Campus briefs

This solar-powered charging table near the North Campus Recreation Building is one of two new such sites on the Ann Arbor campus. (Photo courtesy of Office of Campus Sustainability)
This solar-powered charging table near the North Campus Recreation Building is one of two new such sites on the Ann Arbor campus. (Photo courtesy of Office of Campus Sustainability)

Solar-powered tables provide sustainable outdoor charging

Two new solar-powered charging tables, located on the south side of West Quad and at the North Campus Recreation Building, offer U-M students and other members of the campus community a place to power up electronic devices outdoors. Supported by Planet Blue Renewable Energy Demonstration Project funds, the tables increase the use of renewable energy, and promote health and wellness by enabling people to work, eat or relax outdoors while charging devices. The new tables join existing solar-powered charging tables at the Bob and Betty Beyster Building on North Campus and at Palmer Commons. Those tables were purchased by Students for Clean Energy in 2017 with support from the Planet Blue Student Innovation Fund. The tables support U-M’s campus sustainability goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote community engagement. The Office of Campus Sustainability managed the procurement and installation of the recently installed tables with support from Architecture, Engineering and Construction and Moving and Trucking.

Liu to chair faculty governance for 2021-22; Finlayson is vice chair

The Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs has elected Allen P. Liu, associate professor of mechanical engineering, biomedical engineering and biophysics, as chair for 2021-22. J. Caitlin Finlayson, associate professor of English at UM-Dearborn, will serve as vice chair. Their one-year terms start May 1. SACUA is the nine-member executive arm of the university’s central faculty governance system, which includes the Senate Assembly and the Faculty Senate. The SACUA chair and vice chair also serve the same positions in the Senate Assembly and Faculty Senate. Liu succeeds Colleen Conway, professor of music education. Finlayson succeeds Annalisa Manera, professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences. The Senate Assembly consists of 74 elected faculty members from the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses.

Cheer team wins national championships in NCA virtual competitions

The University of Michigan cheerleading team continued its string of success in the NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer & Dance Championship with two national titles on April 10. U-M competed in the Virtual Collegiate section and emerged victorious in the Intermediate Small Coed Division IA and Game Day competitions. Canceled in 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, NCA cheer nationals offered virtual divisions this year for teams that were unable to attend the live event in Daytona Beach, Florida. Judging was conducted virtually, with teams submitting recorded video of their routines. Teams received feedback on their prelims videos in March and submitted a finals video in April. The two championships give U-M a total of eight NCA titles since 2013. For more on the competition and the team.

UM-Dearborn announces spring commencement speaker

Poet Nikki Giovanni, renowned for her socially conscious work on gender and race, will address UM-Dearborn graduates in a pre-recorded video at each of the in-person, socially distanced commencement ceremonies taking place April 29 through May 4. Giovanni has published more than two dozen volumes of poetry, essays and edited anthologies, as well as 11 illustrated children’s books, including “Rosa,” an award-winning biography of Rosa Parks. Giovanni’s autobiography, “Gemini,” was a finalist for the 1973 National Book Award. Her awards include the inaugural Rosa L. Parks Woman of Courage Award, the American Book Award, the Langston Hughes Award, the Virginia Governor’s Award for the Arts, and the Emily Couric Leadership Award. She is also a seven-time recipient of the NAACP Image Award, and currently is the University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University.

Registration open for virtual 2021 Hacks With Friends

Hacks With Friends is open to any and all U-M IT and technology professionals and advocates, regardless of role, where they are encouraged to break out of normal routines, form a team, build a project (or hack) from scratch, and show it off in a competition. This year’s event will take place virtually over the three Fridays in May — May 7, 14 and 21. Pick up new skills, make new connections, and explore new technologies and innovative ways of providing IT services. Review the 17 pitches that have been submitted for the 2021 event to see where you think you could contribute and sign up for a pitch team at the time of registration, in advance of the event. A special Pitch Open House event will take place via Zoom from 10 a.m.-noon April 23. Pitch leaders will be available to discuss their ideas and answer questions. To learn more or register, visit

STEMulation Escape Room wins 2021 James A. Kelly Learning Lever Prize

The winners of the School of Education’s 2021 James A. Kelly Learning Lever Prize are doctoral students Michole Washington of SOE and Ebony Johnson of LSA for STEMulation Escape Room, their game-based augmented reality experience designed for inclusive STEM learning. Launched in 2016, the James A. Kelly Learning Lever Prize is a competition designed to challenge U-M students to invent digital tools with the potential to significantly improve student learning. STEMulation received the $10,000 grand prize in order to expand the storyline of their sci-fi escape room in a box, called “SpaceBox,” and to develop an app to allow students to interact with a real time space-based learning environment. Four other teams received development awards ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. They are:

  • Sabka — A learning management system add-on to enhance student and faculty engagement. Deepti Pandey.
  • Classbop — A virtual platform that allows teachers to quickly obtain and process data to easily adapt to student needs. Ronit Tiwary, Cindy Gu, Raeed Rasul, Edward Huang.
  • Plucky Comics — A digital comic series that highlights Black Queer historical figures. Nathan Alston, Daniella Gennaro.
  • Tech Buddies — A learning and lifestyle app for students with learning disabilities to help better communicate with others. Nikhil Mantena.

Teach-out delves into political extremism, conspiracy theories

Online radicalism, political polarization, conspiracy theories and disinformation and the political response to growing extremism both internationally and domestic will be covered in U-M’s Understanding and Addressing Extremism Teach-Out. The teach-out launched April 5 and concludes April 30. It features some of the world’s leading experts in domestic extremist groups, disinformation, public policy and communication from U-M and outside organizations to talk about growing issues of radicalization and societal impacts, particularly as it relates to family and friends who see loved ones becoming increasingly radicalized. The free online teach-out and discussion is available on Coursera and FutureLearn platforms via Michigan Online. It can be accessed at

Compiled by James Iseler and Jeff Bleiler, The University Record


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