“ In Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn, the University of Michigan continues to be a place of bold ideas and actions. ”
“ Throughout our schools and colleges, faculty are being creative, innovative and truly inspirational in educating students at all levels. ”
“ There's really no holding back when it comes to teaching and learning. We are absolutely committed to stirring the imagination of students. ”
“ Because of a disciplined budget strategy, strong investments, donor support, and leadership at all levels of the institution, our financial performance is exemplary. ”
“ Our enthusiasm to be the best, to be bold, regardless of economic projections, is more evident than ever in our innovation and creativity. ”
“ The University of Michigan flourishes because our community believes in a promising future, one shaped by spectacular teachers, life-changing science and research, and talented graduates whose creativity is, literally, out of this world. ”
State of the University 2010
October 27, 2010
The University's Museum of Art is one of our great showpieces, and we are fortunate to have Joe Rosa, who joined our community earlier this year, as our new director. Joe, thank you for your leadership. We look forward to your ideas and energy in the future.
When this stunning expansion of the Museum was under way a few years ago, construction workers voiced some concern about the café space that is directly above us. They worried aloud about the padded benches that line the walls, and the comfortable chairs and tables scattered about.
All these trappings, they warned, will only be an incentive for students to just hang around.
Providing Michigan students with new venues, new perspectives and new opportunities to learn and engage is the essence of our work as a university.
As an institution, we are many things to many people, and in recent years we have widened our scope through local and international collaborations in research, health care and economic development. We also have turned inward and looked for how best to use our resources, and along the way have changed how we conduct business.
But the heart of our work is the learning experience. This auditorium alone is used by students taking courses in history, immunology, the Middle East, and animal diversity. All of them pass through the museum to get here, and we can only imagine what catches their eye and fires their thoughts along the way.
Today I want to focus on that academic experience and how we commit to creating, understanding and applying knowledge to challenging and difficult problems of all dimensions. This is our bedrock.
When we point to our strengths and accomplishments—in the arts, research, health care and innovation—it is because we are resolute and strategic about protecting and strengthening the academic mission.
As a university, we are just a few years shy of our bicentennial. Our founders had a remarkably bold vision some 200 years ago, that the untamed territory of Michigan have a great public university devoted to education and science.
Today, in Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn, the University of Michigan continues to be a place of bold ideas and actions. We believe in the power of knowledge, the joy of discovery, and the special compact we embrace to better our state and world.
* * *
Let me begin with two of our students.
Last fall, Anna Clements and Michael Barera were among some 250 undergraduates in an introductory political science course that gathered in one of the Angell Hall auditoriums. This is a conventional setting for our first- and second-year students, but Anna and Michael were involved in a most unique course.
Professor Mika Lavaque-Manty teaches Introduction to Political Theory in ways that leave students changed by a creative, engaging experience.
Using novel methods and emerging technologies, he makes a large lecture feel more intimate and tailored to each individual. Interactive software allows students to use their laptops to participate in lectures and provide feedback using chat feeds.
They can attend class in person or online from home, a coffee shop or a study space. They can view the lecture later as a podcast; some students report getting together in small groups, sharing a bowl of popcorn, and dissecting the lesson.
Students learn about Hobbes, Rousseau and Socrates, and, more important, about how to apply the theories of these philosophers in today's world. They participate in a blog and share thoughtful essays on justice, freedom, John Locke and Karl Marx. This blog is no ordinary site, but rather one that has been ranked among the best 100 blogs for intellectuals.
Michael Barera and a classmate designed an engaging website about social contract theory and states of nature—the very heart of the course. Michael says the best part of this site was learning it was being used at University College London and in a high school social studies class in Hawaii.
In the same class, Anna Clements and her team created a video – Machiavelli's guide to dating and relationships. In fact, she ended up doing more projects than required, and that was her lone complaint about the class. Professor Lavaque-Manty made political theory so engaging, it distracted her from other subjects.
I'm pleased he is with us today, and I want to thank him for inspiring our students. He is a professor who believes teaching is not about repetition. It's about thinking.
And the best aspect of his teaching?
He is not alone.
Throughout our schools and colleges, faculty are being creative, innovative and truly inspirational in educating students at all levels. Professor Lavaque-Manty himself drew upon teaching methods and tools developed by U-M colleagues in chemistry and meteorology.
