The Opportunity

Founded in 1951, Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) is a publicly funded community college offering 103 transfer, career degree, and certificate programs. Serving more than 40,000 learners annually, as well as the people, organizations, and businesses throughout the local region and beyond, Northwestern Michigan College has earned a reputation for academic excellence and friendly, personal attention. With its commitment to philanthropic support, the College established the NMC Foundation in 1981, which has consistently been ranked among the top 20 in the nation. Northwestern Michigan College is located in what is commonly known as the “Grand Traverse Region” or “Northwest Lower Michigan.” With the proximity to Lake Michigan and Grand Traverse Bay, as well as many inland lakes and rolling hills, the Grand Traverse Region is a major tourist destination and known for its high quality of life. NMC is located in Grand Traverse County, whose county seat, Traverse City, is well known as the Cherry Capital of the World.

The Position

Role of the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives for Northwestern Michigan College

Reporting to the president and serving as a partner to Northwestern Michigan College’s academic and administrative leadership, the inaugural vice president for strategic initiatives will serve as Northwestern Michigan College’s senior planning officer and collaboratively lead the college through implementation of an institution-wide strategic plan that centrally places students at its core. The vice president will play an essential role in helping to ensure that the College’s strategic plan is implemented, and results are realized, including the achievement of growth goals through innovation. Specifically, the vice president will be accountable for leading Northwestern Michigan College through the implementation of an innovative and transformative strategic plan in partnership and collaboration with the campus community and key stakeholders, capitalizing on the collective expertise of faculty, staff, and trustees, as well as extensive community-wide engagement. In addition to strategic plan implementation, the vice president will be accountable for leading the College’s innovation management process (e.g., how the College moves ideas into innovations/new revenue-generating ventures), including leading a portfolio of existing ventures that are early in their life cycle or in need of renewal (e.g., International Affairs Forum, Extended Educational Services, University Center, Marine Center). The vice president will serve as the point person for business partnerships, as well as a liaison who can take on primary responsibility for developing productive relationships between the College and local employers, specifically helping the College identify and even anticipate the labor needs of local industries. The vice president will develop and manage an annual budget and direct and oversee a staff that includes three direct reports: director of business development, NMC Marine Center; director, Educational Extended Services; and director, International Affairs Forum and International Services and Service Learning.

Additional responsibilities of the vice president for strategic initiatives include the following:

  • strengthen collaborative relationships across the campus and among NMC’s many stakeholders and partners, including students, staff, faculty, administrative leadership, and the local community;
  • work collaboratively with college leaders and stakeholders to support action planning, follow through, and ultimately realization of institutional goals;
  • identify what potential partners are seeking and then determine how the College can meet their need(s).

History of the Position

Upon taking office on January 1, 2020, Dr. Nick Nissley, President of Northwestern Michigan College, has set a new direction and exciting vision that includes a more focused effort on providing strategic leadership and innovation for the institution and the Greater Traverse County community. Accordingly, after assessing the strengths and opportunities for growth and development, Dr. Nissley has realigned areas of institutional leadership to enact strategic directions for the College. As a result, an inaugural vice president for strategic initiatives was created to serve as the senior planning officer and collaboratively lead the college through implementation of an institution-wide strategic plan that centrally places students at its core. Further, the inaugural vice president will center efforts on innovation management and business and community partnerships.

Opportunities and Challenges of the Role 

In transitioning to Northwestern Michigan College, the vice president for strategic initiatives may encounter a number of opportunities and challenges as shared by campus stakeholders.

  • Because of this moment of renewal on the hopeful heels of the pandemic, the vice president will play a key role in the College’s strategic reimagination. Accordingly, the vice president must be comfortable working with ambiguity, given the emerging nature of the College’s post-pandemic transformation.
  • College stakeholders repeatedly noted that Northwestern Michigan College has an institutional culture that emphasizes a strong sense of team, mutual support, accessibility, approachability, and a highly collaborative approach to work.
  • The vice president will find a peer group and colleagues that are welcoming, promote open communication, emphasize an orientation toward service, and share a desire for a progressive and forward-thinking professional.
  • Numerous campus stakeholders shared that Northwestern Michigan College is a wonderful place to work, that the students are engaging, faculty are dedicated, and institutional leadership is strong. There is genuine excitement and a shared desire for a progressive and forward-thinking professional.
  • Because the vice president partners with numerous offices on campus, they will need to take appropriate time to develop strong relationships with a wide variety of individual stakeholders, and an array of NMC offices during the on-boarding period.
  • As the vice president transitions into the position, it will be very important to assess the skills and knowledge of the staff, develop a strong sense of staff team, and build working relationships that emphasize an engaging and collaborative work environment.
  • The successful candidate will be expected to “hit the ground running” and contribute to the college’s strategic discussions. The individual will advise the president on strategic and institutional decisions and be expected to pose challenging questions and suggest insightful solutions on difficult topics in order to stimulate the very best thinking among NMC’s leadership.
  • The vice president must have excellent communication skills and a proven ability to work effectively with a variety of campus stakeholders at various levels of development and knowledge, and demonstrate authenticity, passion, and care in all endeavors.


