(As prepared for delivery)
Good morning colleagues, students and friends.
It’s a pleasure to welcome all of you to this year’s leadership breakfast.
I also want to welcome everyone watching on the live stream this morning.
The music playing as you were taking your seats is the first of many examples of our academic excellence I will be discussing today.
The piece is titled “Tales of Hemingway,” and it was composed by Professor Michael Daugherty, of our School of Music, Theatre & Dance. “Tales of Hemingway” won a Grammy Award in February for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.
U-M faculty took home two Grammys this year. The other went to Joseph Gramley, associate professor of music and director of percussion studies. He was part of the winning ensemble for Best World Music Album, for Sing Me Home.
Congratulations and Bravo to our musical Victors!
Over the past year, many of our faculty have been honored at the highest levels. Nineteen U-M faculty members were elected to national academies, and we count six new Thurnau professors. Additionally, Prof. Heather Ann Thompson won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History for her book, “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy.”
You can see the full list up on the screen, and some of these colleagues are here today.
This year has also been busy for the recruitment of outstanding academic leaders with new deans in six of our 19 schools and colleges – and a terrific new Provost in Martin Philbert.
One of these deans, Jonathan Overpeck, is also leading a brand new school. The School for Environment and Sustainability was officially launched in July.
We envision it as a different type of school. It will have more permeable boundaries and bring together faculty from many of our schools and colleges and a wide variety of disciplines.
They will collaborate with each other and with faculty appointed within the school to pursue interdisciplinary approaches to issues that impact our environment, sustainable development and the multitude of links to society.
These are very complex issues, and the stakes are enormously high. It would not be hyperbole to opine that sustainability is the defining scientific, social and political issue of this century.
Faculty and external experts whose work led to the creation of SEAS understood that no single discipline can solve these problems alone.
The SEAS structure is designed to remove barriers to collaboration. It will coordinate closely with the Graham Sustainability Institute, whose mission is to connect U-M scholars and students to partners outside the academy to bring our expertise to bear in support of government agencies and other businesses and institutions.
SEAS will allow our faculty to pursue research and academic programs that match our ambitions and expertise across many disciplines, including the sciences, design, engineering, policy, the humanities and the arts. The school will also be central to our university’s ongoing commitment to sustainability through research, education and campus behavior.
As we embark on Michigan’s third century, I believe our future success will be defined in part by our ability to contribute to the solution of society’s most daunting problems bringing to bear the full intellectual might of our academic breadth and depth.
Initiatives and new endeavors we have launched in recent years are helping to unleash faculty creativity in innovative ways. Collaborations are driving work in Poverty Solutions; our Humanities Collaboratory, our entrepreneurship programs, our work in Detroit, and many others.
More than any other university, we have the potential to be so much more than the sum of our many excellent parts. It’s this potential to have a positive impact on the society we serve that represents our greatest value as a university.
It drives our work. It reflects our values as a 200-year-old public university. And I hope it inspires our elected leaders, donors, partners and all members of the public to support our faculty and students.
I am pleased to share a few announcements and updates that represent the breadth of our commitment to society and our mission to advance the public good through research, education and service.
Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan
In the year since we launched our Poverty Solutions initiative, we have engaged in numerous activities and started programs aimed at finding new ways to prevent and alleviate poverty in Michigan, the nation and the world.
Poverty Solutions Director, Professor Luke Shaefer, his team, and U-M faculty from several disciplines have been working with partners in communities and have brought together experts to inform national and state policy.
Examples include student engagement activities like a poverty simulation organized in partnership with UM-Dearborn, and a conference on making housing more affordable. The handout provided outside has more information on the wide range of work being done through the initiative.
I am also very proud that we are preparing to announce a formal partnership between Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan and the City of Detroit. The agreement will formalize work being done in partnership between our institutions to enhance economic mobility and break the cycle of intergenerational poverty in Detroit. We will have more information to share in the coming weeks.
Precision Health at the University of Michigan
Today, we are launching a new initiative that taps into our tremendous potential for addressing major societal health problems.
It’s called Precision Health at the University of Michigan and uses Big Data to provide unprecedented insights into human health and disease.
Humans are subject to many types of illnesses that affect our well-being and quality of life. Susceptibility to disease and the very manifestations of disease itself differ among individuals in part because we all differ in the sequence of DNA in our genomes. An individual’s state of health is determined by the interaction of genes, environment, and behavior.
Powerful new tools, some of them developed here at U-M, allow researchers to collect large amounts of detailed genetic, physiological, and environmental data and use this data to predict and prevent disease or optimize individual treatment.