We have great teachers at Michigan. In evaluating their experience at U-M, our graduating seniors give their highest marks to how the University prepared them to think analytically, work in teams, and acquire more knowledge as they move to the next stage of their lives. Strip away podcasts, videos, blogs and laptops, and we provide what has always driven learning at Michigan: teaching students to think critically.
We continue to invest in the academic experience, both inside and out of the classroom. We are investing in residence halls as learning communities, expanding our Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and recruiting accomplished scholars.
Three years ago, we launched an initiative to hire 100 junior faculty—up-and-coming professors committed to interdisciplinary teaching and research that explores the truly complex issues of our day. Our faculty and deans have collaborated on fascinating proposals for these new teams, and to date we have funded more than 70 positions, with 25 faculty already hired and on campus.
I've been particularly intrigued by the number of proposals to expand teaching and research in the areas of climate change, sustainability and energy. We know our students are hungry for this knowledge, with huge enrollment jumps in undergraduate and graduate programs that address environmental issues.
One of those challenges is how climate change affects polar ice sheets. We've all seen dramatic footage of disappearing glaciers and massive chunks of ice crashing into the ocean. The story doesn't end there, because that melting ice raises sea levels and threatens the lives and livelihoods of millions who live in coastline communities.
One of our new faculty teams is dedicated to explaining how and why great sheets of ice move and sea levels rise. We need to know more about the earth, the atmosphere, and the ocean, and how they all interact. Most important, such knowledge can help mitigate this threat.
And so we have recruited exceptional faculty to elevate our leadership in this field. Brian Arbic is a physical oceanographer and world expert on tidal calculations. Sarah Aciego is an isotope geochemist pioneering new techniques for dating glacial ice. Modeling how ice sheets flow is the work of Jeremy Bassis, a geophysicist. And Mark Flanner is an earth systems scientist who investigates how black carbonaceous particles emitted by humans affect climate and snowpack.
Their training and skills are distinct, and their new academic homes are in different departments and colleges. But they are singularly focused on bringing their knowledge to bear on a monumental challenge.
To quote Professor Bassis, "Coming at the problem from very different perspectives makes this such a powerful initiative and the University of Michigan an appealing place to be."
Professor Bassis is here today, and I want him to know we look forward to his work and that of his collaborators.
As we continue with the interdisciplinary junior faculty initiative, our schools and colleges also are attracting senior professors whose range of accomplishments is staggering.
Scholars like Andrew Maynard, recruited to be the first director of our Risk Science Center and one of the world's foremost experts on the responsible use of emerging technologies. And Priscilla Lindsay, who is leading the Department of Theatre & Drama after more than 30 years as a director and actor. And Milton Curry, who is viewed as one of his generation's preeminent architectural scholars focusing on race, architecture and urbanism.
We are going to amplify this hiring even more.
In this year's budget we have funded an additional 50 tenure-track faculty positions. This complements the ongoing junior faculty initiative and ultimately will improve our student-faculty ratio. We are looking to our deans for how best to structure these positions, which will be filled by scholars with a wide range of experience.
We also anticipate dedicating several of these openings for post-doctoral fellowship positions that lead to faculty appointments in the science, technology, engineering and math disciplines. Let me take a moment to explain why this is important.
It is typical to serve a post-doctoral position at one institution and then move to another for a junior faculty appointment. This process often is disruptive, particularly when young scholars are starting families. The arrangement we are proposing has been successful at the University of California, and I saw it work well at the University of North Carolina. We believe it is one more way to attract the best talent to the university.
Recruiting the best also applies to students. We continue to attract exceptional students at all levels of study. This fall, UM-Flint enrolled record levels of international students and UM-Dearborn recruited an impressive number of transfer students. I want to commend the chancellors and staffs for this important outreach that strengthens our community.
Students are drawn to our campuses because of what we have to offer, and we offer a lot.
Neil Herman is a freshman here in Ann Arbor who last month came by the open house I have every fall for students. But we didn't actually have the chance to meet, because he had to dash off for another commitment.
Neil's a student in the Residential College. He came to Michigan from Nevada because we are one of only a handful of universities that teach the Thai language. He's also interested in Taiwan, because he studied there as a high school student, and has already joined the Taiwanese-American Student Association. He's also involved in Hillel and chamber music. And he's taking 18 credits.
