President Mark Schlissel
Inauguration of Chancellor Borrego
(as prepared for delivery)
It is an honor to be back here in Flint today to celebrate this outstanding occasion for the University of Michigan family.
I congratulate Chancellor Borrego, and am proud to add my appreciation for her work to the many voices we are hearing today.
I also extend my greetings to our students, our faculty, our staff, and our friends from the Flint community. It is a pleasure to see many of you again.
This is a very special day for all of us.
It is clear that although we are inaugurating a chancellor this week, her immersion into Flint, the campus and the city, has been a constant focus since her arrival last fall.
Chancellor Borrego has embraced this community.
She has literally knocked on doors to get to know people in her neighborhood and made it a priority to meet with the campus’s many friends and stakeholders.
And from the perspective of someone who has also found a new home in Michigan last year, she has hit the ground running.
We have had conversations about improving the flow between Flint and Ann Arbor for students who want to take classes at either campus or transfer between campuses, and for faculty who want to collaborate on research.
Chancellor Borrego has established and supported an environment of equity and inclusivity wherever she has been, and her experience will be particularly valuable as we work to improve the full realization of those values across the university.
This comes as no surprise to those of us who met her before she began.
She is very open and approachable, and she brings those qualities to her interactions as an individual and to her work as a leader.
I also appreciate that she is a clear and straightforward communicator who can get to the heart of complex issues quickly.
She cares very deeply about student success, understands the importance of U-M Flint to the community it calls home, and recognizes that U-M Flint is strengthened by the engaged learning opportunities that exist right here in this city.
There is an energy and optimism here in Flint that makes me very excited about our shared future.
It is a city that draws such strength from its storied past and hope from its incredible resilience.
It is as American as the Chevy Corvette, which first rolled off the assembly line here in 1953.
As a community, it has so much to offer our state and nation.
I am confident that U-M Flint will be a key resource that helps the city and region achieve new levels of prominence.
Chancellor Borrego was kind enough to show me around a bit the last time I was here.
We visited the Farmer’s Market and had breakfast there with members of her Citizens Advisory Committee.
I have enjoyed the chance to learn about the university’s role in revitalization of the community.
For instance, the leadership gift from the Hagerman Foundation will create a Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and further enhance your standing as the region’s best resource for new business growth.
I am also optimistic about the future because the University of Michigan is not the only institution of higher learning to make investments here.
Michigan State, along with institutions such as Kettering, Mott Community College, and others all have a presence in Flint – and they see opportunities for this community as well.
This is in our favor.
The people of Michigan share such great affinities for their colleges and universities, and they look to higher education as a pathway to prosperity for their children and as a source of hope for the future.
I have met many of the individuals responsible for the state’s resurgence over the last year, and there is a great awareness that we are in this together as public and private colleges and universities in Michigan – and that our entire state will benefit from us contributing our full array of strengths to the vision of a brighter, more prosperous economy, one whose benefits are shared in all parts of the state.
Part of my work is focused on how U-M can work with higher education partners throughout the state to increase our value to the communities we serve and to their local economies.
We welcome the opportunity to collaborate as partners with Michigan’s other colleges and universities, because developing talent in Michigan is not a zero-sum game.
I envision that the University of Michigan’s role in this effort will be driven by our commitment, as a public institution, to contribute to sustainable economic prosperity throughout our state.
This commitment is one of our highest, and most cherished, priorities.
I believe UM Flint will have a central role in our work to serve the state and make the state of Michigan once again, a powerful, global leader in economic prosperity.
The campus has been nationally recognized for its achievements in engaged learning, and it provides the opportunity for students to earn an excellent Michigan degree.
I anticipate that your success in producing graduates ready for the workforce will increase under Chancellor Borrego’s leadership, and UM Flint will lead the way for a crucial region in our state.
You are very well positioned for the challenge ahead.
The Business Leaders for Michigan’s most recent report states that 70 percent of the jobs in Michigan in the year 2020 will require education beyond the high school level.
But currently, only 37 percent of Michigan workers have that level of education.
As our state continues to shift toward a knowledge-based economy, the challenges of matching supply with demand in critical economic sectors will in large part determine our ability to maintain the momentum of Michigan’s resurgence.
This issue was summed up very well recently by Steve Arwood, the director of the State of Michigan’s new Department of Talent and Economic Development.
He said businesses used to come to Michigan looking for tax breaks. Now they are more interested in finding skilled workers.
“In this day and age,” he said, “the business incentive is becoming the talent question.”
What university is better positioned to answer the talent question than the U-M?
Within our university, I see an enormous opportunity for us to strategically to leverage our distinct proficiencies across all three campuses.
The University of Michigan has many excellent parts. Our academic programs are spectacular. Our student services are amongst the best. Our influence reaches far and wide, and our commitment to the public good is at the heart of all we do.
We excel in research, teaching, workforce development, and entrepreneurship.
Here at U-M Flint, you have achieved impressive success in applied research, with much of it involving collaborations of undergraduate and graduate students working alongside faculty members.
You’ve increased your total research portfolio despite the challenges posed by the shrinking availability of federal and private resources.
That speaks volumes about the commitment and creativity of your faculty and of the hard work of your staff.
I have been very impressed by your students, as well.
The ability to attract highly motivated and dedicated students who have a vested interest in the future of this community is another great UM Flint asset.
I just saw that your student Chemistry Club received the highest recognition from the American Chemical Society for the third year in a row.
You also have deep connections to this region that are being made stronger every day by your new Chancellor, Sue Borrego.
The University of Michigan’s mission, informally put, is to transform lives through education and improve society through research.
UM Flint’s connections to this community are – and will always be – essential to our ability to fulfill that mission.
As the great Cesar Chavez said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”
The thoughts of Regent Emerita Maynard and Congressman Kildee only reinforce my belief in the strength of this community and that our success will be determined by how much we achieve together.
We are, after all, the nation’s first truly public university, and the only one to be have been autonomous and governed by the people since day one.
I’d like to congratulate the Flint Campus, and its new Chancellor, on embracing this mission and serving it with energy, commitment and creativity.
Thank you, all, for your contributions to Michigan excellence.
Thank you, Chancellor Borrego, for your dedication to your students and to this community.
I look forward to working closely with you on behalf of our students, faculty, staff and the citizens of Michigan in the years ahead.
Thank you all very much.