1. Michigan Governor’s Economic Summit and Governor’s Education Summit

    March 5, 2015

    Note: Remarks as prepared for delivery.

    It is an honor to be here today representing the University of Michigan, among so many distinguished educators, public servants, and business and economic development leaders.

    I want to thank Governor Snyder for extending me the invitation to speak today.

    The Governor was one of the first people I met after beginning my job as president.

    He was kind enough to come visit me in Ann Arbor and welcome me to Michigan on my first day in office.

    We have had a great relationship ever since, and he has been back on our campus on a number of occasions to support the work we are doing to advance education and research.

    Over the last several months, I have spent a great deal of time meeting with many of the individuals who are responsible for the state of Michigan’s great resurgence.

    Despite all of the difficulties Michigan has faced, there is such promise that reverberates throughout the state – and the people here draw tremendous strength from the best aspects of their communities.

    Collectively, we have so much to celebrate, whether it is the energy surrounding Art Prize in Grand Rapids, the recovery of Detroit, the popularity of wine from “Up North,” or the Farmers Market in Flint.

    Another very positive trait I have seen is the passion that our citizens have for their home state’s colleges and universities. They are Wolverines, Chippewas, Eagles, Lakers, Spartans, and many others.

    Michiganders share an optimism about our state, and they look to higher education as a pathway to prosperity for their children and as a source of hope for the future.

    The cooperation amongst businesses, communities and educational institutions is also impressive, and everything I have seen since arriving here makes me very bullish about the future of our state.

    I spent time with the leaders of D-Hive, here in Detroit, and saw the amazing work that is being done to foster entrepreneurship and empower individuals and companies who want to do business here.

    I visited the cities of Dearborn and Flint on numerous occasions, to speak with members of the U-M campuses there and to hear from stakeholders and community leaders.

    All told, the three University of Michigan campuses educate more than 60,000 students, from every area of our state.

    And each campus has its own distinct energy.

    UM-Flint is working to help rebuild its home city, from close collaboration on the downtown Farmer’s market to fostering entrepreneurship.

    The campus’s Innovation Incubator has successfully graduated 18 businesses since its launch in 2008, and it is currently providing expertise and assistance to more than 40 businesses.

    In Dearborn, I learned about the campus’s new degree programs in health care fields that were created in response to our state’s need for educated health care workers.

    And 46 percent of the approximately 4,000 U-M alumni who work for Ford graduated from U-M Dearborn.

    I visited the White House and spoke with President Obama about the new Advanced Light Weight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute, a government-university-private sector partnership spearheaded by the U-M here in Detroit.

    Its focus is on the future of manufacturing, along with   strong job training.

    The institute has partnered with the Workforce Intelligence Network to facilitate workforce development, and it is an example of how we can use U-M’s research power to support new and better jobs in our state.

    University partnerships across the state, with community colleges, employers and regional economic development groups — like SPARK in Ann Arbor, the Right Place in Grand Rapids, and Southwest Michigan First — are focusing on talent as one of the key components of successful business expansion and attraction activities.

    I congratulate everyone at SPARK for their vision and success, as they celebrate their 10th anniversary this year.

    Before being elected Governor, Rick Snyder was co-founder of the initiative, along with my predecessor, President Mary Sue Coleman. SPARK has succeeded in building a thriving culture of innovation in Ann Arbor.

    The levels of engagement I see today between universities and their communities are just as powerful and promising.

    During one of my visits to Grand Rapids last fall, I met with the presidents of Michigan’s public universities. We met again just a week ago in Lansing.

    Their energy, commitment to the citizens of Michigan, and willingness to partner across institutions is truly remarkable.

    There is a great awareness that we are in this together as Michigan’s public universities – and that our entire state will benefit from us contributing our full spectrum of complementary strengths to the shared vision of a brighter, more prosperous economy.

    This summit is an important step toward meeting that goal.

    I applaud Governor Snyder for making career readiness a focus of his administration.

    In terms of our history, Michigan is a state that is not that far removed from the days when a high school education could lead to a stable, decades-long career.

    The modern economic landscape looks much different, of course.

    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.

    I see an enormous opportunity to work together strategically and leverage our individual proficiencies in research, teaching, career tech, and entrepreneurship.

