Vision & Goals
Five Years Forward:
An Address to the University of Michigan Community
November 15, 2007
Five years ago, as I stood with the Regents to accept the position of president of the University of Michigan, I could not have imagined the journey that awaited me or the University.
We have seen our campus grow and prosper, with new academic programs at all levels of study, stunning new teaching and research facilities, and, most importantly, a stronger community committed to discovering new knowledge and applying it toward the betterment of society.
This fall, with the support and counsel of the Regents, I am beginning a second five-year term, and I am tremendously excited about the opportunities that lie before us as a public university in this rapidly changing world.
After all, universities exist to pave the way to tomorrow. We seek cures for diseases; we work to understand the dynamics of emerging economies; we study ways to protect our natural environment; and above all, we educate young people seeking to better themselves through knowledge and new perspectives.
The University of Michigan must continually change to meet—and to anticipate—the needs of an evolving society. To do so, we must be prepared to rethink what we do and how we do it, and to explore new paths that will lead us in entirely new directions.
One of our key strengths as a teaching and research institution—and one that positions us well for the challenges ahead—is our unique breadth and scale. With 19 schools and colleges, a thriving health system, and three campuses, the University of Michigan has an unparalleled richness of intellectual diversity that can be brought to bear on the challenges we face as a university and a society.
And with a community of students, faculty, and staff drawn from throughout Michigan, across the nation, and around the globe, we have a wealth of perspectives that critically inform our understanding of our complex world.
All of us know the feeling of standing in Michigan Stadium and watching the Michigan Marching Band high-step onto the field. It is a remarkable display, and no matter how many games we attend, it’s still something we soak up as part of the Michigan experience.
Most members of our marching band are not music students. They approach life as aspiring engineers, historians, scientists and teachers. They are students of different backgrounds and talents who come together to create something special.
They are also our most visible symbol of interdisciplinary work at Michigan.
No other university offers faculty and students our scope and scale of fields of study, and the opportunities to push their ideas in new directions. We have seen this for decades, beginning with the Institute for Social Research, the gold standard for academic collaboration.
The potential combinations are endless.
Consider Janet Smith and David Sherman. Dr. Smith is a structural biologist, specifically a crystallographer. Dr. Sherman is a professor of medicinal chemistry, with his roots in pharmacy.
Crystallographers and pharmacists generally work in separate worlds. But Professors Smith and Sherman have collaborated to attack the growing problem of drug-resistant infections brought on by superbugs. In fact, they are outsmarting these superbugs that put us all at risk.
This is groundbreaking work. I know, as a scientist and a university president, this achievement occurred only because of the interdisciplinary setting of the Life Sciences Institute and the interdisciplinary culture of Michigan.
This kind of work has never been more important. Great universities like Michigan must transcend disciplines to be truly effective in addressing societal needs.
Working with Provost Sullivan, I want to exploit this core strength by launching an innovative hiring program for faculty specifically committed to interdisciplinary collaboration.
Over the next five years, we will fund 100 tenure-track faculty positions, to expand interdisciplinary work and to increase faculty connections with undergraduates.
These 100 junior faculty positions will be centrally funded, meaning they will complement the regular faculty hiring in the schools and colleges, and will be awarded through competitive proposals to the provost.
Priority will be given to faculty positions that support our major initiatives, such as energy and environmental sustainability. I want to encourage cluster hiring, with groups of faculty focused on emerging areas of scholarship and creativity.
New hires require resources, so in addition to committing $10 million for salaries and benefits, we will designate $20 million for start-up costs.
This is a major commitment—financially and philosophically. And it requires a major commitment from our deans and department chairs to be truly effective.
As faculty evaluate scholarship, they must challenge each other to think differently about work that crosses boundaries. We have several deans with us today, and I encourage them to experiment with this new hiring program, to mentor and support these new hires, and to push the University in entirely new directions.
Our new professors will be a strong addition to the undergraduate experience. The latest National Survey of Student Engagement tells us U-M students find themselves far more engaged than their peers elsewhere. They are accustomed to working in groups, collaborating with students of different backgrounds, and organizing their ideas in new ways.
