Grand Opening of Hill Dining Center and Mosher-Jordan Hall
September 25, 2008
We can all tell from the enthusiasm of our speakers that today is a special day at the University. And it should be, because this new dining center and the renovated Mosher-Jordan Hall point to the future of residential life at Michigan.
Today is special for another reason. September 25th marks the anniversary of the first day of classes at the University. One-hundred-and sixty-seven years ago today, seven students embarked on their college careers at Michigan.
They lived together on the upper floor of what was then the one-and-only classroom building. They rose at 5 a.m. – not willingly, but rather because of a clanging bell – and headed off to chapel at 5:30. They had classes all day, went off-campus for meals at a local boarding house, and had to be back in their rooms by 9 at night.
They also had to split their own firewood, pump and carry their own water, and provide their own candles for light. The faculty inspected the students’ rooms for cleanliness.
We have obviously come a very long way since 1841. And yet we share some strong connections to our campus predecessors.
We should appreciate that students then lived and learned in the same building; that they were able to interact with their professors; and that they had easy access in their building to a library and study rooms. In short, they were an academic community.
Those features have never been more important at the University of Michigan, because learning does not start and stop at the classroom door. And we are celebrating that here, in this first phase of a campus-wide program to revolutionize residential life at Michigan.
The spectacular renovation of Mosher-Jordan and this fabulous addition of the Hill Dining Center provide a glimpse of the future of student housing at the University. We believe strongly in the importance of 24-hour learning, not just 15 hours a week in the classroom and laboratory.
Classroom learning is vital. Absolutely vital. So, too, are the learning communities in our residence halls. And the libraries, lounges, classrooms, and dining spaces in these halls. All provide a laboratory for ideas.
Just as our residence halls are wireless, we want learning at Michigan to be seamless. We want there to be no obstacles to how students gain knowledge and discover new ideas, people and places.
Last spring, the University conducted a survey of our graduating seniors to learn more about their time at Michigan. The results provide real insight into the lives of our students, and I want to share one senior’s observations, because they capture the spirit of living and learning at Michigan:
“When I describe my undergraduate experience relative to my friends who attended other institutions, it’s as though we are describing two different things. Very few schools provide the community experience that Michigan does.”
That is why we are committing so many resources to strengthening residential life, for the students of today and tomorrow. Just as we did in 1841, and as we do today, we want to provide a community experience unlike any other university.