U-M is perfectly positioned to be a global leader in this area because of our spectacular breadth and collaborative ethos. With outstanding schools of public health, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy and engineering to complement our top ranked medical school, world-class academic medical center, and Institute for Social Research, we can bring together researchers and physicians in teams of unmatched intellectual capacity and complementarity.
No other public university has such breadth of excellence in this arena like U-M.
We’re the university that organized massive field trials to assess the Salk vaccine and prove its safety, potency, and effectiveness. And the university that developed the techniques for gene discovery leading to the identification of genes causing cystic fibrosis, Huntington’s disease, and neurofibromatosis.
Our academic medical center, Michigan Medicine, ranked sixth in the nation, counts more than 2 million patient visits each year. We have strengths in machine learning, sensor technologies, medical devices and artificial intelligence. And we are a leader in converting our discoveries into treatments in ways that advance human health in communities here and around the globe.
We are off to a great start having already accumulated genomic DNA, health and lifestyle data on over 42,000 individuals.
This summer, U-M researchers were central to a publication describing the most complete understanding ever achieved of the genes responsible for Type 2 diabetes, a disease that affects about 10 percent of the adults in Michigan.
With the launch of Precision Health today, I am pleased to announce that our first new project through the initiative will address the opioid crisis in our nation.
Opioid misuse and addiction is a national health emergency. On an average day in the United States, at least 91 people die from opioid overdose. Our Precision Health initiative will work to understand opioid addiction at multiple levels.
When patients undergo surgery and get an opioid prescription, some achieve good pain control using the prescribed dose, but many others don’t. And some become addicted.
Most new chronic users receive their first opioid prescription for post-surgical care. And 6 percent of patients who have never had an opioid before, will become dependent long after surgery. Some patients don’t take their full dose, meaning unused pills can end up in the wrong hands.
The project will examine ways we can predict how much pain medication someone will need, based on their individual genetic profile, physiological condition, and social, environmental and lifestyle factors. This will allow physicians to tailor how they help individual patients manage pain.
Accurate doses will diminish the likelihood that someone will become addicted and reduce the number of pills that leave the pharmacy unnecessarily. This research also has the potential to identify genes that predispose individuals to addiction, allowing us to focus interventions on those most at risk.
There is no better university in our nation to tackle a problem like this.
And this is just scratching the surface of what we can achieve. We’ll also be taking on depressive illnesses, metabolic diseases and cancer.
We have faculty excellence across all the related disciplines, and schools, colleges, institutes and departments that are already leading the way in discovery and education related to society’s biggest problems.
Our Precision Health initiative will be led by three co-directors, who are members of our faculty. They are Goncalo Abecasis of our School of Public Health, Sachin Kheterpal of Michigan Medicine, and Eric Michielssen of our College of Engineering.
The Precision Health initiative is another example of how U-M is committed to using our resources to have the greatest possible impact on the public we serve.
Faculty Public Engagement
Another way we can increase our positive impact on the public is through increased support for faculty public engagement.
The Michigan faculty is an intellectual powerhouse with expertise in an unmatched array of critical and timely areas. As a great public university, I believe that faculty who are interested in doing so, should be encouraged to contribute that expertise more directly to the public good and recognized for this activity.
Over the past year, we have examined how faculty use their knowledge and apply their research or teaching skills to inform federal, state or local policy-making, through consultation, testimony, or serving on advisory panels. How they contribute to the informed understanding of important issues and elevate the level of public debate, through writing, appearing in the media, or offering classes or talks directed toward the public.
The Faculty Public Engagement effort we launch today has two important goals.
The first is to help faculty share their expertise and research capacity with the public, through purposeful efforts focused outside the academy. The second goal is to help the public recognize the great value of its two-centuries long investment in U-M.
On this second point, I am sure you are familiar with recent surveys that measure public perception of colleges and universities. One from the Pew Foundation suggests a growing fraction of the public thinks that colleges and universities have a negative effect on how things are going in the country today.
This is reflected in decreased financial support from the state even as the number of students we educate, the amount of research we produce, and our impact on the economy has grown significantly in recent decades.
I do not believe that our intrinsic value is trending in this direction. Our labs, classrooms, field projects, performances and service efforts are more robust and impactful than ever before.
But research from the Pew Foundation and others reveals that we need to do a better job demonstrating our importance and value to the public we serve. We are valuable not just because we provide an outstanding education to the most talented students in each rising generation, but also because we create new knowledge.
The knowledge we produce enhances the quality of life and our economic vitality. It helps inform our decision-making as a society. It inspires us to ask new questions that move discovery in directions unheard of a generation ago.
To promote and support Faculty Public Engagement at the University of Michigan, we will tap into the strengths of several of our existing academic and administrative units.