    Even before the secondary impacts of increasing knowledge in the workforce are accounted for, the BLM report says that higher education has the potential to increase the state’s real GDP by $200 million, and that growing the higher education sector could result in 40,000 new jobs.

    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.

    Our first role as part of this commitment, will be as a partner.

    We will collaborate with business, education and policy leaders to identify sectors of opportunity and ensure that we are linking business needs with campus resources and student preparation.

    The University Research Corridor is a good example.

    The partnership amongst Michigan State, Wayne State and U-M performs highly when compared against the university research clusters in other states, including North Carolina’s Research Triangle, California’s Innovations Hubs and the Route 128 Corridor in Massachusetts.

    The URC ranked second nationally in the Innovation Power Ranking, and it conferred the most graduate and undergraduate degrees of the seven research clusters studied.

    The URC’s economic impact is impressive as well, with $16.6 billion contributed in state economic activity in fiscal year 2012, which boosted state tax revenues by $449 million.

    The Business Engagement Center at U-M has partnered with many of the state’s universities and businesses of all sizes.

    The Center helped to launch the Michigan Corporate Relations Network along with Michigan State, Michigan Tech, Wayne State, WMU, and UM-Dearborn.

    This public-private partnership has helped small- and medium-size businesses access research, expertise and students from our institutions.

    The students who work with the companies under the initiative often end up being hired after graduation.

    Our schools and colleges also have partnerships of their own in key sectors as well.

    The College of Engineering, for instance, has multiple partnerships with industry to promote STEM careers, including a co-op program in which students work full time in an engineering job for 8 months before returning to their studies.

    Over the last several years, U-M has also increased engagement with community colleges, and added programs for prospective and current students who transfer from their campuses.

    These efforts include expanded recruitment, a summer research program that has grown to 45 students, additional scholarships, dedicated on-campus housing, and support services like orientation and mentoring tailored to the needs of transfers.

    Washtenaw Community College is our partner in the Michigan, Pursuing our Dreams – or M-POD – program to assist students through mentorship, specialized seminars, and one-on-one counseling.

    We support the Michigan Transfer Agreement and are working to increase programmatic links with community colleges, in addition to improving the visibility of course pathways for students hoping to transfer.

    There is a lot of talent in our state’s community colleges, and our goal is to see more applications from those students.

    Our work with all sectors of the economy will help us be more responsive to the greatest economic needs of the state, and help us identify the sectors that show the most potential for growth.

    Our second focus at U-M will be to leverage our strong capacity for research to bring forward innovations that drive economic growth.

    I see even greater potential ahead, and that is due in large part to opportunities that are uniquely Michigan.

    For example, only in Michigan can an unprecedented collaboration of the auto, technology, urban planning, and insurance industries team up with government and education partners to build a mobility transformation laboratory on the scale of M-City, located on our North Campus.

    M-City is a 32-acre facility resulting from an innovative research and development partnership.

    Its goal is to develop the foundation for a commercially viable system of connected and automated vehicles, in which the vehicles “talk” with each other and with the surrounding transportation infrastructure.

    Our test facility simulates real-world conditions.

    Vehicles will encounter traffic lights and crosswalks, and navigate obstacles such as buildings, bike lanes, and — as we are very familiar with — road construction.

    The potential economic and safety benefits are enormous.

    Imagine if we could reduce motor vehicle fatalities and injuries by a factor of 10 while also increasing new transportation startups by a factor of 10.

    Or gain unprecedented efficiencies by avoiding traffic jams, or managing commercial deliveries through automation.

    Another example is an architecture prep partnership between our Taubman School of Architecture and Urban Planning and the Detroit Public Schools.

    It could have a profound influence on the revitalization of the city.

    The collaboration includes a 3,700-square-foot studio that provides classes to Detroit high school students interested in careers in architecture and design.

    It has so much potential for both the students who participate and for the communities they will help through their work.

    The program provides the immersive hands-on learning that will allow the students not just to participate in, but to lead the rebirth of a great American city, their city.

    The third component of our role is to prepare graduates for all of the demands they will encounter in the job market – no matter what discipline they study.

    More than ever before, successful college graduates need a well-rounded breadth of educational experiences.

    A U-M education must foster analytical and creative thinking, the ability to work in teams, global awareness, communication skills and experiential learning.