Michigan’s academic excellence presents itself in a student experience that draws on a diversity of ideas, beliefs, ethnicities and personal backgrounds. Ours is an environment that shapes our students and is shaped by them. Let’s build upon that as we prepare students for life—and an interdisciplinary life at that.
An essential component of a Michigan education is our approach to the arts. The arts are a fundamental form of thinking that complements scientific approaches to the world and its challenges.
To appreciate the arts at Michigan, think about all we have seen unfold in recent years, especially on North Campus. We have the Walgreen Drama Center and the Arthur Miller Theatre. The Bentley Historical Library with its invaluable holdings has doubled in size. The Duderstadt Center is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for collaborations in multimedia. The Stamps Auditorium will soon come online to serve the campus.
And the deans of our North Campus schools and colleges have come together as no deans before them to lead the Arts on Earth initiative that explores the importance of the arts to creativity and innovation.
I propose we use the gathering momentum of Arts on Earth to further energize North Campus as an epicenter of creativity.
Is North Campus like Central Campus? No, and by design it never will be. It is its own distinctive place, with distinguished academic programs and beautiful natural surroundings.
To enhance this, I want us to explore creating a residential community on North Campus to nurture and strengthen creativity.
Throughout the University, we have living-learning communities that provide students a home and culture that feeds their interests.
Let’s find a way to develop a dynamic setting that provides a unique living experience for students with a passion for the arts, possibly by transforming and renovating Baits Hall.
And let’s complement that with a space on North Campus that serves as an inter-arts center—a nexus for research, outreach and curricular programs that draws on the countless ways in which the arts shape our thinking and our thinking shapes the arts. It might be a place where dancers gather to practice, where engineers and musicians collaborate with psychologists, and where architects and painters find studio space.
It should be a nexus for creativity, because creativity is essential to critical thinking and innovation.
I also want more of our students to see more of the world. Whether you view the world as getting flatter or smaller, the fact is we are more interconnected than ever.
As other nations emerge as economic powers and our society grows more international, so, too, must a student’s education. There is so much to be learned from observing, from interacting, and from listening to people who live and work in different cultures than ours.
That is why I traveled to China in 2005 to establish partnerships with China’s best universities. And it is why I will lead a University delegation to Ghana and South Africa next February.
Two years ago, a bipartisan congressional commission called for 1 million American students to be studying abroad by 2017. The year 2017 has special significance on our campus because it is our bicentennial, and I want U-M to be a leader in reaching this study abroad goal.
Just this week, as we hosted China’s ambassador to the United States, we were named one of the top American research universities for having students study overseas. At least 1,800 U-M students take advantage of study abroad programs annually, and I want us to double that number in the next five years. I am intentionally setting the bar high because I believe this is critical to preparing tomorrow’s students for a more culturally diverse and more cooperative world.
We must find ways to make the international study experience more flexible, creative and affordable. Our future and the future of our nation depend on it.
The importance of international study is a perfect segue to the University’s role in society and how we engage with the communities we serve.
This month marks a significant anniversary for our great state. Fifty years ago, the Mackinac Bridge opened, and Michigan was never the same. The Mighty Mac transformed commerce and tourism in Michigan and literally brought us closer together as a state.
The University of Michigan is just as vital a bridge to the future for our state. Our impact must be broad, because the future of American competitiveness depends vitally on transforming the Midwest.
That means being a university that helps shape a strong Michigan economy, provides the best health care possible to citizens, offers exceptional regional campuses, and works with the K-12 system to increase the number of college-educated citizens—students who will be tomorrow’s decision-makers.
Our work begins with expanding our leadership role in restructuring a state economy that is undergoing dramatic change.
For the past year, we have worked arm-in-arm with Michigan State University and Wayne State University to capitalize upon our combined research assets for the state’s benefit. As the University Research Corridor, our institutions bring in 95 percent of all the external R&D dollars that come into the state. And together we conduct well over $1.3 billion in research activity.
