Editorial: University of Michigan Reaching out to African Americans
Mary Sue Coleman
Exclusive to The Michigan Chronicle and The Michigan Front Page
“Get an education because education is the key to your future.” This saying lives on, passed from grandparents and parents to children, because it is real. And through the generations, education has propelled millions of people across and beyond lines of class, race, and gender.
I work in higher education precisely because I believe fervently in its value. As president of the University of Michigan, I look every day for ways to open our doors more widely, and to make our campus community increasingly hospitable to everyone who joins us.
This is why I dedicated myself so enthusiastically to the University’s legal defense of affirmative action admissions. We fought all the way to the Supreme Court and won.
What did we win? We won the right to continue to consider race—an integral reality in all our children’s lives—among the many factors we look at for admission. Everyone knows that race affects the way society approaches our children and the way our children learn to respond. We all know that these dynamics contribute important elements to who our children are and the way they will tackle the challenges and opportunities of intellect and of life that await them.
Of course, academic factors like grades are the top consideration for applicants, but we won the right for colleges and universities throughout the country—including U-M—to factor in the reality of race among all the many things we evaluate.
And we won the Supreme Court’s agreement that racial diversity in higher education is a compelling national interest, because this country must have leaders who are prepared to guide us through our increasingly diverse and global future.
I also fervently believe in the imperative to make education accessible to every qualified and motivated student who seeks it. In the words of U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois), “We must make sure that people who have the grades, the desire and the will, but not the money, can still get the best education possible.”
This is why the University of Michigan is pledged to help families meet the demonstrated financial need of every single admitted undergraduate student from the State of Michigan. Financial challenges must never close the door to our children’s futures.
Our K-12 educational system is in dire need of rejuvenated vision and strengthened support. Beyond slogans and campaigns, we all must roll up our sleeves and get to work in the elementary, middle and high schools, where our children build their educational foundation.
This is why some of our top faculty dedicate themselves to community collaborations that seek to improve educational theory and practice. And this is why hundreds of U-M students travel from Ann Arbor to Detroit every year in service and learning programs that advance the community in general, and education in particular. For instance, day in and day out, our students tutor and mentor Detroit high school students in University-supported programs like the Detroit Initiative and Project SERVE, Intellectual Minds Making a Difference (IMMAD), and the graduate Students of Color of Rackham (SCOR)—all of whom reach back to give back and to bring forward.
The rich opportunities of higher education await those young people who work hard to attain the broadest possible horizons. And the University of Michigan is anxious to help them open the door to their intellectual passions and bright futures.
Yes, challenges to access do remain. At many universities this year—like the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and The Ohio State University—the number of African American students declined. We are determined to reverse this loss, and we are redoubling our efforts to reach out to prospective students of color to encourage them to apply and to attend Michigan.
This is why U-M is a leader in numerous enrichment and recruitment initiatives such as the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program, the Wade H. McCree Jr. Incentive Scholarship Program, and King/Chavez/Parks programs. Our admissions staff members meet daily with Detroit public, private, and charter school students and counselors, and are available in the City at 3031 West Grand Boulevard, Suite 530, (313) 872-7608.
Once they arrive in Ann Arbor, all our children must feel welcomed and valued, and they must have support networks to sustain them through the rigors of college life.
This is why U-M is investing more than $1 million to enhance our student support networks and facilities like the William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center. The Multicultural Center is included in the University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, and my husband, Ken, and I were pleased to make a personal leadership gift to that effort.
If your child studies seriously and seeks to be a leader in service to the community and nation, encourage her or him to harness that hard work and motivation and reach for the highest star.
Research proves that our children do their best in educational environments that expect and demand the best of them. Whether they choose the University of Michigan or another outstanding school, the future will be built by the brilliance of their minds, and the energy and perseverance of their youth.