(As prepared for delivery)
It’s a pleasure to see so many distinguished colleagues and campus leaders here this morning.
I always like to begin by celebrating academic excellence.
This morning, we are joined by some in our community who have been honored at the highest levels in recent months, through memberships in a national academy or society, a national fellowship, or other award.
Thank you, honored colleagues, for your accomplishments and contributions to the U-M.
I am also proud to welcome new deans who have begun their first fall semester in 6 of our schools and colleges, along with the new director of our Life Sciences Institute.
Welcome, new colleagues.
I look forward to working with all of you.
The wonderful music we heard earlier this morning is another example of our academic excellence.
The recording was of the University Symphony Orchestra’s performance two weeks ago of the George Gershwin masterpieces—”An American in Paris” and “Concerto in F.”
These unprecedented critical editions reflected the original intent of the composer.
They are the result of research by School of Music, Theatre and Dance faculty member Mark Clague, in an exclusive U-M research partnership with the Gershwin family.
Our schools, colleges, institutes and academic programs are the foundation of my goals for advancing academic excellence at the University of Michigan.
They provide the strength, creativity and ambition that propel us forward.
They drive our pursuit of new discoveries, greater understanding, excellence and impact.
They give the University of Michigan the unparalleled opportunity to tap into comprehensive strength, leverage our breadth, and collaborate across disciplines in service of our students and society at large.
More than any other university in the world, our potential at U-M to be more than the sum of our many outstanding parts is our greatest asset.
There simply is no university better suited to advance the highest ideals of what a public research university should be.
This has been the case since our founding 200 years ago, when the University of Michigan was an ambitious experiment, a novel and noble idea for higher education in America.
It was an idea for a university that would serve society and be governed by the people, with teaching and research grounded in open and critical inquiry.
Now, two centuries later, we will celebrate our bicentennial and honor our legacy as a university that shaped American higher education.
We will honor the faculty members, students and staff who advanced U-M’s leadership in academic excellence.
We will celebrate the impact of our work, impact that extends to nearly everyone in the world.
But the end of two centuries also means we are beginning a third.
So our full year of Bicentennial events and activities gives us a wonderful opportunity to look forward and consider how we should lead in the future — to celebrate and cerebrate, as it were.
This morning, I am proud to announce some very special guests who have agreed to help us have these important discussions.
In fact, one of our first Bicentennial events, led by Bicentennial Professor Martha Jones, is a colloquium titled, the “Future University Community.”
Scheduled for January 30, it’s the first of three Presidential Colloquia that examine our future.
This colloquium will include a panel that features U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and Michigan alumna and Judge Susanne Baer of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany.
Other activities associated with this colloquium will include an April series of temporary art installations across the campus marking some of the more challenging moments in our history.
The second colloquium, led by Professors Sue Alcock and Paul Courant, will be held in conjunction with the Tanner Foundation meeting on June 26.
It will include a discussion among university presidents of the Tanner institutions, moderated by former Brown University President Ruth Simmons.
The Tanner members include Michigan, Berkeley, Cambridge, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Stanford, Utah, and Yale.
The topic will be the Evolving Bargain between Research Universities and Society.
The third colloquium will explore the future of the residential research university.
It is aptly titled, “The Campus of the Future.”
It will feature a competition and discussion of student design projects that focus on the special and unique qualities of our campus residential experience, and how that might look in 50 years.
An internationally renowned panel will provide feedback to the students.
The Bicentennial professors for this Oct. 26 colloquium are Mika LaVaque-Manty and Joanna Millunchick.
The Presidential Bicentennial Professors are here this morning, and I thank them for their work.
These colloquia will showcase U-M’s ongoing intellectual leadership – but they represent only a few of the many events we have planned for the Bicentennial
There will be more details coming soon in the University Record and on the Bicentennial website.
My primary focus as president will always be to position U-M for perpetual excellence and public impact in everything we do:
Research, education, performance, patient care, service, and creative work, with a campus climate that is inclusive and welcoming to the diverse community we serve.
