(As prepared for delivery)
Good afternoon and welcome to the July meeting of the University of Michigan Board of Regents.
I am so sorry not to be with you in person today. I have tested positive for covid and am isolating at home. But I feel fine, for which I’m grateful.
This has been a very personal reminder that despite having received vaccinations and boosters, covid is still with us. I want to encourage everyone to please be up to date with your vaccinations.
The University has had a governing board since its inception in 1817, made up of men and women from around the state committed to governing a public university. Our regents have represented places as diverse as Detroit and Cassopolis. They have come from communities like Niles, Grand Rapids and Romeo.
Several regents have hailed from towns in the Upper Peninsula, including Ironwood, Houghton and Sault Sainte Marie.
But the Board has never held a formal meeting in the U.P. – until today.
Ann Arbor and southeastern Michigan have amazing attractions, but nothing compares with the majesty of the Mackinac Bridge.
Regent Brown, I know your grandfather, Senator Prentiss Brown, chaired the Mackinac Bridge Authority that led to the construction of the bridge. That is a remarkable legacy and one that benefits the entire state.
It’s a very exciting time for the University of Michigan. As many of you know, our Chair, Paul Brown, and his Board colleagues last week appointed Dr. Santa Ono to be the University’s 15th president.
Dr. Ono comes to Michigan from the University of British Columbia, an excellent public research university. As a leader, he is deeply committed to carbon neutrality and sustainability, to student mental health, and to equity and inclusion in higher education. And he has a strong appreciation for intercollegiate athletics.
Dr. Ono is joining a campus that is more vibrant and more engaged than ever, and he will add to the energy that I feel every day at Michigan.
Our enrollment now exceeds 50,000, with students from all 83 counties in Michigan. Some 800 students from northern Michigan attend U-M, including more than 200 students from the Upper Peninsula. And in a few weeks, we will welcome our third cohort of U.P. Scholars. When they graduate, they will join some 12,000 alumni who call this region home.
We are proud of the University’s deep connections throughout northern Michigan. For more than a century, faculty and students have carried out important environmental research at our Biological Station at Douglas Lake. A number of people at today’s meeting visited the Bio Station earlier today to meet the students and learn about the fieldwork.
We have such unique natural resources in Michigan, and our faculty are committed to protecting them for future generations. This includes tracking dangerous algae blooms and the damage of quagga and zebra mussels in the Great Lakes. This is critical work with real-life environmental and economic implications for our state and region.
We can’t talk about Michigan’s impact and not include athletics, because our student-athletes are tremendous University ambassadors. Next week – in anticipation of the fall season – the Michigan football team will be experiencing our state as part of their Pure Michigan tour. You’ll find the players and Coach Jim Harbaugh in Charlevoix, on Mackinac and Drummond islands, at the Soo and along Lake Superior.
All of this activity – from Ann Arbor to Lake Superior – is why we exist: To serve the people and communities of our state and beyond. We do so by treating and healing, by working with local leaders, by studying our lakes and forests, and by educating young people who want to improve the world around them.
We are the leading public research university in the country, and it has a direct impact on our local communities. In the past five years alone, northern Michigan companies have received more than $9.4 million to supply goods and services for U-M research projects. That helps to support employment across large and small businesses in the region.
We are proud of that impact. The University of Michigan is committed to the continued prosperity of our state and its people.
Again, we are so pleased to be in northern Michigan. I know that Regent Brown has more to say about our visit.