    In addition, we will work to bring students and researchers from multiple disciplines together to work strategically on the biggest problems facing our communities.

    This could help our state on a number of levels.

    First of all, big, multidisciplinary collaborations provide tremendous opportunities for students to gain valuable experience that translates into real-world success.

    I mentioned M City earlier.

    Another example is U-M’s Biological Station.

    The facility’s location in Pellston is at the center of the Great Lakes region, giving students and researchers the opportunity to use an entire ecosystem as their learning laboratory.

    So we see natural historians working with microbiologists, ecologists with climatologists, geologists with atmospheric scientists.

    The station provides multiple benefits to our state. It attracts top talent, as half of its research last year was conducted by investigators from outside the U-M.

    It is an academic and scientific ambassador for us in the north part of the state.

    And it informs the lives of the millions of people who live in communities surrounding the Great Lakes, as 28 percent of its research involves population and community ecology.

    Multidisciplinary collaborations are essential because the biggest issues we must confront as a society don’t conveniently organize themselves into single academic disciplines.

    Problems don’t know what disciplines they are supposed to fall under. They are just problems.

    And students, graduates and researchers who are exposed to multiple disciplines and approaches to solving these problems have the potential to be the best-trained and most highly sought minds in the job market.

    The common thread among all of these components is the University of Michigan’s deeply held commitment to the public good.

    Our students, faculty, and staff embrace U-M’s public ethos – with a belief that our best work is that which has a positive impact on the world around us.

    U-M’s public ethos drew me to Michigan, and it drives all of us to be better and stronger partners with our many constituents across the state.

    Part of my work in the years ahead will involve finding ways that U-M can do more to develop homegrown talent, because graduates who come from own communities have a vested interest in making their communities better.

    I met a U of M political science student named Richard Plowden who is a great example.

    Richard is a Detroit native, and he plans to make a difference here in his home city after he graduates, because he sees a community that needs his talents.

    He told a group of our alumni about his plans to give back, and I will always remember his words.

    “I was born in Detroit; I was raised in Detroit,” he said. “It doesn’t stop at a Michigan degree. Not for me.”

    To reach more young people from Michigan, we are developing plans to launch new partnerships with K-12 school districts around the state.

    We aim to help more students become college ready and cultivate a more diverse pool of talent.

    U-M has had success with these types of partnerships in the past.

    The concept is to work with the schools to identify students who show promise, and then offer college preparatory programs after school, on weekends, and during the summer.

    We will also work with the students’ families, to ensure that they understand the process of sending a student to college, and the financial aid resources that make that possible.

    This is one step in a much larger effort at U-M to encourage broad diversity among our students, graduates, faculty and staff.

    We know that employers want to hire diverse graduates.

    And our work to provide them aligns closely with the university’s public ethos – and my personal belief that while talent is uniformly distributed across the populace, opportunity most certainly is not.

    The next aspect of our approach involves advocacy.

    I appreciate the BLM’s call for greater reinvestment in higher education, and I will work with business and education leaders to maintain a united front in this regard.

    This is my first budget season at U-M, and I look forward to working with state leaders, as well, to maintain the momentum of restoring investment in public higher education in Michigan.

    I believe college access and affordability will be two of the greatest challenges we confront in the years ahead.

    We have made them priorities at U-M, as have our state’s other public institutions. Michigan’s well-being will depend on our ability to produce the educated work force we need despite these financial challenges.

    The final role that I see for U-M is as a provider of jobs for the Michiganders we all serve.

    U-M has a vested interest in talent development of every stripe, because we hire in virtually every type of job.

    Governor Snyder’s emphasis on career tech is an important component of the overall higher education landscape.

    Just think of where U-M would be without highly talented workers in the skilled trades.

    Our researchers would not have state-of-the-art labs.

    We would not have the modern student facilities that are advancing our educational mission.

    There are countless more examples I could list.

    Developing talent in our great state does not need to be a zero-sum game.

    I look forward to approaching this, and all of the work ahead, as partners with the other institutions of higher learning in our state, not rivals, except perhaps on our playing fields.

    A better Michigan will mean a better future for all of us.

    We share a passion and a sense of optimism, and I believe we have the complementary missions, strengths, and values to propel our state forward.

    We can make Michigan once again, a powerful, global leader in economic prosperity.

    Thank you very much.