This is an example of the learning experience at Michigan. It absolutely immerses students. The great U-M President James Angell praised the value of students learning well beyond the classroom, "to see that there were things worth knowing outside of their own special lines of work."
We continue to believe this. Today, in North Quad, students are using the new facility's technology to connect with peers around the globe. Students in the arts, engineering and architecture are sharing their creativity in a new living arts community in Bursley Hall. Students at UM-Flint just wrapped up a theater project showcasing an historic cemetery as a place of community spirit and personal reflection. It culminated in a weeks-long, sold-out production of art, history and civic engagement.
There's really no holding back when it comes to teaching and learning. We are absolutely committed to stirring the imagination of students.
Our current theme semester asks students to contemplate the question, "What makes life worth living?" I hope they are discovering the essence of the Michigan experience: that learning makes life worth living.
* * *
We are able to provide this experience because of a relentless commitment to our academic mission, regardless of challenging economic times. For nearly a decade now, our state has faced difficult fiscal circumstances. That has resulted in a decline in state support for its public universities of almost 14 percent.
For our state to be prosperous and successful, higher education must flourish. Our institutions provide the talented graduates, the discoveries and technologies, and the creativity and innovation that will be essential to our collective future. To again invoke President Angell, "We need all the intelligence, all the trained minds we can have. There is never a surplus of wisdom and true learning."
On this we will not compromise.
And so we invest, in ourselves and our future. Across all three campuses, our community has responded by saying we will contain costs, we will remain affordable and accessible, and we will protect the academic enterprise to ensure a vibrant future.
We also move forward because of the exceptional support of donors, who even in this difficult economy have shown their belief in our work.
Last year our supporters gave $254 million, and this generosity touches all corners of our campus. Our patients benefit from a new women's hospital and the historic gift for women's health from the Ted and Jane Von Voigtlander Foundation. Our students can study abroad because of the philanthropy of James Sprayregen, an alumnus who believes in the power of North Quad's global connections. Others can serve public health internships overseas because of donors like Rick and Gretchen Jelinek.
We invest in our future by providing record levels of financial aid to students, and modest salary increases to faculty and staff. We invest by being aggressive in how we use energy, by being more efficient with administrative functions, and by taking more control of our personal health to hold down insurance costs.
We know how to do this. Over a six-year period, ending in 2009, we reduced our general fund spending by $135 million. We are on a more intensive track to reallocate another $100 million by 2012, and our progress is good. I want to thank everyone for their dedication and hard work. I know it is difficult.
Because of economic forecasts and a decline in state support that we do not expect will reverse any time soon, we now know that we must identify another $120 million in savings by 2017.
Provost Phil Hanlon will lead this effort, and we'll be hearing more from him shortly. We have an opportunity to examine long-established business practices to be more efficient. Just as the external world has changed, we too need to introduce the same kinds of internal innovation.
As we have been, we will be deliberate and thoughtful, focusing on reducing administrative and operational costs, with an eye firmly on enhancing the academic mission.
This Michigan Model is our culture, and one that other universities look to as a standard of success.
That does not mean we should be complacent or satisfied. In fact, our strength lies in always wanting to improve. This is why we adjust our financial policies and strategies to adapt to the environment. Because of a disciplined budget strategy, strong investments, donor support, and leadership at all levels of the institution, our financial performance is exemplary.
This is the foundation of our academic excellence. Beginning with the Board of Regents and extending across our campuses, this discipline and commitment allows our institution to take risks, think big, and make a difference in the lives of students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve.
* * *
Our enthusiasm to be the best, to be bold, regardless of economic projections, is more evident than ever in our innovation and creativity.
You know we are doing something right when a business columnist in San Francisco—an area that is home to some of the world's leading high-tech firms—says Michigan is the place to be for innovation, because we know how to make things happen.
Let's take a moment to celebrate some of those accomplishments, which make an important difference in the future of our state and nation:
We are the nation's second-largest research university, with more than $1.1 billion in grant and contract funding. From health sciences and engineering to social science and the arts, we are advancing knowledge in all realms of society. If you want to be impressed, know that nearly three cents of every dollar in the NIH budget comes to one place: our Medical School.
