New Faculty Orientation 2022

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good morning! Thank you, Matt, for your leadership of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. And thank you to everyone at CRLT for hosting today’s orientation events.

This is a highly significant week at the University of Michigan.

First and foremost, we are welcoming you, our newest faculty, throughout our schools and colleges. You bring unique professional experiences and personal histories that strengthen our university. You make Michigan more interesting intellectually.

Thank you for being here, and thank you to our deans, associate deans, and department chairs for recruiting these impressive scholars.

We also welcome new students, from some 8,400 first-year and transfer students who will gather this Sunday for New Student Orientation, to graduate students exploring and refining their careers at all levels.

Between new faculty and incoming students, our future as a great institution is unlimited. As president, it is the time of year when I walk across campus and feel absolutely energized by this infusion of talent.

This week also is significant because of our history. This Friday marks the anniversary of the founding of U-M. On Aug. 26, 1817 – 20 years before Michigan gained statehood – the University of Michigania was born in the fur trading post of Detroit.

The first act of the founders was to call for 13 professorships in such disciplines as mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, literature, medicine, and natural history. The professors’ responsibilities included establishing schools, colleges, museums, laboratories, gardens, and libraries. Faculty handled all of these duties because there was no president and they were in charge.

This, of course, is every faculty member’s dream.

On the same day the University was established, the founders set the salaries for the faculty: Twelve dollars and fifty cents. Per year.

Now, the academic disciplines have expanded exponentially, the salaries and benefits are more robust, and our location has shifted from Detroit to Ann Arbor, with regional campuses in Dearborn and Flint.

Yet the University of Michigan continues to place faculty at the heart of its comprehensive academic enterprise.

To appreciate your future as a Michigan professor, you should know a little about your predecessors.

You have joined a faculty that, over the decades, has featured the philosopher John Dewey, the poet Robert Frost, and the genetics pioneer Francis Collins. William LeBaron Jenney, the father of the American skyscraper, taught our first architecture courses. Esther Van Deman was renowned for her fieldwork in Roman archaeology. Elizabeth Crosby, a distinguished neuroanatomist, received the National Medal of Science.

Epidemiologist Thomas Francis conducted massive field trials that confirmed the effectiveness of the polio vaccine. And Joseph Brodsky, a Nobel Laureate and U.S. Poet Laureate, began his teaching career at Michigan after being exiled from the Soviet Union.

Michigan has always been a vibrant, exciting place – something you will discover as you settle in – and I know you will add to this environment. There is a legacy of accomplishment, risk-taking and leadership, and I encourage you to embrace it as you begin your careers here.

I am particularly excited about the newest faculty members in the room today and elsewhere on campus because of the many perspectives you bring to our campus.

Let me tell you a little about your colleagues and how their work supports our mission as a public research university committed to the public good.

Gokcin Cinar is an assistant professor of aerospace engineering in the College of Engineering. She immerses herself in how to design sustainable aviation systems. She and others in her research lab want to engineer environmentally friendly aircraft that use less energy, produce fewer emissions, and generate less noise.

Professor Cinar joined us earlier this year – remotely – and we are pleased to now have her on campus.

Ekow Yankah is one of 20 new faculty members at the Law School. He is the new Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law at the university where he earned his undergraduate degree in 1997. He returns to Michigan after a distinguished career at the Cardozo Law School in New York.

Professor Yankah uses both criminal law and political philosophy to explore issues of punishment, race and policing, and mass incarceration. He also is a champion of voting rights. We are thrilled he has come home to his alma mater.

At the Institute for Social Research, one of the new faces this fall is Joe LaBriola, a research assistant professor in the Survey Research Center. He completed his doctorate at UC-Berkeley a year ago. Now, at ISR, he will help us understand how housing contributes to racial and social inequalities in this country.

And at the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, Nicole Keller is joining us as a new assistant professor of organ. She is an accomplished performer and a highly regarded teacher who will help further a music department known for its excellence.

Environmental sustainability … racial justice and social equity … arts and creativity … all of this scholarship exemplifies what we believe here at Michigan.

As president, advancing the superior intellectual work of Michigan has always been my top priority. Your decision to join our faculty tells me we will continue to grow as an exceptional research university.

As you may know, I will be stepping down as president in mid-October. I served from 2002 until 2014 and returned at the start of this year at the request of the Board of Regents.

The 15th president of the University will be Dr. Santa Ono, who comes to us from the University of British Columbia. He is an accomplished scientist and higher education leader, and his energy is infectious.

Serving as U-M’s president is a tremendous privilege. I believe Dr. Ono will soon feel as I always have, that there is no better job in higher education. I hope you feel the same about your work as a scholar here.

All of us joined the academy because we love knowledge. We all have the best jobs in the world. We are in the business of discovery. No other job description matches that of an academic.

Your departments, schools and colleges are here to support you. So, too, is the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. It was the world’s first higher education teaching center and continues to be the model. We take teaching very seriously at Michigan, and CRLT has immense resources to support you in the classroom and laboratory. So don’t be shy about taking advantage of all that is available to you.

I feel very good about our future knowing you have joined us, and you should feel a great sense of accomplishment. Your ability to inspire, lead and motivate will invigorate our students and enhance the University’s research and scholarship.

You have my best wishes for an extraordinary first year, and many extraordinary years, in Ann Arbor. Welcome, again, to the University of Michigan.