The Center for Academic Innovation has named 18 University of Michigan faculty members as the inaugural recipients of the Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship.

In collaboration with units across campus, the fellows will complete an intensive Studio Experience in which they will meet as a group and with experts across campus to build skills, develop relationships, and share experiences to engage the public.

The cohort includes nine Fellows eager to explore and build their skills, and nine Mentor Fellows with more experience in public engagement. They represent departments across U-M, including nearly a dozen schools and colleges.

“Public research universities have enormous potential to improve our world. U-M’s Public Engagement Faculty Fellowships foster skills that help our faculty use their expertise to serve the public good. I applaud the inaugural class of fellows and the Center for Academic Innovation for their commitment to impactful engagement that advances U-M’s public mission,” said President Mark Schlissel.

The 2020 Mentor Fellows are:

  • Colleen Conway, professor of music education, School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
  • Margaret Dewar, professor emerita of urban and regional planning, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
  • Mark Fitzgerald, associate dean of community-based collaborative care and education, and associate professor of dentistry, School of Dentistry.
  • Terri Friedline, associate professor of social work, School of Social Work.
  • Andrew Hoffman, Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise and professor of management and organizations, Stephen M. Ross School of Business; and professor of environment and sustainability, School of Environment and Sustainability.
  • Ann Chih Lin, associate professor of public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; and associate professor of political science, LSA.
  • Ashley Lucas, associate professor of theatre and drama, School of Music, Theatre & Dance; associate professor in the Residential College, LSA; associate professor of art and design, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design.
  • David Michener, curator at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum.
  • Kentaro Toyama, W. K. Kellogg Professor of Community Information and professor of information, School of Information.

The 2020 Fellows are:

  • Abigail Dumes, assistant professor of women’s studies, LSA.
  • Monica Dus, assistant professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology, LSA.
  • Holly Jarman, assistant professor of health management and policy, School of Public Health.
  • Nancy Khalil, Collegiate Postdoctoral Fellow in American culture, LSA.
  • Stephanie Leiser, lecturer IV in public policy, Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
  • Roshanak Mehdipanah, assistant professor of health behavior and health education, School of Public Health.
  • Enrique Neblett, professor of health behavior and health education, School of Public Health.
  • Natalie Tronson, assistant professor of psychology, LSA.
  • Isaac Wingfield, lecturer IV in the Residential College, LSA.

All fellows are committed to the critical mission of challenging the present and enriching the future by fostering critical connections between public communities and the work of the university.

“This program brings faculty together to learn with and from one another, and from expert public engagement practitioners across campus. The fellows will strengthen their skills and community, while also learning the breadth of public engagement and creating new opportunities for innovative projects to emerge,” said Elyse Aurbach, the center’s public engagement lead.

The public engagement team at the Center for Academic Innovation serves as the lead organizer for the fellowship, partnering with units supporting different forms of public engagement across campus.

While the Studio Experience was initially designed to be an in-person, month long spring program, most of the material has been shifted to an online format. Some elements have been postponed into the summer due to concerns around public safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While that has presented challenges, it has reinforced the need and value of engaging with the public during this difficult time.

“This program will accelerate innovation in public engagement by helping faculty discover new opportunities to share their expertise with the public and by connecting engaged communities with scholars,” said James DeVaney, associate vice provost and founding executive director of the Center for Academic Innovation.

“Though always true, it is perhaps most clear in trying times how important it is to create effective dialogue between scholars and the public in order to generate sustainable solutions to the problems that matter most to society.”

Using the skills and connections they gain during the Studio Experience, fellows can propose a public engagement project and be eligible for up to $10,000 in funding and in-kind support from the center and other campus units. This model was designed to support opportunities for innovation, interdisciplinarity and bringing together communities that do not frequently work together.

“The spread of coronavirus around the world has generated wonderful examples of effective communication and community-university partnerships,” Aurbach said. “We are adapting the best we can, but we also hope to have our fellows reflect on their experience and learn as much as we can from it.

“This crisis has highlighted many ongoing societal needs, and we hope that the Studio Experience will enable fellows to reflect on these needs and how their own scholarship and public engagement might change as a result.”

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