At an appropriate interval after joining Northwestern Michigan College, the items listed below will initially define success for the new vice president:

• demonstrate that considerable progress has been made in further enhancing and advancing the strategic planning process by establishing clear goals and objectives, monitoring progress, and demonstrating measurable outcomes;
• establish a proactive and well-respected leadership presence on campus that is credible, collegial, and highly effective;
• be regarded as a highly visible, approachable, knowledgeable, and resourceful leader who understands and values collaboration and operates with appropriate political acumen and dexterity;
• provide clear evidence that productive and collaborative relationships across the institution and community have been built;
• demonstrate clear, effective communication, good rapport, and swift responsiveness to all internal and external campus stakeholders.


Qualifications and Characteristics

Candidates must possess a bachelor’s degree; an earned advanced or terminal degree is preferred. The ideal candidate will possess progressive executive leadership experience including evidence of administrative success in higher education or an industry of similar complexity; knowledge of contemporary strategic planning and innovation management practices; experience and skill in strategic planning and new venture development; and an entrepreneurial approach to problem-solving. The successful candidate must be a results-oriented, relationship-driven, and high-performance leader who thrives in a dynamic, fast-paced environment. The role requires an innovative, driven executive who values high engagement with all faculty and staff, is committed to working in a student-centered shared governance model, and is focused on inventive business strategy. The successful candidate must be a highly collaborative leader with practical experience in both strategy and innovation endeavors; work effectively with a broad range of constituents, including administrators, faculty, staff members, and members of the wider Traverse City community; and lead a complex organization through the implementation of a transformative institution-wide strategic plan ensuring alignment of vision and tactical execution.

Various campus stakeholders identified the following characteristics, skills, actions, and/or abilities as important attributes of the vice president for strategic initiatives.

  • The vice president must exhibit an enthusiasm for organizational change management and be a frontline advocate for the broader community to understand their role in the ownership, implementation, and execution of the strategic plan.
  • The vice president must be action-oriented (e.g., moving ideas into innovations), a thoughtful risk-taker (e.g., sharp business acumen to support investment decisions), and possess a process orientation and methodical mindset (e.g., able to manage the College’s innovation management process to yield new revenue streams – surfacing, evaluating, deciding, resourcing, and monitoring new ventures as the College seeks to grow net revenue).
  • The vice president must thrive in a makerspace environment, and function as not only an architect but also as an engineer, both envisioning an outcome and building the infrastructure to effectively operationalize it.
  • The vice president must have exceptional collaboration skills (with employers to develop workforce solutions, and with College departments and programs to meet the employer’s needs).
  • The vice president must be a passionate advocate who champions NMC’s students as the most attractive job candidates to local industries.
  • The vice president must be customer-focused (e.g., always seeking to understand business needs and how the College might meet them); empathic (e.g., listening and responding to partner needs); and collaborative (e.g., collecting, analyzing, and disseminating information and feedback from local and regional business partners to key internal stakeholders).
  • The vice president must be forward thinking, (e.g., always seeking to understand emerging trends and pursuing growth opportunities).

Additionally, various stakeholders identified a number of characteristics, skills, actions, and/or abilities as important attributes of the vice president:

  • someone with an even temperament who is mission-driven, and brings passion, high energy, and enthusiasm for moving the institution forward;
  • someone who will bring a strong and insightful voice to the president’s cabinet with the ability to advocate for student needs within the context of broader institutional goals, but also diplomatically express dissent when appropriate;
  • possess expertise in creating partnerships with a broad array of internal and external college constituents, including students, faculty, staff, and the public;
  • ability and demeanor to manage stressful or difficult situations calmly and with tact;
  • professional demeanor, good sense of humor, highly organized and disciplined, and the ability to relate easily to a wide range of groups;
  • a good listener who can synthesize information, get others on board, and articulately explain institutional goals and initiatives to individuals outside of the institution;
  • strong leadership, flexibility, efficiency, and the ability to prioritize tasks and meet deadlines for a wide variety of assignments;
  • an innovator with a futuristic orientation and a willingness to try new opportunities, remain informed on new trends and best practices, and lead significant change processes;
  • someone who is motivated and inspired by new challenges and who is not afraid to be the face of the college in front of different audiences;
  • someone who is adaptable to changing circumstances and committed to continuous assessment and process improvement;
  • superior organization and project management skills with a keen awareness for details, administrative functions, and higher education trends;
  • ability to balance patience and urgency in working with various institutional stakeholders.

