Schools, colleges share goals and hopes for 2020-21 school year


The University of Michigan is preparing to welcome back students for a fall semester unlike any other, creating never-before-seen challenges and opportunities for Ann Arbor’s 19 schools and colleges as well as at Dearborn and Flint.

The University Record asked the 19 schools and colleges on the Ann Arbor campus, as well as UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint, to share a goal they have, initiative they’d like to address for 2020-21, or how they’re planning to meet the challenge of this pandemic-driven year.

A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning

The Taubman College is expanding its undergraduate offerings with a new degree in urban technology and a new minor in real estate development.

The Bachelor of Science in urban technology, beginning in summer 2021, is a four-year undergraduate degree in an emerging field organized around the pillars of technology, urbanism and design. This transdisciplinary program prepares students to understand and analyze cities as complex systems; help shape urban environments; and envision new products, services, projects and initiatives that improve urban life.

Students start in the summer term. They spend a semester during their freshman year in Detroit, where they will immerse themselves in the city by living and learning there. The program also includes spring intensives in major metropolitan regions.

A 15-credit minor in real estate development enables undergraduate students in many fields to supplement their major areas of study with broad knowledge about improving metropolitan developments.

Drawing on faculty expertise from the Taubman College, the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Kinesiology, the program guides students in integrating disciplines that shape the built environment and enhance the quality of life for all people while conserving the natural environment.

Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design

The Stamps School is committed to providing safe, high-quality instruction for our students regardless of modality.

As many creative activities require specialized equipment and ventilation systems, students will still be able to reserve studio space. All studios and classrooms have been reconfigured to support social distancing, disinfection, and de-densification.

Additionally, the Stamps School will host a number of virtual events this fall to keep the community engaged in creative, imaginative exploration.

In partnership with Detroit Public Television, the Penny Stamps Speaker Series will continue this fall in a virtual-only format, streaming events at 8 p.m. every Friday starting Sept. 18. Find a full series announcement and details at

Stamps Gallery will offer new ways to explore exhibitions virtually starting Sept. 15 with three exhibitions: Real and Imagined: Fabric and Video Animations by Heidi Kumao; Respond, Resist, Rethink, featuring work by Stamps students; and Get Out the Vote: Empower the Women’s Vote, featuring work by Stamps professors Audrey Bennett and Hannah Smotrich, as well as Stamps alumna Beatriz Lozano.

Starting Sept. 15, Stamps Gallery will be open to the U-M community from 2-7 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays. A valid MCard is required for entry.

Stephen M. Ross School of Business

The Stephen M. Ross School of Business is turning the challenges of the academic year into opportunities with the creativity of its faculty and staff. With recent investments in digital learning, they are finding new ways to deliver the educational mission and expand the university’s reach.

Ross recently launched its Online MBA program, and the innovative courses, technologies and strategic partnerships from this program are now being leveraged across the entire school to benefit students in other programs.

The school also has transformed its signature action-based learning experiences — such as the Multidisciplinary Action Projects and cross-campus Leadership Crisis Challenge — into virtual formats. The Digital Education Studio at Ross will host public events, including the RossTalks series and annual Handleman Lecture.

To prepare faculty for delivering courses remotely, Ross has held daily training sessions since May. Many who have taught in the online MBA program are also sharing their best practices for teaching online with their colleagues. IT and digital education teams have outfitted every classroom with technology to facilitate hybrid and remote teaching.

Ross also introduced an online learning series to help business professionals around the world address the challenges of the pandemic and prepare them for the new normal.

School of Dentistry

Since the pandemic forced the suspension of in-person coursework in March, the School of Dentistry has remained open for patients.

To continue its mission of providing care for the community and to help reduce the burden on hospital emergency rooms, care has been continuously provided for patients with urgent needs such as broken teeth, root canals and other tooth or gum trauma.

The shift to emergency-only care also necessitated significant changes to the school’s protocols for safety and ensuring a healthy environment for all. New procedures and additional personal protective equipment are now standard for both patients and care providers.