Across the board, we have the talent to advance excellence and achieve impact, at levels befitting both our legacy and our potential.
We are ready, as U-M’s first president, Henry Tappan, once said, to “carry” this university “forward to perfection.”
I base my belief on the strength and ambition of the U-M faculty, on the commitment and support of our regents, and of all the staff and student leaders here in the room with us today.
During our time together, I have learned that your aspirations are just as lofty as those of Henry Tappan.
And I view one of my primary responsibilities as helping you make them happen.
So this morning, I am proud to discuss a few of the ways we will do this together.
These announcements align with my commitment to encourage scholarship that addresses major societal problems, using the full spectrum of our disciplinary breadth.
They also include my pledge to help you provide all of our students with the best education possible, enhanced by high impact engaged learning experiences for undergraduates, graduate and professional students.
Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan
The first new initiative taps into our goal of societal impact, as well as our most cherished values.
It combines the principles that attracted our students, faculty and staff – and this current president – to the University of Michigan.
These are bedrock principles that we pursue with the full weight of our considerable intellectual power.
We hold them deeply within our Michigan DNA, and we feel them in our hearts:
That we serve the public.
That no challenge is too big or too complex.
That great universities tackle and aim to solve great problems.
Today the University of Michigan is launching a new multidisciplinary initiative to inform, seek out, and test new strategies for preventing and alleviating poverty.
It will include faculty from many schools and colleges, build upon our strong community partnerships, and provide new engaged learning opportunities for our students.
It is called Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.
Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan will help us bring our intellectual resources to bear on a truly critical social problem.
One out of every eight Americans lives in poverty.
And poverty rates in some Michigan cities are three times higher than that.
The numbers are even more discouraging for children. A third of the people living in poverty in the U.S. are under 18. That means 14.5 million children.
As its name implies, our new initiative is focused on action and solutions.
We’re going to roll up our sleeves with the goal of having a direct impact.
We will develop ideas and new interventions through research, and take advantage of existing data from programs that are already in place.
We will test the effectiveness of interventions while working alongside community partners.
And we will work to engage policymakers and leaders with our findings.
The initiative will also help us expand high-impact engaged educational opportunities for our students.
For example, Poverty Solutions will work with our Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning to develop a formal effort that will increase student involvement.
The Ginsberg Center has had terrific success in cultivating community partnerships that advance social change.
Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan is based on recommendations made by faculty in a report earlier this year.
They found that while research on poverty is being conducted in many departments at U-M, the scholars are often working wholly independently, and unaware of each other.
Our new initiative builds upon and organizes these many efforts.
One Poverty Solutions funding program already in place for faculty is a partnership with the Detroit Urban Research Center in our School of Public Health.
The Center is known as a global leader in community based participatory research.
Our expanded effort will provide grants for proposals that combine participatory research with training and expertise from community partners.
The aim here is to translate research into actionable interventions and then to rigorously assess their effectiveness.
U-M is among the world’s best universities at translating fundamental research into applications that benefit society.
It is my pleasure to announce that Professor Luke Shaefer will serve as director of Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan.
He is a faculty member in our Ford School of Public Policy and our School of Social Work, a nationally influential scholar, and co-author of the book, “Two Dollars a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America.”
He is developing other programs for the initiative that include support for junior faculty designed to produce the next generation of poverty scholars.
And a summer faculty fellows program that will partner initially with Washtenaw County and deepen faculty and student engagement.
Professor Shaefer is also looking for more partners, on campus and across the state.
He and the Poverty Solutions governance board of faculty and deans are committed to using our resources to have the greatest possible impact.
U-M is today a model public research university.
This distinction was established by the historic ambitions I mentioned earlier.
And over the generations it has been amplified, as U-M’s leadership in higher education has continually been driven by innovation.
We were the first university to own and operate a hospital and the first with a chemistry lab.
We were started the first public museum in the state, with collections in our “cabinet of natural history” informing our mission from day one.
Each of these innovations transformed higher education.
