Passion projects: How schools and colleges plan to shape their year


From planning new facilities to launching public engagement initiatives, the University of Michigan’s 19 schools and colleges have a wide variety of plans to further research, enhance learning and impact society.

The University Record contacted the university’s 19 schools and colleges and asked them to submit one initiative they will address this academic year. The schools’ and colleges’ responses are below.

A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

Taubman College is excited to create a robust, cross-campus real estate initiative with colleagues in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business, LSA and other interested units. One element of the initiative is to develop a real estate minor for undergraduate students that we plan to finalize this fall and advertise in the winter for students to begin taking classes during the fall 2020 semester. This new minor will complement the already existing real estate certificate program that is currently available to all graduate students.

Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design

The Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design embraces the powerful innovation found at the intersection of making and interdisciplinary research. The 2018 appointment of Jane Prophet, associate dean for research, creative work and strategic initiatives, has amplified this effort. In addition to working with faculty members to secure funding, cross-disciplinary collaborators and opportunities, Prophet joins Dean Gunalan Nadarajan in making a case for the many ways that creative practitioners contribute to research. “This is about more than the research methods used to create new work,” Prophet said. “It is about making as a form of research — artists and designers are exploring materials in ways that are truly distinctive. As part of research teams, creative practitioners have incredible powers of observation, synthesis, and connection-building. We notice things that many wouldn’t have thought to look for.” To learn more about research at Stamps, visit

Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Launching this fall, the Impact Studio — part of the Ross School’s Business+Impact initiative — is aimed at translating insights from faculty research into practical solutions for the world’s greatest challenges. The course is open to MBA students at Ross, along with graduate students from across U-M. Taught by Jeffrey Sanchez-Burks, professor of management and organizations, students will learn design-thinking methods that they’ll use to create impact-oriented business solutions. The pilot course took place in the 2019 winter semester with students looking into scaling a technology developed by Eric Schwartz, assistant professor of marketing, on how to identify lead in Flint water pipes so that it can have a greater impact in Flint and beyond. This coming year, students will continue working on ways to create enterprises for safer infrastructure using Schwartz’s research, and explore how faculty insights into fintech — or financial technology — can create financial inclusion for those who lack access to traditional financial systems.

School of Dentistry

At the School of Dentistry, the major renovation and expansion project continues. The project, dubbed “Blue Renew,” updates and expands the school’s state-of-the-art facilities for teaching dental students, serving patients from around Michigan and conducting world-class research that advances the dental profession. The project began last fall and will renovate about half of the existing building and add 48,000 square feet. Over the next year, construction milestones will include a new, covered north entrance as well as clinic upgrades and renovations. All patient clinics and services remain open and available during the project. More information is available at

School of Education

On Sept. 3, the first class of ninth-graders will begin their freshman year at The School at Marygrove in Detroit, the public school that the School of Education is launching in partnership with the Detroit Public Schools Community District. The school is part of a cradle-to-career campus in northwest Detroit, which will include an early childhood education center, a K-12 school with a focus on project- and place-based education for social justice, and a Teaching School modeled on physician training.

College of Engineering

At the College Engineering, students are driven by a commitment to serve the common good through solutions that push the bounds of what is possible. This fall, the college will launch Michigan Engineering Immersed to highlight experiential learning opportunities to current and prospective students, and invite them to #PracticeYourPurpose. The goal of Immersed is to provide a path for students to find design programs, team competitions, international experiences, creative and entrepreneurial programs, leadership opportunities and more so that they can become confident, collaborative, socially conscious engineers. Visit for more information.

School for Environment and Sustainability

Dorceta Taylor’s research and major programming initiative advances diversity, equity and inclusion in the environmental field. As part of the initiative, Taylor, the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice, professor of environmental sociology, and professor of Program in the Environment, will lead the New Horizons in Conservation Conference and the Odyssey Fellowship. The conference is an annual gathering centered on DEI within the conservation field. New Horizons bolsters nationwide diversity pathways by providing spaces for participants to connect, engage in professional development and hear from diverse environmental leaders. In partnership with the Provost’s Office and the Rackham Graduate School, the SEAS Odyssey Fellowship builds diversity pathways by helping a greater number of graduate students from underrepresented backgrounds attend SEAS through tuition defrayal. This initiative builds on the work of the Environmental Fellows Program and the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, which have given 175 graduate and undergraduate students, including 39 U-M students, paid summer fellowships in the environmental field. 

School of Information

The School of Information launches its first online graduate degree this fall, Master of Applied Data Science. The degree is designed for those who want to become a data scientist or enhance their knowledge and skills in a present position. It offers plenty of hands-on experience working with real world data to address real world problems. The 34-credit program, presented on the Coursera platform, will offer global access to a U-M education while allowing students to work at their own pace and at their own location. Approximately 200 students have been admitted in the first cohort.

School of Kinesiology

The School of Kinesiology and Dick and Norma Sarns, founders of the Ann Arbor health care equipment company NuStep LLC, are partnering on a six-month study of the effects of moderate-intensity exercise and cognitive-motor training on individuals with mild cognitive impairment. Jacob Haus, associate professor of movement science, and Michael Vesia, assistant professor of movement science, will spearhead the study. From prior research, Haus said researchers have made inferences about the relationship of exercise to age-related cognitive impairment, suggesting that exercise and other lifestyle changes can slow cognitive decline and possibly prevent it if initiated early enough. The six-month study funded by the Sarnses will involve 30 currently inactive individuals with mild cognitive impairment doing moderate-intensity exercise with cognitive-motor training three times a week for up to 45 minutes. The study has the potential to provide additional treatment options for delaying cognitive decline.