Over the past few months, dental students have returned to the school to engage in pre-clinical instruction and simulation labs. Patient clinics are now open for comprehensive dental care, and the Dental Faculty Associates clinic is also back in service offering care by faculty dentists.

Looking ahead, the school plans to expand care hours to a few weekend days per month, and leverage what it has learned in new procedures to continue to safely provide dental care for the university community and beyond. More information on available dental care can be found at

School of Education

The School of Education celebrates its centennial in 2021, honoring the outstanding contributions to research, practice and policy made by generations of the SOE community while using its current mission and vision to shape the next century.

Launching its next 100 years in this moment is a reminder that education is fundamentally about nurturing resilience, building democracy and fighting injustice. The school plans to spend this year supporting its fellow educators who serve learners around the world.

SOE is preparing teachers capable of meeting the needs of diverse learners — including through high-quality online instruction — and is engaging in public scholarship that builds on the knowledge within communities and shares it across communities.

Extensive research programs inform the work of professionals across the field and are crucial for transforming systems of education. SOE is analyzing data from teachers and families to provide the best guidance during the educational disruption caused by the pandemic. It is giving college admissions officers the tools to increase student diversity and helping administrators remove barriers to success.

SOE also welcomes three new faculty members. These scholars advance diversity, inclusion, justice and equity through robust research on educational psychology, student activism and structures of power and oppression.

College of Engineering

This semester comes at a time of unprecedented challenges. Not only is the pandemic upending how we teach, learn, conduct research and live, but we are also awakening as a society to the pervasive harm that results from bias, systemic racism and sexual misconduct.

Michigan Engineering is approaching these challenges with a steady, engineering mindset that involves reflecting, learning and taking action. It is working to emerge from this stronger, and to act as a catalyst for others to as well.

The college has built on its robust foundations in online instruction, experiential learning and diversity, equity and inclusion, for example, to understand and adapt to these new realities. Nexus, its hub for online and professional education, has helped faculty members adjust to remote and hybrid teaching. CoE has funded innovative remote approaches to hands-on learning. It has vowed to continue and strengthen its longstanding commitment to DEI. And it will follow the university’s lead to establish new, clearer norms of acceptable behavior and deal with misconduct.

The college is also using its expertise to support the broader community. It has undertaken research to inform safer bus riding and disinfection of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to develop new technology to protect healthcare workers. It has worked with colleagues across campus to develop online tools to help local and state officials reopen the economy safely. It will continue looking for opportunities to serve in these ways.

School for Environment and Sustainability

For more than 30 years, the School for Environment and Sustainability and its predecessors have championed the cause of sustainable environmental justice. This year it has committed to step up and act more proactively to fight racism and eliminate racial injustice on and off campus.

One focus will be on strengthening its environmental justice program by adding new and diverse faculty, as well as by collaborating across the campus on anti-racism, activism and racial justice initiatives in other units.

It also is strengthening its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by expanding the scale, scope and work of its DEI efforts. The goal is to infuse DEI more thoroughly in the school, and to decolonize our curriculum, research practices and external engagements.

SEAS seeks to be more diverse, a place where students, staff and faculty can work together to create a supportive, micro-aggression-free environment. It will work collectively to tackle unconscious bias and ensure the transitions sought in the world are sustainable and just.

School of Information

For one program at the School of Information, this fall’s online-oriented semester will be business as usual: the “born-digital” Master of Applied Data Science degree. Launched with 150 students in fall 2019, this degree program was one of the first at scale all-online graduate degrees at U-M and the first to be offered by the School of Information.

The program proved so popular that the incoming cohort is double the size of the first class, with more than 300 students beginning classes Aug. 31. The incoming cohort hails from 25 states and more than 30 countries, including China, South Africa, Mexico, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. While a majority of students have professional experience in fields such as education, engineering, data analysis and business, some are recent college graduates.