Now we are on the brink of another transformational moment in our history.
We have launched an Academic Innovation Initiative for U-M that I believe represents the next stage in the evolution of our leadership in higher education.
Our new initiative will formally help us consider how we can leverage networked access to information, new modes of communication and data analytics to strengthen the quality of a Michigan education, tailor it to the needs of each individual student, and enhance our impact on society.
Academic innovation is where creativity, comprehensive excellence and our aspirations for societal impact all come together at the University of Michigan.
It includes innovations inside and outside the classroom, involves our students in hands-on learning and uses new technologies to enrich their experiences.
It also brings a Michigan education to learners around the world.
Earlier this month, we added to the impressive list of “Michigan firsts,” when we enrolled our 5 millionth MOOC learner.
From the data we have, this figure is tops in the nation, and demonstrates that our content is not only massive but highly sought.
Faculty pioneers at U-M have developed digital tools that personalize feedback for students, allowing them to modify how they study, tailor courses to their own goals, maximize learning and stay on track.
We have assembled large amounts of data that help us scrutinize the effectiveness of our teaching and better understand our students – and we understand those students not just as learners and majors, but as human beings with diverse educational experiences and backgrounds.
Academic innovation helps us teach the full spectrum of society, exposing more people to our excellent faculty.
It enhances everything we do in our classrooms while also making the U-M accessible for students before they go to college and long after they graduate.
We can now make education for learners of all life stages as dynamic as the global job market they will need to navigate.
Our Academic Innovation initiative will help us apply all of this – the data, the access, and our outstanding faculty talent — in service of higher education and society at large.
It will leverage Michigan’s breadth and our ability to engage.
All 19 of our schools and colleges were represented at last week’s kickoff event for the initiative.
I view this initiative as fully complementary and even foundational to my focus on academic excellence and impact at the University of Michigan.
It will continue to encourage experimentation by our faculty on how to teach ever more effectively and provoke ongoing conversations around innovation.
But it will also strategically organize our intent moving forward.
Provost Pollack and I have charged the Office of Academic Innovation and the Academic Innovation steering committee with developing recommendations for our future.
We’re looking to identify investments and solutions that will enhance excellence and impact at the U-M and shape the future of education.
And everyone who participates in this initiative will have the opportunity to contribute.
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
For more than a year, our community has been deeply engaged in an examination of how we can better uphold the inseparable and cherished U-M values of excellence and diversity.
This work took place even as we were implementing strategies to enroll a more diverse student body and improve the campus climate.
We will have updated enrollment numbers to share in the next week or so.
But for the incoming class, we are expecting increases in under-represented minorities, first generation students, and students eligible for Pell grants – though we are still not where we want, or need, to be.
Tomorrow’s roll out our first campuswide strategic plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion will include initiatives to help us get there.
Our community has spent months listening and learning from one another, and developed what are actually 49 distinct plans, one for each school, college and major administrative unit.
The title of the plan is Many Voices, Our Michigan.
It reflects the input of thousands of members of our community.
One of the voices we heard was that of Syma Khan, a staff member in the Department of Psychiatry.
She said, “To continue to be leaders and the best; diversity, equity and inclusion need to be values we promote and preserve.”
Our campuswide plan lifts up those values with overarching strategies in three key areas.
They are: Creating an Inclusive and Equitable Campus Climate. Recruiting, Retaining and Developing a Diverse Community. And Supporting Innovative and Inclusive Scholarship and Teaching.
We’ll have more details tomorrow during our day of kickoff events.
Until then, I want our entire community to know that what we are unveiling tomorrow is both a plan and a pledge.
It includes metrics, reporting schedules and measures of accountability — for me, and for all of us.
And it includes $85 million in new investments over five years that we consider crucial to our mission.
This investment will be on top of the funding that is currently devoted to existing programs that advance diversity and promote inclusion.
I’d like to take a brief moment to thank the members of the Diversity Working Group, who led our process, and to the many, many others in our schools, colleges and administrative units who have helped produce a plan that is specific, inspirational and sets us up for the implementation work to come over the next five years and beyond.