It is probable that within five years, U-M will cross the threshold of $1 billion annually in research, and the contributions of MSU and Wayne State will only add to the firepower of the URC.
And still, U-M can do more.
For our state to prosper, we absolutely must cultivate a stronger culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
We should remember with pride that pioneers like Henry Ford, Herbert H. Dow and W.K. Kellogg shaped the 20th century and made our state a powerhouse of manufacturing and technology. And we must remind ourselves and our community that U-M was founded to improve the public welfare through engagement.
Drawing on this heritage, we are prepared to embark on a partnership with society that is a first for higher education.
Joining with Michigan’s other public universities and leading foundations across the state, we propose a collaboration to drive innovation and entrepreneurship for developing knowledge-based industries in Michigan.
The Michigan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, with at least $100 million available in resources, will be funded by foundations and universities themselves. The Initiative will advance commercialization of university research, promote partnerships between higher education and industry, and propel the work of entrepreneurial students and faculty.
This will evolve into a massive public-private partnership. It is, in effect, an investment in the people and ideas that emerge from our public universities as drivers of a knowledge-based economy.
We have received $2 million in seed funding from the C.S. Mott Foundation for our initial planning. With supporters from the Council of Michigan Foundations and the foundation community at the table with us, we look forward to launching the Initiative in the months ahead.
There are many, many details to process, but this should not hinder us from finding ways to jumpstart the Michigan economy.
Equally vital to our commitment to the state are U-M’s regional campuses.
I consider myself extremely fortunate to lead a university with not one great campus, but three. Chancellor Dan Little of Dearborn, and Interim Chancellor Jack Kay and his predecessor, Juan Mestas, at Flint, have excelled at establishing their campuses as community anchors.
UM-Flint is a focal point for the growth of Genesee County, and its expansion as a residential campus solidifies its role in Flint’s rebirth.
UM-Dearborn is equally central to the vitality of southeast Michigan. As a valued partner in metropolitan Detroit’s growth, UM-Dearborn extends the University’s impact on a region that has been our home since 1817.
I anticipate our regional campuses growing significantly in enrollment in the coming years as they devote themselves to educating our citizens for the new Michigan economy.
We cannot talk about an engaged University of Michigan without devoting serious attention to our health care system and the exceptional work it performs.
Most Michigan citizens typically interact with U-M not as students, but as football fans or as patients—or relatives of patients. Where some 880,000 people will visit Michigan Stadium this year, the Health System will see twice as many, and for far more critical reasons.
In fact, just a single day in the life of our Health System means 10 babies will be born More than 4,300 people will walk into our clinics, some 170 patients will be in the hands of our surgeons, and more than 200 people will rush here for emergency care.
And we will be there for them. We will be there, and we will be more advanced and more efficient than ever.
Our university is growing the health industry of Michigan. And to succeed as a health system, we must expand in all directions: with our patient care, our research, and our training of tomorrow’s doctors, nurses, pharmacists and dentists.
To be a health care leader, we absolutely must have optimal facilities for patients and the caregivers who treat them. Our plan calls for us to invest more than $3 billion in the maintenance, renovation, and expansion of facilities and equipment over the next 10 years. We will increase the size and capabilities of the core Medical Campus, as well as East Ann Arbor and other ambulatory care sites.
As our Health System grows, we also must work harder and smarter to coordinate our activities to control costs, while providing the best care for our patients.
I am urging our clinical schools of Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry and Pharmacy to find more ways to coordinate their work, to avoid duplication and maximize their resources. By planning together, the health sciences at Michigan will become known as a distinct—and distinctive—entity of this university.
That same expertise, including Public Health, also plays a leadership role in shaping national health care discussions and solutions.
I am very proud of the contributions we make to reduce medical costs while also improving the health of our own employees. In particular, our Michigan Healthy Community initiative works to keep the well well and reach out to those at risk to improve their wellbeing.
