The University of Michigan will further its commitment to sustainability by pursuing a path toward carbon neutrality for the university and helping others in the region, state and nation reach the same goal, President Mark Schlissel said Thursday.
Speaking at his annual Leadership Breakfast, Schlissel said he would appoint a commission in the coming months to develop a plan that includes specific strategies and a timeline for the university to achieve carbon neutrality in a fiscally responsible manner.
Schlissel also announced that U-M has become the first public university to raise $5 billion in the most successful fundraising campaign in university history.
With nearly three months remaining in the Victors for Michigan campaign, more than 382,000 donors have given more than $5 billion — with $1.1 billion dedicated to student support, the campaign’s top priority.
“Our world needs victors and the Michigan family has responded. So thank you donors, thank you everyone who helped the university accomplish this historic achievement,” Schlissel said.
The president said the commission on sustainability will consider how to balance carbon neutrality in the context of overall environmental sustainability, suggest concrete avenues to achieve the university’s goals and recommend ways in which all members of the university community can share responsibility for success. It will include experts from across the university as well as representatives of regional partners.
“I am committed during my presidency to putting U-M on a trajectory towards carbon neutrality, and levels of greenhouse gas release that are environmentally sustainable,” Schlissel said.
“Throughout our history, we’ve always strived to impact society in profound ways. I’d like to figure out how to do this in partnership with Ann Arbor, and with other regional stakeholders, in a fashion that can be replicated by others all around our state and around the nation.”
Schlissel also said the university is on track to meet its previous goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent ahead of the 2025 goal, and even exceed it in the years ahead.
In 2011, President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman committed the university to the 25 percent reduction from a 2006 baseline by 2025.
Since that time, the university has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 7 percent, primarily through energy conservation efforts.
To achieve the full 25 percent reduction, U-M also is installing a natural gas cogeneration turbine in its Central Power Plant and pursuing a renewable-energy purchase agreement to reduce emissions.
Schlissel used his Leadership Breakfast remarks to about 160 invited campus leaders at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and a wider audience watching online to highlight university initiatives, and to outline progress on institutional priorities.
Among the topics he addressed were:
• The first participants of the Wolverine Pathways program are now studying at U-M. The initiative offers middle and high school students in Detroit, Southfield and Ypsilanti who successfully complete the program, apply to U-M and are admitted a four-year full tuition scholarship plus additional need-based aid.
Of the 83 Wolverine Pathways students who applied to U-M, 45 are enrolled on the Ann Arbor campus, and 15 are studying at UM-Dearborn. In total, 80 students are attending a four-year-college or university this fall.
• The university is in the second semester of its Go Blue Guarantee, U-M’s commitment to provide free tuition for students from families with incomes $65,000 or less.
“We have a long way to go before our student body reflects the wonderful diversity of the society we serve,” Schlissel said. “But we’re really making progress. The achievements of Wolverine Pathways and the Go Blue Guarantee speak to the commitment we have established for our third century.”
• In recognition of U-M’s commitment to public art, the university is working to reinvigorate its collection and strengthen its alignment to teaching and research. Christina Olsen, director of the U-M Museum of Art, is leading the effort, and community feedback will be sought during the process.
• As part of the university’s work to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion on campus, construction of the new William Monroe Trotter Multicultural Center on South State Street across from Angell Hall will be completed in the spring and an April opening is scheduled.
Early programming initiatives planned for the center include an interfaith program for students “examining life’s deepest questions and seeking transformative impact,” Schlissel said, and a Trotter Distinguished Leaders Series to increase healthy discourse and learning.
• The university has established several new partnerships in the city of Detroit, where U-M was founded in 1817, including the Poverty Solutions Detroit Partnership on Economic Mobility, and a School of Education collaboration with the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the Kresge Foundation, Marygrove College and others.
Three of U-M’s Detroit websites have been combined into one — detroit.umich.edu — and the Provost’s Office is creating a Detroit advisory committee this fall for all three campuses. The university also is working to re-envision its physical presence in Detroit.
“Our goal is to use our physical space in the best service of our mission, while holding fast to the fundamental principles that have made our Detroit partnerships thrive,” Schlissel said.
• The Office of Academic Innovation has provided access to more than 130 learning experiences to millions of users through Michigan Online.
• The university’s Biosciences Initiative is preparing to award its first grants, totaling nearly $50 million.
• Michigan Medicine has opened new care facilities in Brighton and on the west side of Ann Arbor, and created new partnerships across the state. The university’s Rogel Cancer Center is using a $150 million gift from Rich and Susan Rogel to create innovations for the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
• To better prevent sexual misconduct and provide resources for the U-M community, the university has created a centralized website devoted to sexual misconduct reporting, prevention and education, and will soon launch a comprehensive sexual misconduct training and education program for all faculty and staff.
In a question-and-answer session after his remarks, Schlissel addressed several topics, including cybersecurity issues on campus, the future expansion of the university’s medical center, the Go Blue Guarantee, funding of higher education in the state of Michigan, the importance of staff to U-M, interdisciplinary work among faculty and aspirations for future growth on North Campus.