I also thank the individuals both in this room and from across the campus who participated in our conversation on campus climate on Sunday here in the ballroom.
We heard that too many members of our community, especially students of color, don’t feel safe on our campus…
That many students feel the pain of isolation in our classrooms and on our campus.
And that we need to find ways to engage more students in confronting this challenge…
I am working to create additional opportunities to engage directly with students.
One example is the establishment of two 25 member Student Advisory Groups, which will help me and all of our senior leaders hear more directly from students.
One group will consist of graduate and professional students and the other of undergraduates.
Each will have diverse representation, and we are working with student leaders to form the groups this month.
That brings me to my next announcement.
To lead the office responsible for implementation and evaluation of the DE&I strategic plan, we are recommending the creation of the position of Chief Diversity Officer for the University of Michigan.
The recommendation will go before the Board of Regents at their meeting later this month.
This is a new position expanding upon the existing Vice Provost for Equity, Inclusion, and Academic Affairs role.
Additional responsibilities will include serving on the senior leadership team as the U-M’s principal advisor to the president on DE&I.
At the next board meeting, Provost Pollack and I will recommend the appointment of Professor and Vice Provost Rob Sellers as the U-M’s first-ever Vice Provost and Chief Diversity Officer.
Rob, congratulations and thank you for your dedication and hard work.
Environment and Sustainability
In search of greater impact, our community has spent several months evaluating our academic programs in the areas of environment and sustainability.
This work is ongoing, and I want to update everyone on a few of the key points.
We intend to create a new school at the University of Michigan.
It will also be a new kind of school.
It will have new ways of engaging faculty from across the university, be organized around themes that evolve over time and have curricula that are intensely engaged.
The new school will replace our School of Natural Resources and Environment, build on its strengths, and have a broader mission.
The recommendation for a new school followed external and internal faculty assessments of our potential.
It is based on two main findings.
First, U-M has an array of programs and a large number of talented faculty in many different units across the institution that engage in research and education around the areas of environment and sustainability.
Stronger integration amongst them would facilitate more collaborations and greatly increase our impact.
Second, we have yet to fully tap our campus and the community’s potential as a living and learning laboratory.
Our students have great interest in these areas, academically and behaviorally.
I agree with Provost Pollack, who says that a new structure for our efforts will magnify the impact of our breadth and quality in this area – and make U-M a ‘go-to’ university for research and education in the environment and sustainability.
A team of faculty is at work developing recommendations for the new school, including organizational themes, curricular innovations, and processes that would result in a more nimble school able to address existing and emerging societal problems.
We will formally name the new school later this fall, and a search for its dean has begun.
Last year at this Breakfast, I was pleased to announce some of the exciting new initiatives that resulted from campuswide committee reviews of our own sustainability goals.
One of those involved efforts to reduce the amount of solid waste we produce, including a
Zero Waste program through Planet Blue and the Office of Campus Sustainability.
I know that a number of you are making your events Zero Waste.
The 6000 student post-Convocation picnic was a successful example of Zero Waste, and this morning’s breakfast is, as well.
We are also moving forward on bringing the Zero Waste program to a very high profile location on our campus.
This promises to give us the opportunity to raise awareness of environmental sustainability to BIG, unprecedented levels.
Beginning next season, all football games in Michigan Stadium will be Zero Waste events.
This will fully implement the Zero Waste Program Athletics has been developing this season for the Big House.
I thank everyone involved in this amazing expression of our values and commitment to sustainability.
Faculty public engagement
The University of Michigan’s academic excellence is well respected within the academy and in many parts of our community.
We have grand academic traditions and innovative initiatives that seek to extend our leadership into our third century.
I believe U-M’s future leadership will be evaluated in part by our ability to better focus our work externally – and to share our scholarship and expertise with a broader public.
This includes policy-makers, voters, taxpayers and others who may not appreciate the full value of a great public research university.
