Thirty U-M faculty and staff members from all three campuses recently traversed the state of Michigan on the 15th annual five-day Michigan Road Scholars initiative.

Each year, MRS seeks to help faculty better understand the geographically and culturally diverse communities and regions their students come from, and to identify areas where faculty expertise can make a difference to Michigan communities.

Clive D’Souza, assistant professor of industrial operations, listens to former Lansing Mayor David Hollister discuss political hurdles involved in bringing a new General Motors plant to the city. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

MRS consistently earns top-rated reviews from participating professors and deans, librarians and other staff, and 2014 was no exception.

Highlights included manufacturing on the mega-scale at the General Motors Delta Township Assembly Plant and the not-so-mega-scale at Kalkaska Screw Products. The scholars also visited a drilling site and met with oil and gas industry officials in the Traverse City area.

“MRS provided us the opportunity to have face-to-face talks with local industry people, especially small-business companies, and to understand their needs for qualified engineers,” said Di Ma, assistant professor at UM-Dearborn’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.  “I feel it will be very meaningful for our college’s on-going efforts to promote integrative learning and produce the right engineers Michigan industry needs.”

The scholars’ explorations in science spanned from the sweeping Van Andel Institute for biomedical research and science education in Grand Rapids to Traverse City’s small Traverse Health Clinic, and beyond.

The 2014 Road Scholars tour a natural gas drilling site in Kewadin in the northwestern Lower Peninsula. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

“As a nursing faculty member, it has been valuable to hear about health issues and resources in the small Gun Lake Indian Tribe near Grand Rapids and for people in the Traverse City area, as well as initiatives to provide health occupation training at North Central Michigan College in Petoskey, and local healthy food initiatives” in Sault Ste. Marie and Detroit, said Nancy Gallagher, assistant clinical professor of nursing.

Robert Goodspeed, assistant professor of urban planning, photographs the Mackinac Bridge. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)

The scholars stopped at the Meridian New Tech High School near Midland, and at Grand Rapids’ innovative Harrison Park School with which U-M recently established a collaborative relationship.

The final day was spent in Detroit, where, among other things, the scholars met with Focus:Hope leadership and were briefed on current immigration issues in southwest Detroit and Michigan.

“We met a series of people deeply committed to doing good things for their local Michigan communities,” said Mark Conger, comprehensive studies lecturer in LSA.  “All are facing tremendous challenges with a mixture of courage and resourcefulness.”

“As someone new to both the state and the U-M system, this has been a unique opportunity to learn about both,” said John Chenoweth, assistant professor of behavioral sciences at UM-Dearborn.  “I’m learning about where my students come from and what they need to be successful and sharing ideas with my colleagues about everything from the philosophy of science to microbrews.”

MRS was established by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Vice President for Government Relations.

Faculty members tour Detroit’s Eastern Market. (Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography)