applied leadership in the workplace entirely online from his home base in Macomb Township, but is delivering his speech in person.

The NMU starts on December 17 at 10:30 a.m. in the NMU Superior Dome. It will be broadcast live on WNMU-TV 13 and streamed online at nmu.edu/commencement.

Ferrington calls himself a “second chance” In order to get the opportunity to get the NMU degree, he first started as a student on campus in 1996.

It took some convincing on his part to get a second try. Ferrington readily admits that his early initiation at Northern didn’t end well. Although he loved the Marquette area and the college atmosphere, and immersed himself in activities such as hall administration and other student organizations, he said: “I wasn’t as focused as I should have been academically and I wasn’t taken back.”

Jeff Ferrington will be the speaker at the beginning of the students, Ferrington is a graduate of the NMU Global Campus. (Photo courtesy of NMU)

Ferrington returned to Lower Michigan after his third year and joined the workforce. He started out working in sales and marketing, then moved into the audiovisual field. For the past 15 years he has worked in the sports, medical and higher education industries to design spaces where people can integrate interactive technology into their workflow.

“I turned to NMU’s Global Campus because at 40 I started looking for regrets in my life that I could correct.” he said in a press release. “Not having a degree from Northern was high on that list. I didn’t know if it would do anything for career advancement, and I still don’t know. It’s completely selfish that I just had to fill this void for my own personal journey. I wrote a letter about my steps, why I wanted to finish my studies and my connection to Northern. The people from Global Campus gave me a chance. I think it paid off because it’s been a great trip. I even made the Dean’s List.”

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When NMU graduating students received an email detailing the application process to start a speaker, Ferrington’s first reaction was that it would be an amazing way to top off his experience. Then doubts intervened. He asked if the selection committee would seriously consider an off-campus distance student. With encouragement from his wife and the support of on-campus attorneys who wrote letters of recommendation, he applied.

“I wanted to write a speech in a way that anyone listening could relate to a part of it because we’ve all faced challenges.” said Ferrington. “But I didn’t want another COVID speech because that has been done and persistence is beyond the pandemic. I truly believe that gratitude is an essential part of life and wanted that message to be expressed as well.”

Ferrington is accompanied to campus by several family members: his 13-year-old wife Leslie; her two daughters: Lily, 11, and Emmy, 7; his parents, Bill and Elaine; and his in-laws, Doug and Sandy Sova.

Lafferty Faculty

keynote speaker

Diana Lafferty, Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology, will be the faculty’s keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. She was selected through a nomination process overseen by the Associated Students of Northern Michigan University, the student organization.

“I am shocked and incredibly humbled that the students chose me to be their graduation speaker this semester.” Lafferty said in a press release.. “It’s such a wonderful privilege to celebrate their graduation with them in such a meaningful way.”

Lafferty received NMU’s 2021-22 Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes faculty that demonstrate excellent peer and student reviews, are engaged and enthusiastic, create safe and open learning environments, and experiment with innovative teaching and learning paradigms.

A broadly trained interdisciplinary conservation ecologist, Lafferty combines her research, mentoring, teaching, and outreach to advance understanding of how wildlife populations—and their associated communities and ecosystems—react to global change. She guides students in hypothesis-driven research at the intersection of basic and applied ecology using a variety of taxonomic models spanning myriad landscapes, both in her classrooms and in her laboratory.

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By incorporating authentic research into her curriculum, Lafferty trains NMU students to conduct ecological and conservation-oriented research. It also encourages cross-institutional student collaborations and offers all of its students unique opportunities to engage in professional development activities.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of teaching is that I get to be the students’ #1 cheerleader.” She said. “I really love playing a small role in helping students identify their academic and professional goals and providing a framework to ensure they can achieve their goals in a timely manner.”

Since joining the faculty of NMU in the fall of 2017, Lafferty’s efforts have enabled more than 450 undergraduate students in her Principles of Ecology and Conservation Biology courses to present their classroom research projects at local and national symposia.

She and student researchers also contributed to Snapshot USA, the first coordinated nationwide mammal survey, which consisted of 1,509 motion-activated camera traps at 110 locations in all 50 states. The data was published in the journal Ecology, and Lafferty and students have collaborated on other published articles based on related research using Snapshot USA data.

Thompson receives an honorary degree in nursing

Linda Thompson, director of higher education and public policy, will initially receive an honorary doctorate in nursing. Since July 2021 she has been President of Westfield State University in Massachusetts.

In a previous capacity as Dean of Nursing at Oakland University, Thompson played an instrumental role in facilitating the creation of NMU’s Doctor of Nursing Practice program.

“The nursing profession moved its practice degree to a DNP, but at the time there were few programs in the US and none in Michigan.” Kerri Schuiling, former director and associate dean of nursing at NMU and current president, said in a press release. “Linda is an amazing visionary and asked Oakland’s Director of Graduate Programs to develop a DNP curriculum. Our conundrum at Northern was how to support the current faculty with masters degrees in pursuing a PhD. Linda suggested that our schools work together.

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“We were able to use faculty experts from each school to teach content areas in the program; we didn’t have to hire new teachers. We have also established student exchange programs so that Upper Peninsula students have opportunities for clinical experience in urban Detroit and Oakland students have clinical experience in rural UP. Linda’s willingness to share the curriculum and her vision of collaborating with faculty saved money and time and enabled a number of NMU nursing faculties to pursue PhDs.”

Prior to joining Westfield State Community, Thompson was Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Thompson has taught nursing and public health at 10 different colleges and universities over the course of her career. She has received numerous awards, was an invited attendee at the White House Conference on Childcare, and has served on numerous boards and commissions. Thompson received her Bachelors of Science and Masters of Science degrees in Nursing from Wayne State University and her Masters and Doctorate degrees in Public Health from Johns Hopkins University.

“I am very grateful to Northern Michigan University and President Schuiling for selecting me to receive an honorary doctorate in nursing.” Thompson said in a press release. “Having worked in education and public health most of my life, this recognition is very meaningful to me personally. I look forward to working with NMU to achieve our common goals.”

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