In honor of the University of Michigan’s bicentennial, a short-form documentary series exploring U-M’s history and its connections to the present will air on Detroit Public Television beginning Wednesday.
The series, titled “An Uncommon Education — Celebrating 200 Years of the University of Michigan,” consists of 10 vignettes. A new episode will premiere every month, culminating in a broadcast special in December.
The series is funded by the Stanley & Judith Frankel Family Foundation.
Series producer and writer Oliver Thornton said the goal for this series is to show how U-M’s great history and tradition connects to its present.
“It was always kind of designed as not just telling things that happened in the past or not just doing a dry history of the university, but trying to thematically connect things that happened in the past and stories from the history of the university with how those same issues are still being carried forward today on campus,” said Thornton, lecturer II in screen arts and cultures, LSA.
The vignettes cover a wide range of topics, including the role of science at U-M, the university’s musical legacy, global outreach, social justice on campus, innovation and the work of Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center.
Vignettes will be aired in one-minute broadcasts on DPTV during prime-time and weekend station breaks. Viewers can watch the full-length, 7-8 minute versions on DPTV’s “An Uncommon Education” On Demand website.
The videos also will appear on the U-M YouTube channel.
Thornton said 44 interviews were conducted for the series, with guests including President Mark Schlissel, former President Mary Sue Coleman, Athletic Director Warde Manuel, author James Tobin, Spectrum Center co-founder Jim Toy, and Angela Dillard, Earl Lewis Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies and in the Residential College, professor of Residential College and of Afroamerican and African Studies, and associate dean of undergraduate education, LSA.
Bentley Historical Library Director Terrence McDonald said the library contributed almost all of the historical materials for the documentary series.
McDonald, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and professor of history, LSA, said as someone who is teaching a course about U-M’s history, he has learned even more about the institution after watching the series.
“I think the average person that is a citizen of the state of Michigan or an alumnus of the University of Michigan is going to be surprised at how much they’re going to learn if they spend the time to watch these short, six-minute films,” McDonald said. “They’re full of useful information, very interesting and beautifully done.”
Bicentennial Office Executive Director Gary Krenz said he hopes the series reinforces for people why they love the university and hold it in such esteem.
“It’s just really very compelling storytelling,” said Krenz, adjunct lecturer in philosophy, LSA. “So you have some very interesting stories about fascinating people, fascinating moments, important sites at the University of Michigan, and through this storytelling, it’s also making some larger points about the kind of institution that the university is.”