Institution & Location

Strategic Initiatives

In addition to strategic plan development and implementation, the vice president of strategic initiatives will provide oversight and leadership to the following functional areas.

Educational Extended Services

Northwestern Michigan College’s extensive Extended Education program offers a wide array of personal and professional classes and certifications to more than 10,000 learners annually. The College for Kids program offers over 100 enrichment classes each summer.

International Affairs Forum

The International Affairs Forum (IAF) seeks to educate and engage the community on global issues through lectures, conferences, and student outreach. The aim of IAF is to help prepare the community for success in today’s global society and economy, in partnership with the many businesses and organizations located here with a global reach. IAF is a member of the World Affairs Councils of America, the largest national non-partisan network of almost 100 councils in more than 40 states dedicated to educating and engaging Americans on the critical global issues of our times.

Marine Center

The Marine Center at Northwestern Michigan College boasts a comprehensive list of vessels, technical equipment, sonar systems, remotely operated vehicles, fixed and multi-rotor aerial platforms, and training and conference facilities.

University Center

Since 1995 the NMC University Center has been a unique partnership between Northwestern Michigan College and senior universities located throughout Michigan offering select bachelor degree-completion, graduate, doctorate, certificate, and endorsement programs. Students attending the University Center can complete a four-year degree — or advanced degree — without leaving northwestern Michigan. In short, they could “start here and stay here” to fulfill their educational goals without being away from families, their jobs or their communities.

Institutional Overview

Institutional background/history

Northwestern Michigan College was the first comprehensive community college chartered in the State of Michigan. Since its founding in 1951, NMC has provided quality, affordable access to higher education for learners of all ages and backgrounds. NMC is integrally woven into the economic, social, and cultural fabric of the region, providing leadership and support for key initiatives that shape its communities and prepare its learners for rich and meaningful lives.

Traverse City, MI

Traverse City is located in portions of both Grand Traverse County and Leelanau County within Northern Lower Michigan. Traverse City is situated on the shores of picturesque East Grand Traverse Bay and West Grand Traverse Bay, which both flow into Lake Michigan. While Traverse City’s official population is 14,572, and a daytime population of more than twice the official population, it is the hub of a Micropolitan Statistical Area of 143,372.

In 2010 the United States Congress dedicated Traverse City as “A Coast Guard City” for its commitment and support to local Air Station Traverse City, its Coast Guard members and families. As part of this dedication, the City of Traverse City has formed a Coast Guard City Committee to build a greater awareness of the Coast Guard’s importance in the community.

Traverse City has been further recognized for its incredible sense of place by publications including The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, Bicycling Magazine, Fodors, AOL Travel News, Forbes Magazine, Money Magazine, Good Morning America, National Geographic, and many others.

Traverse City serves up the best of two worlds: it offers the mesmerizing outdoor recreational opportunities, as well as tremendous cultural and social opportunities often only found in much larger cities. Traverse City is truly a micropolis – offering residents and visitors the small Midwestern town charm along with cosmopolitan options.

Traverse City is literally open to the world: with the Cherry Capital Airport, non-stop daily commercial flights to Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis are only moments away. Seasonal non-stop flights to New York City, Denver, Dallas, Cincinnati, and others increase Traverse City’s connectivity to the business and leisure world.

Mission, Vision & Values


Northwestern Michigan College provides lifelong learning opportunities to our communities.


NMC will be the resource of choice for higher education, lifelong learning and cultural experiences. NMC will be an essential contributor to quality of life and a vibrant economy. We will demonstrate collaborative and inventive approaches to education and training for liberal studies, careers, interests and emerging learner markets.


Our individual and collective efforts create the legacy of NMC. In order to achieve our mission, we are individually committed and responsible to live these values.

  • Learning is at the center of all we strive to achieve. It is the foundation upon which an enlightened citizenry and a dynamic community are built and is a lifelong process in which we are all engaged.
  • We will continuously improve the learning experience and its global relevance to those we serve through innovation, agility, and thoughtful risk-taking.
  • Our actions are governed by the highest degree of ethics, integrity, and personal responsibility, exhibited through transparency, openness, and trust.
  • We each will practice responsible stewardship for the human, physical, financial, and environmental resources entrusted to our care.
  • Each of us will strive to exceed expectations for quality and service in all that we do.
  • We value all people and will invest in their personal and professional growth and development.
  • We will exhibit foresight by monitoring the changing world around us and taking actions today that prepare us to meet future needs of our communities.
  • We will seek others who share our vision and values, and collaborate with them on behalf of our communities.


