President Schlissel spoke with Detroit-area high school students
who attended the Detroit Economic Club meeting.
Address to the Detroit Economic Club Monday, December 11, 2017
(As prepared for delivery)
It’s a pleasure to be here amongst so many leaders who are engaged in creating a brighter future for this great American city.
We are proud to be your partner in this important endeavor, and in fact, we have spent a great deal of time this past year focusing on how we can be even more valuable as a university.
Throughout our yearlong Bicentennial celebration at the University of Michigan, we have been examining what we offer to communities all around our state, and particularly here in Southeast Michigan.
My answer to questions about U-M’s value has three parts.
One: As a research university, we make the state and communities we serve more prosperous, through innovations that drive economic growth and create jobs.
Two: We prepare many of our state’s most talented students to succeed and fully participate in a global society, through top academic programs and opportunities unique to a public university of our breadth and scale.
And three: We make the quality of life better – not just for our graduates, but for everyone, and not just through research and education, but also through our galleries and artistic performances, the cutting-edge healthcare provided by Michigan Medicine, and our outstanding athletics teams.
I am a scientist at heart, so I could share huge amounts of data that support each of these points. But instead I’ll make just a few illustrative points.
First of all, public value and service are in our DNA. Two hundred years ago, the legislative act that created U-M envisioned a university that would serve the public good.
The act provided for the creation of “colleges, academies, schools, libraries, museums … and other useful literary and scientific institutions, consonant to the laws of the United States of America and of Michigan.”
That original vision had an incredible degree of foresight.
The greatest strength of a place like U-M is in the confluence of research, teaching, performance
and patient care, which come to life in our galleries and libraries, our classrooms, labs, hospitals and clinics. A Michigan without one or more of these elements would no longer be Michigan.
Over the past two centuries, I believe the U-M has exceeded those venerable concepts of public ‘usefulness’ more than any other university in the country.
One way to illustrate this is by a show of hands. How many of you went to U-M, have an immediate family member who did, or have a colleague at your company who did?
I mention your work colleagues because we know Michigan grads get hired.
Our Ross School of Business reports that more than 190 companies hired the school’s graduates in 2017.
Amazon topped the list by hiring 39 MBA and BBA graduates to full-time roles. In fact, Amazon hires more Michigan grads than those from any other school!
McKinsey & Co was a close second, extending 38 full-time offers across the programs. The report shows that 97% of full-time MBA graduates and 98% of BBA graduates from the class of 2017 had received at least one job offer within three months of graduation.
It’s no surprise that graduates of our top-five ranked engineering college do similarly well in the job market with many heading into the automobile or technology sectors.
But it may surprise you that graduates of our College of Literature, Science and the Arts, do just as well. 96% of graduates are either employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation in fields such as education, research, nonprofits, health care, consulting, law, and banking.
Employers are looking for workers who have broad skill sets and can tackle complex problems, work in groups, communicate clearly, think critically and collaborate across cultural differences.
A Michigan education doesn’t just prepare you for your first job, but rather for a dynamic career
in a rapidly evolving and globalized economy.
We rank among the top in the nation for value we provide to the general public, as well.
We are the No. 1 public university in the nation in research productivity, at nearly $1.5 billion last year. We are the No. 1 public university in the nation in students earning prestigious Fulbright grants – and we have been for 12 years in a row. We are the No. 1 university in the nation in producing physicians who save lives in our hospitals and communities.
At U-M, cars drive themselves, robots walk — and our graduates lead.
In the past year alone, U-M graduates or professors have won a National Book Award, an Oscar, a Golden Globe, two Grammys, three Tonys, a Pulitzer Prize, and three MacArthur Foundation Genius Awards.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor, and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder are all proud U-M Alums. Our alumni also include one U.S. President, two dozen governors, three Supreme Court justices, eight Nobel Laureates – and the winningest quarterback in the history of the NFL.
Michigan’s impact is everywhere you look.