First, the Office of Academic Innovation, led by Vice Provost James Hilton, will collaborate with faculty providing their accumulating expertise in digital communications and online education in an environment where innovation is fostered.
AI’s Teach Out series is one example of how faculty can respond quickly to issues of acute importance with expertise that can help the public understand and react to emerging events.
For instance, in just one week, faculty developed and launched a Teach Out on hurricanes, following the devastation in the Atlantic and Gulf regions.
I am now asking the office to more explicitly add a faculty public engagement charge to its work – to further amplify the implications of research and availability of expert opinions for a wide audience.
This will include using the tools and platforms the Academic Innovation Initiative has already developed, as well as working with faculty to launch new experiments that could reimagine public engagement. A design jam that is part of the Academic Innovation Summit in November will address public engagement.
We have already witnessed the success AI has had in reaching literally millions of learners in online courses and bringing innovation to this arena. AI’s focus on two-way interactions between faculty and learners also provides fertile ground for engagement with a variety of audiences.
A second component of our Faculty Public Engagement initiative involves a collaboration between our offices of Research and Government Relations.
This effort is identifying opportunities for federal and state service by our faculty, informing faculty of these opportunities, and then tracking their participation so it can be used to publicize work or for annual review, promotion and tenure considerations by departments. On the latter point, the Provost’s Office will continue to work with deans, chairs and faculty on how to incentivize and “count” the various types of faculty public engagement in annual reviews.
A joint effort among our Communications office and offices in Academic Affairs is the third component of this initiative. Together they will provide robust training for faculty in areas such as writing and placing an op-ed, working with the news media to communicate research, and using social media.
I can personally vouch for the Social Media team’s acumen in helping launch an old-school biology professor’s social media presence.
This collaboration will help identify, further publicize, and hold up as a model faculty who already successfully engage in the public sphere.
For instance, Andrew Hoffman and Don Scavia of our faculty have contributed to public understanding of various important issues by writing for the Conversation. The Conversation is an online medium that unites the rigor of academic scholarship with writing for a broader public audience. Journalists scan The Conversation for ideas on what to write about and experts to call upon, and editors often solicit op-eds from Conversation authors.
When I discussed faculty public engagement at last year’s Leadership Breakfast, I noted that another important component would be celebrating this type of work by the Michigan faculty. To do that, I created two new presidential awards earlier this year to recognize public engagement and impact.
It is now my honor to announce the inaugural recipients of those awards. To get them started, the selection committee recommended two recipients for each award this first year. I invite them to come forward when I announce their names.
The first recipients of the President’s Award for National and State Leadership are Ella Atkins and James Jackson.
Professor Atkins has more than a decade of engagement with aerospace advisory committees and leadership posts at the national level, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the National Research Council.
Professor Jackson’s distinguished service since joining U-M in 1971 includes numerous national academic leadership positions, local service commitments, and the pioneering National Survey of Black Americans. He was also recently announced as the inaugural recipient of our Distinguished Diversity Scholar Career Award.
The first recipients of the President’s Award for Public Impact are Meghan Duffy and Skip Lupia.
Professor Duffy is a leading national voice in promoting the crucial importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the STEM disciplines, including co-creating the science blog, “Dynamic Ecology.”
Professor Lupia’s work to enhance public understanding of political information and scientific findings is exemplified by his use of research to help resolve the civil war in Colombia.
I congratulate all four of these outstanding professors for their work. You will be able to read more about them in the University Record. I look forward to working with them and with all of you as we amplify and support faculty public engagement at the University of Michigan.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Once again this Fall our campus has been attacked by expressions of racism and bigotry, from anti-Latinx painting on the “rock” to racist graffiti in West Quad.
And we’re not alone. Similar disgusting and discouraging episodes have been reported at other universities.
As I’ve said on numerous occasions, racism and bigotry in all its forms have no place
at the University of Michigan. I denounce these and any expressions of hate at our university.
But I am also heartened when I see and hear from members of our community, like U-M student Dana Greene, kneeling on the Diag in peaceful protest against inequality, and inspiring others to do the same in support. Or when the U-M College Republicans paint the “rock” with the words “Unite Against Hate,” as we saw yesterday morning.
I had the opportunity to meet Lt. General Jay Silveria, who is the superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy, when he was here last month for our football game against Air Force.
Just a few days ago, General Silveria emphatically condemned racist messages found on message boards at the academy’s prep school. He assembled all of the Academy’s cadets and had some choice words for anyone engaging in hateful behavior.
If you haven’t seen the video that went viral, I will link to his full remarks when I post the text of this speech.
The general’s message was that those who “can’t treat someone with dignity and respect” should go elsewhere.