To meet our mission, we are fully engaged in each of the following purposes, with the result that our learners meet their goal(s) of being college-ready, transfer-ready, career-ready, and ready for lifelong-learning:

  • Associate degree, certificate, and transfer education in liberal arts and sciences, and occupational studies
  • Career/occupational education and workforce development
  • Bachelor degrees in select programs
  • Cultural and personal enrichment
  • Baccalaureate and graduate program facilitation
  • Regional economic development


Strategic Directions

In order to accomplish NMC’s stated Mission, Vision, and Purposes, organizational activities focus on achieving the following strategic directions and demonstrating competence in Institutional Effectiveness Criteria.

  1. Ensure that NMC learners are prepared for success in a global society and economy.
  2. Establish national and international competencies and provide leadership in select educational areas connected to the regional economy and assets:
    • Advanced Manufacturing
    • Arts and Culture
    • Entrepreneurship and Innovation
    • Fresh Water
    • Health Care
    • Renewable Energy and Sustainability
    • Value-Added Agriculture
  1. Deliver learning through a networked workforce.
  2. Establish lifelong relationships with learners.
  3. Transcribe most learning to establish credentials of value.

Institutional Effectiveness Criteria

  1. Scholarship, Enrichment, and Workforce: Helping Students Learn
  2. Partnership:
    • Economic Development and Community Involvement
    • Building Collaborative Relationships
  1. Champion:
    • Understanding Student and Stakeholder Needs
    • Supporting Organizational Operations
  1. Culture: Valuing People
  2. Operations:
    • Leading and Communicating
    • Measuring Effectiveness
    • Planning Continuous Improvement


Nick Nissley, Ed.D., President

Dr. Nick Nissley became Northwestern Michigan College’s eleventh president when he took office on January 1, 2020.

Nick Nissley, Ed.D. is an education executive with more than 25 years of experience including K–12, community college, and university settings. He has leadership experience in fundraising, professional development, human resources, teaching, and the arts. His areas of focus include helping build individual and organization capabilities that support organizational effectiveness and innovation cultures in support of educational excellence. Dr. Nissley describes himself as a collaborative servant leader and “possibilitarian.”

Dr. Nissley’s previous position was executive director of Cincinnati’s School for Creative & Performing Arts (SCPA) — the first K–12 public creative and performing arts magnet school in the country, recognized as a model magnet arts school and a crown jewel of Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS). Before that, he served as dean of the Business Division of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, one of the State of Ohio’s largest community colleges with over 10,000 students.

Before joining Cincinnati State, he served as executive director for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Canada’s premier arts and culture institution, where he was responsible for executive leadership of an organization renowned for combining leadership development and applied creativity in service of leadership transformation, organization, and community development.

On September 3, 2019, the NMC Board of Trustees selected Nick Nissley as their first choice of five finalists to become the next president of NMC, from an initial field of 67 applicants for the position. On October 14, the Board voted unanimously to approve a 2-year contract with Dr. Nissley.

Academic Offices

Northwestern Michigan College provides a wide variety of learning experiences to more than 50,000 people each year. The majority of students seek associate degrees or plan to transfer to a four-year college or university.

Several associate degrees and certificates are offered through these Academic Offices:

  • Aviation
  • Business
  • Communications
  • Great Lakes Culinary Institute
  • Great Lakes Maritime Academy
  • Health Occupations
  • Humanities
  • Science & Math
  • Social Science
  • Technical Division

The Student Body

Founded in 1951, Northwestern Michigan College is a fully accredited community college offering 103 transfer, career degree, and certificate programs.


  • NMC awarded 689 degrees or certificates in the 2018–2019 academic year.
  • Over 90% of NMC graduates reported being satisfied to very satisfied with the career preparation through coursework they received at NMC (2019 Graduate Survey Report).

Student Enrollment

  • In 2018–2019, over 3,700 students enrolled in credit classes.
  • 3,579 students enrolled for fall semester 2019.
  • 77% of students applying to NMC during the 2018–2019 academic year intended to earn a degree.

Student-to-Faculty Ratio

  • 15:1 as of Fall 2019

Student Profile Fall 2019


  • 52% female
  • 48% male

Age Distribution:

  • 13% – 17 years old and under
  • 61% – 18–24 years old
  • 17% – 25–34 years old
  • 8% – 35–49 years old
  • 2% – 50 years old and older

Credit Load:

  • 38% enrolled full-time (12 or more credits)
  • 62% enrolled part-time (less than 12 credits)

Ethnic Background:

  • 2% – American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 1% – Asian
  • 1% – Black or African American
  • 4% – Hispanic/Latino
  • 3% – Multi-racial
  • 8% – Other/Undeclared
  • 81% – White

Benefits Overview

  • Medical Plans
  • Dental Plan
  • Vision Insurance
  • Flexible Spending Accounts
  • Life Insurance
  • Long-Term Disability

For more information:

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to Quincy Martin III at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the Northwestern Michigan College website at

Northwestern Michigan College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, height, weight, marital status or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities and admissions.