It’s in the books we read, in the hospitals and clinics that heal, and in the schools that educate our children. It’s the way we feel when we hear the voice of James Earl Jones, or experience the Big House for the first time on a Saturday in the Fall.
It’s also where we dream. Our research is the basis for the thrusters that may take humans to Mars, and advances that are keys to curing previously untreatable diseases.
And just think, we’ve been doing this for 200 years. Nowhere else are legacies of excellence and impact like ours measured in centuries.
What sets us apart is that education and research are interdependent and synergistic at U-M. Our students get to learn from faculty who are literally peering around the edges of human knowledge and understanding, and framing the questions that will drive us into the future. Students learn that evidence and facts matter, they learn to question what they are taught, and to be purposeful in their studies.
While a majority of our students are from Michigan, we attract bright and hard-working students from every state in our nation and from nearly 120 countries around the world. And once our students from outside the state get to know Michigan they are more likely to stay here for work or additional education.
Of course, Detroit is the first community we served as a public university.
Detroit is the city of our founding. Before the university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837, our first building was at the intersection of Bates and Congress, just off Woodward Avenue and about 1,500 feet from here.
Our Bentley Historical Library has artifacts that date back even farther. In its collection is copy
of the first printed map known to show the city of Detroit by name. It was created in 1703 by the French cartographer Guillaume de L’Isle.
I believe the University of Michigan and the city of Detroit will share a future that is equally significant to our wonderful past. The work we do as a university with Detroit and its leaders
and with community partners in its neighborhoods provide terrific examples of how the interests of cities and research universities are not only mutual, but inseparable — in prosperity, in hope, and in our will to create a better future for all.
At the U-M, our efforts take place on many levels and across nearly every academic discipline. Our schools, colleges and faculty members are leading research and teaching programs in collaboration with partners in Detroit. Their activities address all manner of challenges.
For instance, the U-M ArcPrep program through our Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning provides intensive coursework to high school juniors interested in designing future communities. This is a terrific partnership with the Detroit Public Schools and private sector supporters.
The Medical School partners with Cass Tech High School in helping students explore careers and opportunities in health care fields.
Our School of Public Health, working with several community partners, released a Public Health Action Plan with recommendations for reducing air pollution in Detroit.
At the center of the North End neighborhood’s resurgence is a nonprofit called the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. The initiative is capitalizing on the farm-to-table movement. It was started by two U-M students from our Ann Arbor and Dearborn campuses, with funding from our programs that support entrepreneurship.
Groups involving thousands of students are engaged each year in community-based service learning and research projects that involve working alongside residents who are creating a better future for their city. And they learn from many of you, the leaders in the community.
I will also never forget a reception we held at the One Woodward building for U-M students who were working as interns at Detroit companies and organizations.
An important part of our work at U-M is ensuring that these types of educational opportunities are available for all talented students throughout our state.
Starting next month, many students attending Michigan will do so under our Go Blue Guarantee. This is a new initiative that promises free tuition to in-state undergraduate students from families with annual incomes of up to $65,000. That’s about half the families in our state.
These students will receive up to four years of free tuition if they are admitted to our Ann Arbor campus and if they meet certain requirements. They may also receive additional financial aid for books, room and board, and other costs, depending on their individual circumstances.
The Go Blue Guarantee builds on our longstanding commitment to helping all Michigan residents with financial need afford a U-M education, including those who make well above the $65,000 threshold.
About seventy percent of our in-state undergrads receive financial aid and for these students the cost of attending U-M has actually gone down over the past decade. And we will continue to work to increase our financial aid to both undergraduate and graduate students.
All this is possible because of the generosity of our donors, our careful financial management, and the priority we place on restraining tuition growth. We consider financial aid one of the most crucial investments we can make in the future of our state.
We are also working intently to broaden our reach.