At U-M, we have irrefutable intellectual evidence to make our case.
I want to help us disseminate our work in a more conspicuous, and public, manner, by incentivizing faculty to share their expertise.
This can include service on federal, state or local commissions, as informed advisors, by writing op-eds or offering public lectures.
We should make a particular effort to highlight the work of humanists and social scientists, who contribute greatly to our understanding of and solutions to some of the biggest problems we face as a society.
Our faculty have been helping drive conversations around public engagement on our campus.
In particular, I thank Professor Andrew Hoffman and his colleagues for the Michigan Meeting on public engagement; and now-Dean Alec Gallimore and Professor Rosina Bierbaum who led a faculty committee that sparked many of the recommendations I am mentioning this morning.
This fall, we are focusing on four key areas for further development:
First, we need to better understand what people are already doing in this space, so that we can more vigorously support and coordinate their efforts.
Second, we will find additional ways to call attention to and celebrate this work.
Third, we will intensify our efforts at reaching important constituencies in Washington, DC
And fourth, we will assist any faculty member who wishes to reach out to a broader public audience.
More details and opportunities will be put forward throughout the academic year.
Before I turn to you for your questions, I want to express my gratitude to all of you for your efforts to collaborate in advancing our mission.
You are demonstrating that we are at our best when we trust each other to step beyond the ways we have traditionally been organized.
Earlier this year, UM-Flint brought together faculty from all three of our campuses and Flint community organizations to address the Flint Water Crisis.
Student leaders did the same in a tricampus summit.
UM-Dearborn last month launched the Talent Gateway, in which students engage with peers, faculty, staff and alumni, through interactive content and learning activities.
One goal is to help students become “entrepreneurs of themselves,” through academic innovation that leverages the campus’s strong community connections.
In Ann Arbor, we are seeing faculty from different departments on campus collaborate on faculty search plans as part of our long-term strategy to advance discovery and impact in the biosciences.
Our Health System is finalizing a new affiliation agreement with Metro Health in Western Michigan.
Increasing the number of people who can access and benefit from U-M health care where they live advances our mission to serve the public.
The agreement also enhances our competitive strength during a very dynamic time for health care in the U.S.
And we just launched a new Exercise and Sports Science Initiative, which is a partnership among the Office of Research, several academic departments, Athletics and the private sector.
Where else but Michigan should the science and data of sports performance and health for all ages be studied?
One more example of university-wide collaboration is our Victors for Michigan campaign.
The campaign is well ahead of schedule.
Donors have made gifts totaling $3.63 billion.
Of that, our donors have designated $839 million toward the $1 billion goal for student support, including scholarship, fellowships, internships, and global study.
I am always amazed by the generosity of our donors and the work of everyone across the university who helps to demonstrate the tremendous benefits of philanthropy.
There are so many more outstanding examples of collaboration that I could list.
You represent the students, faculty, staff and retirees of our campus – a very large and impressive group.
In the spirit of community, you have also helped us confront some challenging issues, as both an academic community and as citizens.
Sunday’s conversation here in the ballroom was an example.
This week, we also saw faculty and students demonstrate against hate on our Diag.
And student leaders from the Black Student Union, Rackham, CSG, LS&A, and Engineering stepping up as allies against hateful speech and discrimination.
In July, following tragic shootings in Baton Rouge; Falcon Heights, Minnesota; and Dallas, the U-M community came together for a conversation about racism and violence.
It was organized by students, faculty and staff from the Students of Color at Rackham, our School of Education, and our Rackham Graduate School.
When Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson wanted to discuss the complex intersection of law enforcement and discrimination, he chose to come to UM-Dearborn.
Our community demonstrated the power of the arts to mourn and to denounce violence, with the Requiem for Orlando, and the Men’s Glee Club’s performance of “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed,” conducted by Professor Eugene Rogers.
At Michigan, we are strongest when we work to solve problems and promote understanding, together, as one community. As allies. As leaders and best. We are the University of Michigan.