Law School

The Problem Solving Initiative at the Law School draws on the university’s across-the-board excellence, bringing together graduate students and faculty from law and other disciplines to actively apply creative problem solving, collaboration and design-thinking skills to complex, pressing challenges in a classroom setting. Combining substantive learning and hands-on skill development, PSI classes allow students to develop creative problem-solving tools; lend their expertise and skills to a multidisciplinary team; learn human-centered design thinking skills; conduct research on, and engage in, advancing solutions to real-world challenges; and collaborate with a range of U-M graduate and professional students and faculty experts. PSI classes are offered in the fall and winter, and class topics and faculty change each term. Recent class topics include challenges relating to sustainable food systems, connected and automated vehicles, human trafficking, firearm violence and new music business models. Additional information is available at


LSA continues to focus on initiatives that provide access and inclusion for students. This past year the LSA Scholarship Office offered more than $1 million for students to gain access to internships around the globe through the LSA Opportunity Hub. Access and inclusion are at the core of the Hub, which includes exploration-based, regionally focused flash internships, on-campus and regionally based alumni connections and networking events, and other programming. As LSA prepares to open the renovated building in 2020, the Hub will also begin to partner with employers who represent the diverse interests of our students and are committed to connecting LSA students to exclusive opportunities in their organizations.

Medical School

The Medical School’s RISE initiative (Research, Innovation, Scholarship, Education) was established earlier this year to build a community that engages in innovative practices in each of its education areas, including medical students, biomedical sciences, residency training and continuing medical education. This initiative dovetails with the education pillar of the Medical School’s strategic plan, which is to cultivate a learning community that engages individuals in bold and innovative education for the advancement of science, health and health care delivery. RISE recently selected its four inaugural innovation fellows who will work to address important issues facing medical and science education and health care. The initiative offers $5,000 mini-grants, which are designed around exploring new ideas within health care. This fall, the program will launch its signature innovation training program and podcast series. To learn more about the initiative, visit

School of Music, Theatre & Dance

Plans are moving forward with the School of Music, Theatre & Dance’s new $19 million dance building, the Department of Dance’s first dedicated facility in its 110-year history of curricular offerings on campus. The new building’s location, adjacent to the Brehm Pavilion at the Earl V. Moore Building, will bring most of SMTD’s creative community together on North Campus. The facility will provide an accessible teaching environment complete with four flexible dance studios, including a mainstage performance venue with seating for 145. Performance and rehearsal spaces will be outfitted with theatrical lighting, sound equipment, cameras, and a 360-degree cyclorama for the immersive environments of digital media. A well-equipped cross-training studio, faculty offices, and student lounge and locker rooms will round out SMTD’s exciting new front door to dance. 

School of Nursing

The School of Nursing is launching its first online degree programs. It began accepting applications for the fall 2020 term beginning Sept. 1. The online graduate degree offerings will include three specialty areas: Family Nurse Practitioner, Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner, and Leadership, Analytics and Innovation. The digital education initiative is designed to meet the growing demand for high-quality, nurse practitioner and leadership programs that give students flexibility and balance as they continue their careers and busy lives. Traditional residential formats will continue for these programs, which give students the option to choose what works best for them. For more information or to apply, visit

College of Pharmacy

The College of Pharmacy is preparing to move in the coming years. The $121 million, 130,000-square-foot building was approved in May by the Board of Regents. It will be located on the corner of East Huron Street and Glen Avenue, minutes from the Medical Campus, allowing the college’s Bachelor of Science, Doctor of Pharmacy, Ph.D. students and faculty easy access between Central Campus and Michigan Medicine. This new facility will be a game changer for the college, allowing it to upgrade our teaching and research facilities. The new facility as a way to push further the boundaries of the college’s service, education, and research missions.

School of Public Health

Communicating the knowledge built in classrooms, labs and communities is critical to the mission of public health and higher education. With Population Healthy, a new podcast produced by the School of Public Health, faculty, students and alumni are striving to make their expertise accessible to — and engaging for — a wide range of audiences outside of academia. “As a field, public health is constantly revealing deeper understandings about health and wellness. To truly impact and empower the populations we serve, we have to explore innovative ways to engage communities and to effectively translate knowledge to our partners and the public,” said SPH Dean F. DuBois Bowman. “Population Healthy is just one part of an effort that will help us ensure that knowledge reaches those it impacts the most.” Population Healthy is available on Apple and Google Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio, and at

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

The Weiser Diplomacy Center, housed at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, launches this fall as a dynamic hub for the study and practice of diplomacy. The center offers students practical training and mentorship, opportunities to engage abroad, and connections with the foreign policy community. This fall, the Weiser Diplomacy Center will bring a diverse, powerhouse series of leaders to Ann Arbor: former Secretaries of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, former U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and more. Ticketing and other details can be found at

Rackham Graduate School

Rackham Graduate School is leading a charge to re-envision graduate education at U-M in a way that is faculty driven and student centered, and that emphasizes a holistic view of graduate training. This will include preparing students for an expanded range of career opportunities and providing opportunities for interdisciplinary, project-based approaches to solving complex, real-world problems for both doctoral and master’s students. More information is available at, and all members of the U-M community are invited to Rackham’s State of the Graduate School address and poster session at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 18 in the Rackham Building.

School of Social Work

The Master of Social Work curriculum continues evolving to prepare students to be innovators in the fields and leaders in interprofessional and interdisciplinary practice. The new curriculum arose from interviews with alumni, students, faculty and field instructors, and after reviewing the literature on the future direction of the profession. The new curriculum includes eight pathways: community change, global social work, management and leadership, policy and political social work, program evaluation and applied research, social work practice with older adults and families from a lifespan perspective, welfare of children and families, and interpersonal practice in integrated health, mental health and substance abuse.


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