Coleman measures plans, progress toward ‘university of tomorrow’


The historic launch next month of the university’s boldest-ever capital campaign and the celebration of its bicentennial in 2017 will both draw on U-M’s strengths and past achievements, while focusing on the Michigan of tomorrow.

These were among the key messages of President Mary Sue Coleman’s annual Leadership Breakfast address Oct. 8, presented to university leaders and invited guests at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business as well as the broader campus community via a live webcast.

“Now is the time to marshal resources to support the university’s future,” she said. “We believe in providing students with exceptional learning opportunities. We want our faculty to have the resources they need to explore bold ideas. And we must provide the financial support to make a Michigan education possible for more students.”

President Mary Sue Coleman receives a standing ovation as she begins her address to the final Leadership Breakfast of her tenure as U-M’s 13th president. Photo by Roger Hart, Michigan Photography.

Coleman said the new capital campaign, titled Victors for Michigan, will be extraordinary, to match the university’s aspirations. Engaged learning, bold ideas and, most importantly, student support, are campaign priorities.

Upon her introduction, Coleman, who is retiring in July 2014, received a standing ovation from those gathered to hear her address. She acknowledged this was her last fall serving as president.

“It would be easy to be a bit melancholy, but there’s no time for that. There is simply too much momentum to do anything but look ahead,” she said.

Coleman identified several key initiatives in coming months:

Coleman talks with Harley Etienne, an assistant professor of urban and regional planning, before speaking at the annual Leadership Breakfast. Photo by Roger Hart, Michigan Photography. 


A large crowd packs into the Colloquium in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business for the annual Leadership Breakfast. Photo by Austin Thomason, Michigan Photography.

• Targeting financial assistance for students to ensure U-M’s academic quality, the Victors for Michigan campaign will seek to raise $1 billion for student support, nearly double the $545 million raised for that purpose in the last campaign and “a powerful statement about access and affordability at Michigan.”

• The university’s bicentennial gives U-M an opportunity to recall its impact on creating and advancing disciplines, on research and scholarship, on public higher education, and on society. “The bicentennial compels us to rediscover this impact, tell it, and celebrate it,” she said.

• In November, Coleman will lead a faculty delegation to meet with Indian university leaders in Delhi and Mumbai. She said India plays a dominant role in the global economy, while wrestling with infrastructure shortcomings, making it a fascinating laboratory for shared learning. Following the trip, LSA and the Center for South Asian Studies will present a winter theme semester about India’s place in the world.

• Following a recently announced collaboration with the estates of George and Ira Gershwin to preserve their musical legacy, Coleman announced another acquisition for U-M’s cultural collections: Director and writer John Sayles, whose independent films include “Return of the Secaucus 7,” “Eight Men Out” and “Passion Fish,” has designated U-M for his archives.

• The unconventional research-funding initiative MCubed, launched 18 months ago with $25 million, has now funded 222 projects. MCubed connects scholars from diverse disciplines to pursue a research idea. Once three researchers connect, they are “cubed” and receive $60,000 in rapid seed funding for big, edgy ideas. She said one such idea, developing a sustainable biofuel using algae, has attracted a $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

Student support and engaged learning

Returning to the pending Victors for Michigan campaign and its focus on student support, Coleman singled out donors already stepping forward to support students: Helen Zell, who is giving $50 million to support MFA students in writing; Penny and Roe Stamps, who have committed millions for undergraduates throughout the university; Charles Munger, who is providing fellowships as part of his $110 million gift toward graduate education; and Stephen Ross, who is including scholarships with his transformative $200 million gift to the business school and athletic department.

Coleman announced she and her husband, Kenneth, would add to their earlier gifts to U-M with $1 million to aid student global experiences. She said international studies were transformative for her and her husband, and they are essential to the Michigan experience. “We also hope our gift motivates others to give,” she added.

Highlights of President Coleman’s final Leadership Breakfast. View a video of her full speech.

Coleman also spoke of the university’s growing support of engaged learning. At a reception she hosted this summer in downtown Detroit for 200 students serving internships in the city, she said all were enthusiastic about the work.

“This is engaged learning. It is taking the academic excellence that infuses our coursework and expanding it with field experiences, internships, hands-on research and startups. It’s a philosophy we are embracing, in the same spirit of learning we see throughout the university,” she said.

Coleman said the engaged-learning culture includes a campus farm at Matthaei Botanical Gardens, where students learn about sustainable food systems; a transactional lab connecting law students with corporate clients to draft complex agreements; entrepreneurship programs; and the highly successful Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.

She said the university also supports students through its pursuit of a 10-year Residential Life Initiative, which continues with South Quad upgrades. Meanwhile, U-M now has student housing at the Flint and Dearborn campuses, and the Munger graduate housing complex will be built in the coming months along the western edge of campus. The university also is upgrading Pierpont Commons, the Michigan Union, the Central Campus Recreation Building and other spaces with $173 million in improvements.

Research and discovery focus

Saying the university’s excellence is rooted in research and discovery, Coleman announced that next week the U-M Energy Institute will be dedicated. She said this would mark a new chapter for what began in 1948 as the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project, devoted to honoring U-M lives lost in World War II and to finding peaceful uses for atomic energy. Coleman noted the project was the university’s first formal fundraising campaign. The institute will use science, technology and public policy to address the challenges of the 21st century.

Coleman said U-M’s culture of bold ideas thrives at one of U-M’s most powerful research models, the Life Sciences Institute, celebrating its 10th anniversary. More than $1 billion in life sciences research and education has been invested since her arrival at Michigan, Coleman said, and LSI represents the university’s most tangible commitment to the risk that is essential to scientific discovery.

She said Michigan also leads in transportation research. The Mobility Transformation Center uses advanced traffic management and other technologies to reduce collisions and injuries, relieve congestion, lower fuel consumption and decrease pollution. “This ambitious work is core to our state’s economy and a natural extension of Michigan’s automotive heritage,” Coleman said.

Coleman noted that the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed Michigan 18th, joining University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-Los Angeles as the only public universities ranked among the top 20.

“Some will see this as an honor. But in truth, it is an obligation,” Coleman said. “We are about reflecting on all that has been accomplished, and using those experiences to push forward, always, with bold ideas, crazy dreams and a commitment to the university of tomorrow.”


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