“President Mark Schlissel has shown a real interest in getting to know the campus, getting to know faculty and staff, and getting to know students and their special contributions to the University of Michigan,” he said. “When it comes to learning from our campus, he is active, eager and sincere.”
On March 27, Schlissel met with UM-Dearborn student leaders and spoke to an audience of nearly 200 faculty, staff and students during open forum to share what he’s gained from his time on the UM-Dearborn campus, opportunities he sees and goals he has for the future.
Here are a few of those:
“One of the things I have focused on since my arrival, are the similarities and differences between the three campuses at the University of Michigan and how to create synergies amongst them; how can we best take advantage of one another?
“An area that is very obvious is in admission. When a student applies to the University of Michigan, I think we should take advantage of the opportunity to expose them to the existence of our three campuses, regardless to what campus they apply to.
“We are working on something that would be a simple check box for students who apply to Ann Arbor, but would also like to be considered a Dearborn student— either contingent or not contingent on their acceptance to Ann Arbor.
“We also are working out pathways that would allow students who may want to study things or learn that they want to study things that aren’t necessarily available here, to more easily transfer. I think that makes the campus more attractive as part of a multi-campus system.”
Funding the Engineering Lab Building (ELB)
“Engineering is an area of existing strength of this campus; it’s an area of need in the state of Michigan and more broadly. I think the current [ELB] facilities are utilized as well as they can based on their age and limitations, but the argument to build an enhanced physical infrastructure to teach engineering and do research is a compelling argument. It’s great the state has agreed, so the state will give us support… [And] I’m confident that there are so many grateful alumni and grateful employers in the region that we will ultimately be successful in the financing of the project.”
Inclusion is a priority
“We can’t be an excellent university unless we capture the diversity of the society that we are serving. That goes to our region, to our state, to our nation—it also goes internationally.
“The harder challenge, for me, is to develop an environment where everyone in the community feels similarly included and that their voices are being heard; an environment that feels as if issues around diversity and equity and inclusion actually touch the consciousness of everyone on a campus, not just the folks from the marginalized groups. You are supposed to learn from one another; and you learn the best when you learn across differences.
“Based on hearing from [UM-Dearborn] students I met with, there is a sense here that you’re building a community where all voices are valued and people both learn to listen to one another and not hide from challenging topics. The environment around diversity and inclusion is a strong one. Some of what I learn here, I can help apply to the other campuses at the University of Michigan as well.”
Changing lives through education
“The lasting significance of the University of Michigan resides in the lives we change. To take somebody who is a first generation student—and I know about half of your students here are first generation students—and to take them from where they are and make them four or five years smarter puts them on a trajectory that not only changes their lives, but it also changes their families and their communities. That is outstanding work.
“Just by way of comparison, at the Ann Arbor campus two years ago, the percentage of first gens in the freshman class was 8.5 percent. This past year, we’ve purposefully pushed it to 14 percent and we are working to head in a direction that Dearborn has already accomplished in terms of its ability to reach across the breadth of society and recognize talented people and help them get a college education. Talented people come from all different pathways.”