The program is offered as a series of mostly one-month-long, one-credit classes, with 34 credits required for the degree. Due to strong demand the MADS program is accepting applications for admission in winter 2021, the first winter cohort at the school in any program in many years.

School of Kinesiology

The School of Kinesiology is excited to begin the move to its new building in late fall. Starting in January, faculty, staff and students will be together under one roof for the first time in our school’s history.

In September 2016, the Board of Regents approved the Edward Henry Kraus Natural Science Building to become the School of Kinesiology’s new home. Designed by renowned architect Albert Kahn, whose other campus masterpieces include Burton Memorial Tower, Hill Auditorium and Hatcher Graduate Library, the Kraus Building has been a university landmark since 1915. The school is honored to be the newest residents of this beautiful and historic structure.

After a transformative renovation, all classrooms, research labs and centers, academic and career advising offices, collaboration spaces and more will be in one state-of-the-art location in the heart of Central Campus.

Highlights include a large glass-roofed commons area, high- and low-bay research labs, active and distance learning classrooms, and a student affairs suite and career center. See the latest construction photos and check out the new building fly-through video below.

Law School

At the Law School, student-attorneys will continue to represent hundreds of clients from surrounding communities through 16 legal clinics in matters ranging from the formation of new business ventures, including U-M student startups, to foster-care proceedings to wrongful conviction to unemployment benefits claims, among many others.

The Law School will also continue to engage with the university community through the Problem Solving Initiative, which draws on the university’s across-the-board excellence. It brings 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, such as fixing the foster care system and exploring potential rules relating to autonomous driving.

Finally, the Law School continues to focus on providing an outstanding legal education in a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment, and is working to dismantle structural racism within the Law School.

The Advisory Board on Race and Racism at Michigan Law — a group of alumni, faculty and administrators — has been charged with examining the effects of race and racism in the Law School community, and issuing recommendations about ways to eradicate systemic, institutional racism and discrimination within the Quad and for engaging issues of race in constructive ways.


This fall, LSA is moving forward with actions to support its commitment to racial equality and dismantling the barriers to fulfilling that commitment. A task force of faculty, staff and students will work to create a statement of a clear vision and goals for anti-racism in teaching, research and service in LSA. This statement will provide a basis for subsequent action to catalyze and institutionalize anti-racist policies and practices as central to the mission of our college. The task force is co-chaired by Tabbye Chavous, director of the National Center for Institutional Diversity, associate vice president for research, and professor of education and of psychology, and by Matthew Countryman, chair, Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and associate professor of Afroamerican and African studies and of history. In keeping with well-established anti-racism principles and practices, the task force will prioritize hard and uncomfortable questions that need to be addressed, and:

  • Identify current policies, practices, programs and positions that sustain systemic racism and that must be investigated and overturned, and those that contribute to eliminating racism and racial inequities, which merit additional investment.
  • Propose the infrastructure and concrete next steps required to work systematically and quickly toward the vision and goals, and to be prepared to rigorously assess progress.

Medical School

Due to the challenges of COVID-19, learning in the Medical School in 2020-21 will be public health-informed, offering in-person and remote experiences that fulfill a commitment to providing transformative educational opportunities.

The pandemic poses unique challenges. However, learners are essential to Michigan Medicine’s tripartite mission of excellence in education, research and patient care. The school will continue to provide high-quality education in a safe environment for all learners.

The Medical School is following these principles: safety of patients, learners and faculty and staff is the highest priority; the school will continuously adapt to prepare the next generation of physicians and scientists; and the school and its learners are committed to a flexible mindset, with clear and transparent communication, making decisions and choices with the best available information.

Medical students who stepped out of the clinical environment for a few months re-engaged in patient-facing activities at the beginning of June. Late June marked the start of residency for many newly-minted physicians, with a blend of in-person and virtual orientation. In late July, the school welcomed a new class of medical students, and in August new graduate students arrive. All will engage in a blend of virtual and in-person learning.

School of Music, Theatre & Dance

The School of Music, Theatre & Dance has always been a vibrant community, and this year will be no different.

