The University of Michigan’s “up north” profile was on full display this week as the Board of Regents, executive officers and other campus leaders wrapped up a whirlwind tour of northern Michigan with the university’s first board meeting in the Upper Peninsula.
Following visits to Camp Michigania on Walloon Lake, the Biological Station at Douglas Lake, an event with donors at Bay Harbor and other meetings in the region, the Board of Regents conducted its July meeting at the Little Bear East Arena in St. Ignace on July 21.
President Mary Sue Coleman noted that while several regents have hailed from U.P. communities — Ironwood, Houghton and Sault Ste. Marie — the board had never before conducted a meeting north of the Mackinac Bridge.
Coleman opened the meeting on Zoom, disclosing that she had tested positive for COVID-19 and was isolating at home. “I feel fine, for which I am grateful,” she said.
Coleman — who has now served twice as U-M president — said it was an exciting time in the life of the university:
- Santa Ono has been selected as the next U-M president, and he will start in October.
- Student enrollment on the Ann Arbor campus has exceeded 50,000 students, with every county in Michigan represented in the student body.
- Eight hundred students from northern Michigan attend U-M, including more than 200 students from the Upper Peninsula.
- Next week the Michigan football team will experience many aspects of the state during its Pure Michigan tour. Among the stops will be Charlevoix, Mackinac Island and Sault Ste. Marie.
“We are proud of the university’s deep connections throughout northern Michigan,” Coleman said. “All of this activity — from Ann Arbor to Lake Superior — is why we exist: to serve the people and communities of our state and beyond,” Coleman said. Many of those connections were on display at the meeting.
Board Chair Paul Brown, who grew up in northern Michigan, acknowledged the university’s relationship with the native people of this territory and the state. Today’s Ann Arbor campus sits on land ceded through the Treaty of Detroit in 1807.
Ten years later, in the first month of the university’s existence, the Ojibwe, Odawa and Bodewadami Nations ceded land to what was called “the college at Detroit,” which is where U-M began. The tribes did this with the hope that their children could be educated at this new institution. The university eventually sold the land, and the proceeds were used to establish the Ann Arbor campus.
The meeting included several updates and presentations of particular interest to residents of northern lower Michigan and the U.P.
Adele C. Brumfield, vice provost for enrollment management, presented a report on in-state undergraduate enrollment and affordability that focused specifically on students from northern Michigan.
U-M saw increased geographic diversity among in-state undergraduate students last school year. The 16,905 in-state undergraduates represented all 83 counties in Michigan. Over the past five years, the number of students from northern Michigan has increased by 5 percent and the number from the Upper Peninsula has increased by 18 percent. U-M hosted an admissions and financial aid event in St. Ignace on the day of the board meeting.
More than 600 northern-Michigan resident undergraduates — including 150 students from the Upper Peninsula — received institutional grant aid, Brumfield said. One-third of northern Michigan undergraduates had family incomes below $65,000. Of that group, 98 percent received institutional grants and scholarships and 91 percent paid no tuition.
For several years the university — working alongside local hospitals and health care providers — has delivered high-quality medical care to communities in northern Michigan and the U.P. with the most recent examples in the areas of maternal fetal medicine and neurosciences.
Since 2017, U-M maternal-fetal medicine teams have partnered with UP Health System, and more recently, Munson Healthcare and MyMichigan Health services to serve expectant mothers with high-risk pregnancies in communities such as Traverse City, Petoskey, Alpena, Marquette, Ishpeming and Hancock, said Marshall Runge, executive vice president for medical affairs.
U-M neurosurgery and vascular neurology teams have partnered with Munson Healthcare and MyMichigan Health to provide lifesaving stroke and neurosurgical care to northern communities.
Bio Station upgrades
Provost Laurie McCauley said the Biological Station near Pellston would be getting facility updates in the coming years.
“The Biological Station is a unique and extraordinary resource,” McCauley said. It provides experiential learning for nearly 200 undergraduate students each summer and serves as the site for world-class ecological research.
She said that to address the field station’s infrastructural and programmatic needs as well as create opportunities for leadership in carbon neutrality and ecological conservation, LSA, which is the academic home of the Bio Station, has developed a five-year capital plan for improvements.
The first phase will include replacing existing two and three-person cabins, along with other infrastructure improvements that will extend the season at the Bio Station. Subsequent phases will make the camp carbon neutral through the use of a solar array and other changes, and the construction of a new teaching-research-community center with modern teaching and lab facilities.
Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham said the U-M research enterprise plays an essential role in driving the northern Michigan. Companies based in 43 counties across northern Michigan have received more than $9.4 million since 2017 to supply goods and services in support of U-M research projects.
Cunningham also said university researchers are focusing efforts on northern Michigan. One group of researchers developed a range of scenario-based planning methods to help Great Lakes coastal communities make land use and development decisions in the face of unpredictably fluctuating water levels and increasing storms.
Others are working with groups from across Marquette County to develop and implement a new firearm safety education program that is tailored for families living in rural communities.
A collaborative effort involving several U-M units and the state examines more than a century of lake surveys to understand what’s driving changes in fish abundance across thousands of Michigan lakes. Recreational fishing is a $2.4 billion industry in the state.
Two U-M professors also detailed their research at the Biological Station.
Alumni at work
Brad King, a U-M graduate and CEO of Orbion Space Technology, said his team is developing cutting-edge technology around satellite propulsion systems at the company’s headquarters in Houghton.
The company benefits from U-M’s research expertise and facilities, collaborating with the Space Physics Research Laboratory to build and test flight units of the electrical power processors used to drive Orbion’s plasma thruster for small satellites.
Orbion’s small satellite propulsion systems are designed to simplify spaceflight and make it more affordable and reliable. The growing company has more than 40 employees.
Supporting the arts
Those attending the July 21 meeting were able to watch a video depicting two exhibits at the U-M Museum of Art that offer support for artists to make new works, and to create space for the public to engage with ideas and topics relevant to their lives and to national and global conversations.
One of the exhibits highlighted, “Watershed,” immerses visitors in the interconnected histories, present lives and imagined future of the Great Lakes. The other exhibit showcased — “Future Cache” created by Andrea Carlson — displays a 40-foot-tall memorial wall commemorating the Cheboiganing (Burt Lake) Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who were burned from their land in Northern Michigan in 1900.
— Also contributing to this report were Dana Elger, Adam Fisher, Hanna Quinlan, Lauren Love, Alex Piazza and Ann Zaniewski.