Our faculty have been relentless in obtaining federal stimulus dollars. Their proposals have led to more than 540 grants—more than any university in the country—and exceed $256 million in support of our work.
Our scientists have created the state's first human embryonic stem cell line, opening a new era of promising research at U-M and giving new hope to patients.
We have exciting new collaborations with energy researchers in Shanghai, health scientists in Beijing, and doctors and nurses in West Michigan, allowing us to partner with the best minds around the world.
Our health system continues to find new ways to reach patients, whether here on campus, through home care, in public schools, or in clinical partnerships throughout the state. Regardless of the location, patients report they are more satisfied than ever with the care they receive.
Dozens of Michigan communities and businesses are strengthening their economic diversification, and entrepreneurial spirit, thanks to the guidance of the Center for Innovation Research at UM-Dearborn.
The University Research Corridor, our partnership with Michigan State and Wayne State, continues to collaborate with projects such as the Michigan Creative Film Alliance, bringing together aspiring filmmakers from our three institutions.
We have equally creative ventures such as Get Fresh Detroit, a business launched by students to bring produce to party stores in a city where fresh fruits and vegetables are a rare commodity. Get Fresh Detroit began in a social venture class and now operates in several retail outlets.
Perhaps the most visible sign of our innovative spirit is the North Campus Research Complex, which is now beginning its second year of operation.
The activity is quite impressive, particularly when you remind yourself of the magnitude of this property.
Twenty percent of the 28 buildings are now re-opened, with some 400 faculty and staff already on site. We plan to more than double that number of employees by 2011.
Among those new residents will be scientists from NCRC's first interdisciplinary research clusters. Four diverse realms of research—health care technologies, cardiovascular research, sustainable energy, and translational oncology—will lay the foundation for moving ideas and discoveries to practical application.
We are particularly excited about establishing what we believe will be the country's largest university-based enterprise committed to health services research. Building on our current strengths, we are bringing together physicians, scientists, social workers, public health experts and more to study how best to manage, finance and deliver quality health care.
The NCRC also has its first commercial venture on site, BoroPharm, and it is a faculty start-up from Michigan State. We are eager for more of these public-private partnerships, and are actively pursuing opportunities to attract new companies or federal research partners.
We also anticipate more enterprises to be generated by our faculty, with a new business accelerator to support their ventures.
This accelerator will include business support and the physical space necessary to grow. And it has ideal neighbors: the Office of Technology Transfer and the Business Engagement Center. They are among the very first tenants of NCRC, sending a powerful message of our intent to make this campus the center for partnerships in our ever-expanding world of engagement.
As I mentioned, it's important to remember the scope and scale of the NCRC site. It will take time to grow and mature. But these early, important steps are creating a momentum that signals a promising future for research and, most important, for the people and communities that will benefit from our discoveries.
* * *
I want to conclude the same way I began: with students.
Sara Spangelo and Ben Kempke are among some 40 young engineers who have created the first stand-alone spacecraft built entirely by Michigan students to go into orbit and perform a science mission. For two years, these students have collaborated with each other, and with faculty and the National Science Foundation, to build what is known as the Radio Aurora Explorer.
In a little more than three weeks, their satellite will be carried into space.
Combine excitement, pride, enthusiasm and a good case of nerves, and that may capture how the students are feeling. Really, just try to imagine: A spacecraft they designed, built and tested here in Ann Arbor is being propelled into orbit from a launch pad in Alaska.
If all goes well, the Radio Aurora Explorer will beam back data about space weather that will improve communication with the satellites that have become so essential to our daily lives.
Sara says she is particularly excited about the prospect of the spacecraft making its first pass over Michigan. It cannot be seen by the naked eye. But knowing her hard work, and that of her fellow students, is making a difference miles above Earth, will be, in her words, simply exhilarating.
This is teaching and learning in action.
It is concepts envisioned at the lab bench brought to reality.
It is service that supports the good of society.
The University of Michigan flourishes because our community believes in a promising future, one shaped by spectacular teachers, life-changing science and research, and talented graduates whose creativity is, literally, out of this world.
Faces change, buildings fall and rise, economies wax and wane. The University of Michigan thrives. We thrive because a great public university always looks forward, knowing there is nothing more powerful, more invigorating, and more essential than creating and sharing knowledge.