While engaging in virtual contexts may present some challenges due to the unique learning environment of the performing arts, faculty and staff are prepared to help students grow, push the bounds of their knowledge, and become stronger, more confident performing artists and scholars.

SMTD is reimagining courses and implementing creative approaches to studio and classroom work. Students will receive one-on-one and small-group instruction through in-person and virtual lessons, and will sharpen their skills through activities such as performance-based video assignments.

Throughout the year, SMTD will share performances from students and faculty via livestream and premiere innovative video projects like socially distant group performances where students record individual parts at home and edit them together into one collaborative piece.

SMTD will also continue its commitment to anti-racism — alongside the ideals of equity, diversity and inclusion — through projects, programs and performances that elevate Black, indigenous and people of color voices in the performing arts.

In spring of 2021, SMTD will open its new dance building, bringing together music, theatre and dance students on North Campus for the first time in SMTD’s history.

School of Nursing

During the fall 2020 semester, the School of Nursing Clinical Learning Center will be more important than ever as faculty, students and staff prioritize health and safety in learning environments across campus.

Opened in 2015, the CLC was designed to help nursing students at every level hone their clinical skills in an environment that replicates what they will encounter in the field. Its large spaces and flexible hours will be especially valuable for student learning as the school follows strict safety guidelines, including social distancing and reduced building capacity.

Through extensive evaluation and training, the CLC has become an integral part of the educational experience at the School of Nursing.

As the faculty-led CLC team measures its progress, the data show students have been utilizing the state-of-the art space more each year. From fall 2018 to fall 2019, the number of student visits to the CLC jumped from 297 to 1,184 — a staggering increase of 486 percent.

CLC experiences have been embedded in the graduate and undergraduate curricula. Practice hours are now required for many courses, and the CLC team has responded by opening up lab times in the evening to better accommodate nursing students’ busy schedules.

College of Pharmacy

College of Pharmacy faculty, staff and students have spent the summer innovating for the 2020-21 school year. There are new ways of delivering what makes Michigan Pharmacy special — student-led advocacy, leadership and service activities, networking and career development, strong academics, and a sense of community.

Through virtual and in-person activities, students will administer vaccinations, learn relevant topics through panel discussions, advocate for public policy change, sharpen their knowledge through academic competitions, and much more.

Students’ physical and mental well-being is a priority. Community wellness groups and mental health first-aid peer and faculty facilitators are in place to address student concerns. Ongoing topic discussions on race, health disparities, and wellness and stress management will improve the community’s climate.

The small school community is a most valuable asset — social distancing challenges the maintenance of those bonds. Its 17 student organizations have many events planned for the school year, facilitating peer-to-peer interaction and students’ professional and personal development. College faculty and leadership will be accessible for mentorship, guidance or networking assistance. Pharmacy Phamilies will pair faculty with a small group of students, who will engage in socially distant events, shadowing and advising.

School of Public Health

Since the early days of the pandemic, experts from the School of Public Health have served as a resource on campus, in the state of Michigan, nationally and internationally, providing surveillance testing, regional modeling, test development, and expertise on a range of topics related to COVID-19. Their efforts continue to help policymakers, businesses, and individuals better understand today’s challenge and how we move forward safely.

Now, a team of School of Public Health researchers is looking for the coronavirus in the air, on surfaces and in sewage on campus to determine how much virus is present in the environment, and whether that has any relationship to COVID-19 infection rates within the campus community.

“By making measurements before the start of the semester, and then continuing to sample the same locations over time as students, staff and faculty come back to campus, we can see how the amount of virus in the environment relates to infection rates,” said Rick Neitzel, associate professor of environmental health sciences. “The two must be related, but nobody has looked at this yet.”

Learn more about COVID-19 efforts from the School of Public Health at

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

The Ford School will take a deep dive into democracy, voting and analysis as it approaches the 2020 election.

The Policy Talks @ the Ford School series will feature leading politicians including the secretaries of state of Ohio and Michigan, a Republican and Democrat working together to ensure open and secure access to the ballot, and Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, among others.