Of course, in addition to providing first-rate health care, U-M provides a top-notch education that is a gateway to personal and professional success for qualified applicants. But our doorways will be empty if we do not engage more with the K-12 system, to expand the pipeline of students eager for a college education.
We opened the U-M Detroit Center a year ago to increase the community’s access to our admissions office and other programs. I want to see us establish a similar presence in western Michigan, so students and their families can come face-to-face with representatives of the University and better understand what we offer.
Many have looked to us for guidance on improving our public schools by drawing on our strengths in education and social work. We recently inventoried our campus programs that partner with the K-12 system, and it is an impressive catalog of outreach designed to help raise students’ performance and aspirations.
Yet like the University itself, our outreach programs are highly decentralized.
To give greater focus and impact to our K-12 programs, we will establish a Center for Outreach and Engagement to coordinate and elevate what U-M contributes to our public schools. The Center for Outreach was a recommendation of the Diversity Blueprints report that came out following the passage of Proposal 2.
I want to send a very clear message that the University of Michigan is here for the young people of our communities, students who will be future leaders in our state and beyond.
One of our state’s greatest leaders and perhaps this university’s most respected alumnus was Gerald Ford, and we are learning more about him in a new book of off-the-record conversations. One passage shows President Ford in the months after leaving office, a period when he could have elected to lead the secluded life of an ex-president.
Instead, he relished what he called “his new life.”
“I’m a pragmatist,” he said. “I prefer thinking about the future.”
I love that philosophy, because it exemplifies the mission of President Ford’s alma mater. We are thinking, always, about the future, and that future must include a pragmatic approach to the financial underpinnings of this great university.
Everyone knows that public financing of our universities is on a slow, steady decline. We will continue to make the case that Michigan’s system of higher education is among our state’s greatest assets, and more public investment is essential to our competitiveness as a state, and a nation.
I have devoted my entire career to public universities. Thirty-five years and six state universities have shown me over and over again the impact of public universities on the greater good of society.
The University of Michigan will never stray from its public mission. It is our birthright, and one we treasure. As long as we receive one dollar from the state, we will be a public university, and an exceptional one at that.
However, this decline of public support poses a severe challenge to our ability to meet our obligations to the state. We are addressing this challenge through aggressive fundraising with alumni and friends who believe in our value to future generations. I cannot say enough about the support of the Michigan Difference campaign. We met our goal of $2.5 billion, and if we sustain our momentum through to the 2008 deadline, we may well reach $3 billion in support of financial aid for our students, professorships for our faculty, and programs that lead to new knowledge.
And when our campaign is complete, we will continue to emphasize private support as fundamental to the future of the University.
We also adjust to the fiscal realities of the day through exceptional stewardship of our resources, building an endowment that assures our stability and growth for the long term.
A strong and growing endowment such as ours guarantees—in perpetuity—our ability to carry out our mission and adapt to change.
In two days, the Michigan football team will face Ohio State in one of the most storied rivalries in college athletics. Saturday also marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Bo Schembechler.
We all know Bo’s mantra: The team, the team, the team! That comes through loud and clear in a new book about his leadership principles. Bo advises that to lead, you need goals. And those goals must come from the people responsible for achieving them.
I have great aspirations for our university, goals I could not set without the strong counsel and support of our Regents, executive officers and deans, and through them dedicated faculty and staff. We set high standards for ourselves at Michigan, because we strive to be the best.
Ours is a university unlike any other. The University of Michigan has helped cure polio, sent men to the moon, and deepened our understanding of human existence through the humanities and social sciences.
Today, we are working to digitize and share the wonders of our massive library. We are pursuing the promise of stem cells and biotechnologies. And we are committed to the principle that a great public university embraces a diversity of people and ideas.
As we prepare for tomorrow, the University of Michigan will change, adapt and grow to meet the needs of society. We will always keep an eye on the horizon, because we are in this forever.
It has been a privilege to serve this university for the last five years, and I am grateful for the support of the regents and so many others. I look forward to joining with all of you as we work together to carry this great university to even greater heights.