Traverse City News and Events

NMC Board Makes Its Presidential Choice

By Craig Manning | Sept. 4, 2019

At a special meeting held Tuesday evening, the Northwestern Michigan College (NMC) Board of Trustees voted 4-3 to select Dr. Nick Nissley to become the next president of NMC.

The NMC Board will now extend a formal job offer and enter into contract negotiations with Nissley. Should he accept the job, Nissley will take over from outgoing NMC President Tim Nelson effective January 1, 2020.

Dr. Nissley was one of five finalists for the presidential role. He is the executive director for the School for Creative and Performing Arts, a K-12 performing and creative arts school in Cincinnati. He has previously served as the dean of the business technologies division for Cincinnati State Technical and Community College; as executive director of leadership development for the Banff Center for Arts & Creativity in Alberta, Canada; and as the chief learning officer and VP of workforce and organizational effectiveness for The Milton Hershey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He holds a doctorate of education in human resource development from George Washington University.

The Ticker spoke briefly with Nissley on Tuesday evening, shortly after the board reached him with the news.

“What I can personally say is that I’m very much looking forward to the opportunity of leading NMC,” Nissley says. “My sense is that there’s a very proud history, as well as a future of endless possibilities, and that’s what has drawn me to the position in the first place. I’m pleased that the trust and confidence from the board and from the NMC faculty and staff – as well the Traverse City community – has been extended to me.”

The members of the board were split in their support of two top candidates, Nissley and Dr. Marsha Danielson. Board Chair Chris Bott, Vice Chair Rachel Johnson, and Kennard Weaver all identified Danielson as their top choice. Treasurer Janie McNabb, Secretary Michael Estes, K. Ross Childs and Doug Bishop voiced support for Nissley. Bishop and Estes were critical of Danielson’s performance in the interviews and felt she lacked the leadership experience necessary. Danielson, who currently serves as vice president of economic development at South Central College in North Mankato, Minnesota, has not yet held a presidential or executive director role at an educational institution.

Johnson expressed reservations about Nissley due to his lack of background in the higher education space, while Weaver worried that Nissley’s job at a school focused on creative and performing arts might indicate less experience in NMC priority areas like STEM or fostering relationships with local business and industry.

Still, the respect for Nissley was palpable in the room. Johnson praised his capacity as a “great storyteller and communicator,” qualities Estes thought would help Nissley forge a strong relationship with the community at large. McNabb, meanwhile, thought Nissley’s leadership style would help unite the college under a connected sense of purpose.

“One of the things that stuck out to me about Nick when he was talking about organizational culture – which is top of mind for me – was this concept of making sure that everybody has a line of sight,” McNabb said. Nissley believes that everyone should have a “straight line of sight to understand how they contribute to the greater good” of the institution.

In the vote on whether to extend a contract offer to Nissley, McNabb, Estes, Childs, and Bishop voted yes; Bott, Johnson, and Weaver voted no. Johnson then stated that, despite her vote, she would throw her full support behind Nissley if he ultimately became the next NMC president. The board formalized that pledge with a motion and a unanimous vote to support Nissley fully should he accept the job.

“I think anyone who has the chance to meet Nick would be impressed with him,” Johnson tells The Ticker. “I was certainly impressed with him, and I am completely committed to supporting him as we move forward. I think that the staff and faculty of the college, as well as the community, will very much enjoy working with Nick.”

Bill Myers, CEO of local tech company Promethient, a former NMC board member, and a member of the 19-person presidential search committee, says Nissley’s experience from inside and outside of the education world makes him just what the college needs right now.
“He’s got an interesting span of experience from the paradigm of community colleges, but also from outside of that paradigm,” Myers says. “I think that perspective from the inside and the outside is important, because some of the things that community colleges do every day need to change in the future.”

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