To make sure that we can identify and attract talented students from all types of communities, we began the Wolverine Pathways program in 2015. It provides after school, weekend and summer enrichment and mentoring programs for more than 100 talented and committed 7-12th graders in Ypsilanti, Southfield and Detroit. The goal is to get them ready to apply to and succeed in college, hopefully at U-M.
As part of our Bicentennial, we have spent the year looking forward with purpose.
I believe U-M’s success in our third century will be measured in part by Detroit’s success. It’s the largest city in Michigan, with strengths, challenges and opportunities that model many urban areas, in our nation and around the globe.
A public university like U-M is at its best when our commitments to research, teaching, and service all work together to leverage the greatest possible impact for the communities we serve. That’s a value that other types of institutions simply can’t provide.
It takes a research university, striving toward the highest levels of excellence, with deep and enduring ties to a community, its history, its ambitions, and its people. Many of U-M’s existing initiatives are taking this collaborative approach.
Take for instance, major research endeavors like our Mcity test facility for autonomous and connected vehicles, and our MForesight initiative for advanced manufacturing.
We are the founders – along with the federal government and Ohio State University – of a public-private partnership called LIFT, or Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow. LIFT works to develop and deploy advanced lightweight materials manufacturing technologies, and implement educational programs to train the workforce.
These would not be possible without researchers from multiple disciplines and industry partners from economic sectors that have long driven innovation in our state, no pun intended.
Our Poverty Solutions initiative is cultivating existing and new partnerships with local stakeholders, philanthropists and policymakers. Our goal is to build knowledge about what does and does not work in alleviating poverty and test applications of that knowledge in our communities.
For instance, our faculty is working with more than 80 community stakeholders to implement
the Detroit Metropolitan Area Communities Study. We know that in addition to reinvigorating the city, new investments are also raising questions about how communities and neighborhoods should make use of scarce resources to bring about positive change. Our new study provides high-quality and up-to-date information on how Detroit residents feel about the most pressing social and economic issues they face.
Poverty Solutions is collaborating closely with the Mayor’s office and partnering with foundations and philanthropists that are committed to the city’s future success.
Additionally, our nearby UM-Dearborn campus has built an outstanding legacy through its focus on Metropolitan Impact, in which students and faculty work closely with local companies and organizations.
I envision many more examples in the years ahead.
The University of Michigan’s greatest strengths include its amazing breadth and scale – from medicine, nursing and public health to law, social work, public policy, the arts and education.
As we begin Michigan’s third century, one of my top priorities is to promote greater synergy
and deeper collaboration among faculty, staff and students from our 19 schools and colleges
and our major research institutes that are doing Detroit-focused work.
We have also launched an examination of our Detroit Center currently located downtown on Woodward, to consider the current scope and future potential of the U-M’s research, teaching, service and engaged learning in Detroit. This work will result in specific recommendations regarding an expanded future physical footprint in the city, as well as the principles that guide our work.
On a personal note, I will always remember the tour of Detroit my wife and I took a little more than three years ago, just before starting my job at U-M. We met with community leaders and Detroit residents, and we saw a remarkable city.
We have been inspired by Detroit residents who have never stopped working to better their hometown. This includes many U-M students, and civic and business leaders – many of you
who are here with us today.
My commitment to all of you is that we will look for ways to reach higher and farther in our work together. And add new dynamic chapters to our centuries-old partnership, as a great American city and a great public research university.
In his inaugural address in 1951, U-M President Harlan Hatcher emphasized the crucial role of research universities. His words remain true today: “Our young people are going out
into a complex world,” he said. “Which reflects this massive extension of knowledge and the resulting complications of managing the world, which has thereby become increasingly interdependent. The most essential instrument created to serve them in this need is the university. We will rise or fall by its success or failure. It must succeed.”
I want to close with a brief story about one of our graduates, who exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit of Michigan students and the societal impact I’ve been talking about today. This is one of my favorite stories to tell.
[President Schlissel discussed U-M entrepreneur Grace Hsia.]
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak with you today and for working with us now
and in the years ahead.
Until then, and as always: Go Blue!