He said, “You should be outraged not only as an airman but as a human being.” Of the Academy, the general said that “this is our institution, and no one can take away our values.” He noted that “The power of that diversity comes together and makes us that much more powerful. That’s a much better idea than small thinking and horrible ideas.”
I salute General Silveria for upholding with clarity and eloquence the values of diversity and inclusion we share at U-M.
Though we know there is much more for all of us to do, the University of Michigan’s Strategic Plan for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion has achieved important milestones in its first year.
It is an honor to collaborate with so many community members dedicated to our values around diversity, equity and inclusion. Our student and faculty leaders, unit leads, and all members of the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer have embraced the important work of our five-year plan.
We have completed extensive surveys to assess our campus climate. We had a very robust response rate, and the results will be released in early November and used to target our efforts and measure our progress.
I am also proud that we have incorporated diversity, equity and inclusion into many basic aspects of our operations and mission.
From the beginning, we knew this had to be a lasting commitment that spanned the breadth of our institution while also being embedded in our core. Hundreds of DEI initiatives in programs and units are underway across U-M, addressing crucial needs for students, faculty and staff.
For instance our College of Literature, Science, and the Arts began a Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellowship Program to promote an inclusive scholarly environment. It emphasizes recruiting and retaining outstanding early career scholars, and supports exceptional scholars who are committed to building a diverse intellectual community.
Student Life has piloted the Intercultural Development Inventory, which is an important tool to assess our student body’s intercultural competence. The inventory measures the development of attitudes toward different cultures, identifies critical intercultural incidents, and examines how to navigate our differences.
Multiple units on our campus have also developed staff training programs to create a climate that welcomes differences among people. Some of the courses offered include Unconscious Bias in Everyday Life and Disability Awareness and Etiquette.
At the institutional level, I am proud that base funding and an assessment of progress for DEI efforts are now part of the university’s annual budget process.
All of our collective efforts in this first year will help to inform our programs going forward. We are also planning a Diversity Summit Week from November 6th to the 10th, during which we will share our Year One report on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
When we introduced our Strategic Plan last year, we reinforced the idea that it was both a plan and a pledge that would guide our community. I am so grateful for all of you who are helping us strive to live up to our most cherished ideals.
The University of Michigan cannot be excellent without being diverse in the broadest sense of that word and fostering an environment where we all treat one another with dignity and respect. All members of our community belong here and deserve an equal opportunity to thrive.
Before I open it up for questions, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to our amazing Bicentennial celebration.
That includes Director of the Bicentennial, Gary Krenz, the staff in the Bicentennial Office, and the many, many individuals across our campus who have made this a very special year for U-M.
Our third and final Bicentennial Colloquium culminates October 26th, with a showcase event highlighting the dozens of student projects that envision the Campus of the Future. These student projects are not to be missed. The Presidential Bicentennial Professors for this colloquium are Mika LaVaque-Manty and Joanna Millunchick.
Our Bicentennial’s Fall Festival takes place over three days, also beginning Oct. 26th. The materials we handed out describe some of the upcoming events, including the HAILstorm grand finale projection and sound show on the exterior of Rackham, and the dedication of the staff art sculpture.
I hope to see everyone at these exciting events.
Our Bicentennial has given us the opportunity to think about U-M’s future in the context of our remarkable, and influential, past. The opportunities and challenges I have addressed today are just a small sample of the work we will be doing during the third century of our great university.
Thanks to all of you, your teams, our friends in the Michigan Family, and our partners the world over, I believe we are well-positioned for even greater levels of achievement and impact.
Thanks to you, students from families in Michigan making under $65,000 now have a guarantee of free tuition for four years of undergraduate study — our Go Blue Guarantee. These students will likely be eligible for even more financial aid for books and room and board. Many other students from in-state families who make up to $180,000 per year also receive substantial financial aid from U-M. We can do all of this because of the sound financial management of our resources and the generosity of our donors.
This year, we exceeded two important goals in our Victors for Michigan campaign, including the overall $4 billion goal and our $1 billion goal for student support. The audacious amount of $1 billion provided by our donors for student support will make such a difference in countless lives.
Through much of our history, it has been Michigan teams that have truly made a difference. When you think about it, “teams” are at the heart of every part of this speech. I know I’m not the first to remark on the power of the team.
It was a Michigan team that tested the polio vaccine.
A Michigan team that went to the moon.
A Michigan team that compiled the Middle English Dictionary.
A Michigan team led by our Flint campus that is partnering with the community as it recovers from the water crisis.
A Michigan team that was the first university presentation organization to win a National Medal of Arts.
We are now on the cusp of our third century, and the power of the Michigan team is stronger than ever. I look forward to everything we will accomplish together.
Thank you, and Go Blue.