LSA’s Michigan Horizons theme semester looks to future


In celebration of U-M’s bicentennial, LSA is looking to the future with its fall 2017 theme semester, Michigan Horizons.

Throughout the semester, five symposia, exhibits and other special events will address the future of everything — from the climate to this nation’s democracy.

“What U-M will become over the course of its third century depends in large part on how we — all the members of the university community — act in response to the daunting challenges of our time,” said Howard Brick, theme semester chair and Louis Evans Professor of History. “Some of those we can already see, such as climate change, the growth of socioeconomic inequality, and dangers of war; others are yet to come.

“Scholarship at U-M, in the future as in the past, should equip us as citizens of this country and of the world to make sense of our troubles and our hopes.”

The first symposium, Digital Future, is set for Sept. 18 and will feature five pre-eminent digital scholars discussing the growing impact of technology. From Facebook’s role in social protest to Silicon Valley’s influence on daily culture, this symposium will highlight how digital technologies challenge — and maintain — the world.

A second symposium, MC2: Michigan and Climate Crisis, will take place Oct. 2-8. U-M has played an active role in contributing scientific research on the topic of global climate change, and has historically served as a site for activism and public awareness.

This week of programming, including appearances by author and environmentalist Bill McKibben, biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, and climatologist and climate change expert Michael Mann, will confront the climate crisis, not only from a scientific angle, but also how climate change affects us politically, economically, socially and culturally.

The Future of War and Peace symposium will take place Nov. 8-9. It will explore the future in a world where many of the technologies of war, such as drones and nuclear weapons, have peacetime functions as well. It will also look at the blurred line between war and peace with certain humanitarian efforts, the rise of unconventional and robotic warfare, and the boundary between citizen and soldier.

A fourth symposium Nov. 14 will focus on the urban future — the future of cities. This event will bring together academic and civic thought leaders from Detroit and Grand Rapids to discuss Michigan cities’ diverse histories and potential futures.

The symposium will consider what each of these cities, and the differences between them, can teach about equity, diversity and sustainability in urban spaces, and will ask what engagement and collaboration with cities across the state might look like as the university enters its third century.

A final symposium, Crisis Democracy, scheduled for Dec. 6-7 and will look at the future of the nation’s political landscape. This symposium will encourage the university community to reflect on, interpret, and imagine the future of political participation, inclusion and expression.

Conversations between academics and local organizers will explore topics including legal developments that affect citizen democratic participation, debates over free speech and safe spaces, and the shifting configurations of social movements.

In addition to the theme semester symposia, an exhibition called Forever Unfinished: Making and Remaking a Public University, will run until Oct. 27 at the Hatcher Graduate Library Gallery. It examines the ways in which U-M’s students, faculty, staff, citizens and politicians have attempted to conceptualize and build the “public university.”

Other events include a discussion on racial justice organizing at Michigan, an exploration of the history of unauthorized immigration, a forum at UM-Flint on the Flint water crisis, and lectures from Christopher Newfield, professor of American Culture at University of California Santa Barbara and an expert in how higher education is shaped by industry forces, and David K. Johnson, historian and professor at University of Southern Florida.


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