Students again will “Produce Voter Engagement” in a course that will result in several public service announcements encouraging voter participation, taught by John Chamberlain, Oliver Thornton and Edie Goldenberg, who also will be driving the “Turn Up Turnout” student effort initiated in 2018.

The Weiser Diplomacy Center will engage with international election experts to take a comparative view of the U.S. process. Dean Michael Barr, co-chair of the university’s Debate and Democracy theme semester, will be a part of “Democracy Cafés” with other Ford School faculty.

Another Policy Talks event at the end of November, offered in partnership with the U-M Club of DC, will examine the election results and the policy implications for the economy, women’s rights, racial justice, the environment and America’s place in the world.

Rackham Graduate School

Rackham continues to lead 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 includes 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.

Formed last year as part of this work, Rackham’s Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force recently released guidance on principles, approaches and strategies that mentors and graduate programs can use as they support students during extremely stressful times. More information is available at

School of Social Work

In response to the state’s Stay Safe, Stay at Home order last spring, School of Social Work faculty members hosted Zoom conversations to address that pandemic’s impact through a social work lens. Both of these conversations grew into weekly series that built community and provided support, and attracted more than 100 participants each week. The school will resume these conversation series this fall.

COVID and Racial Inequities Series: Hosted by Rogério Pinto, professor of social work and associate dean for research, the conversations evolved into a weekly series to discuss the impact and implications of this year’s tumultuous events.

ENGAGE Virtual Conversations: While the school’s ENGAGE Team initially focused on volunteering during the pandemic, the series grew and pivoted to discuss issues of racial inequity and police brutality, with a focus on action and policy.

Updated MSW Curriculum: This fall, the School of Social Work is rolling out a revamped Master of Social Work curriculum organized into eight new curricular pathways, which cover a broad range of specializations. This new curriculum is innovative, future-oriented and was developed with feedback from recent alumni to give current students the skills and experience to succeed in a changing and challenging field. 


Through the Dearborn Comeback initiative, which begins this fall, returning students who have earned 90 or more credit hours have a new opportunity for comprehensive and individualized academic and financial support — including up to $5,000 in grants — when coming back to earn their undergraduate degree.

Provost Sue Alcock said these students are close to their higher education goals at a time when there’s a need in the state for an informed and talented 21st century workforce — and it’s important to get them to the finish line.

This is only one of the new campus initiatives focusing on student success, a key area in UM-Dearborn’s ongoing strategic planning process.

Others include an integrated student success platform with mental health services, and academic and career advising for prospective and current students to give a guided path to graduation, and Destination Dearborn, which realigns and supplements the previous financial aid model to remove financial barriers to a U-M degree.

Chancellor Domenico Grasso said initiatives like these have been top of mind during the strategic planning process. And a $20 million investment — made possible by President Mark Schlissel and the Board of Regents — to UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint is making them a reality.


This winter, a 61,000-square-foot expansion of the Murchie Science Building will bring a number of modern updates to the building.

Featuring ample laboratory spaces with state-of-the-art equipment, innovative active learning classrooms, and plentiful collaboration spaces for students, the design of the MSB expansion emphasizes accessibility, innovation and support in the STEM disciplines.

Highlights of the space include:

  • A thermal systems lab with bay doors for courses focused on all aspects of automotive engineering.
  • A robotics and mechatronics lab with logic controllers to program robotic devices.
  • A machine shop with multiple 3-D printers and a plasma cutter.
  • Interactive smart classrooms that allow for enhanced interaction, moving away from the traditional lecture format.
  • Collaboration spaces on each floor designed to facilitate peer mentoring.
  • The exterior of MSB will also be transformed. Additional green spaces and an outdoor laboratory will make the expansion a hub for campus activities.

In addition to these student resources, sustainability is a key aspect of the MSB expansion’s design. Construction began with a goal to achieve a LEED Silver rating. The project is now tracking toward LEED Gold status.


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