Three Distinguished University Professors to speak March 2


Three faculty members who have received one of the University of Michigan’s highest honors will discuss their professional and scholarly experiences during an upcoming virtual event.

Distinguished University Professors Paul N. Courant, Deborah Goldberg and Judith Irvine will speak from 3-4:30 p.m. March 2. Their presentations can be watched on YouTube at

Each lecture will be followed by a brief question-and-answer session. Viewers will be able to submit questions in the live chat window at any time during the event and may need to create a YouTube account to do so.

The Board of Regents awarded Goldberg a Distinguished University Professorship in 2018, while Courant and Irvine received their appointments in 2019.

Here’s a look at the professors and their presentations:

Paul N. Courant

“Society, the University, and How I Spent the Last 40-odd Years”

Photo of Paul Courant
Paul N. Courant

Courant is the Edward M. Gramlich Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Economics and Public Policy, provost emeritus, Howard T. Shapiro Collegiate Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emeritus, and professor emeritus of public policy, economics, and information, and professor emeritus in service in the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research.

A leading policy economist and former U-M provost, Courant is nationally recognized for his groundbreaking research in urban economics and public finance, including in the areas of tax policy and the impact of racial discrimination on housing markets. He led the development of a transparent, intellectually coherent academic budgeting model that is used at U-M and other universities. He also helped define the role of university libraries in the digital age.

During his lecture, Courant will take the perspective of a policy-oriented economist to discuss what universities do and how well they do it. He will use his own career to illustrate how policy-oriented economics can help achieve the purposes of a university.

Deborah Goldberg

“Ecology of the Anthropocene”

Photo of Deborah Goldberg
Deborah Goldberg

Goldberg is the Margaret B. Davis Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Emerita, and professor emerita of ecology and evolutionary biology.

Goldberg is a pioneering plant ecologist who elucidates the fundamental processes that control the dynamics, structure and function of ecological communities. She developed a new paradigm for mechanisms of interactions among plants by distinguishing between the effects on and responses to intermediates such as resources, pollinators, herbivores and microbial symbionts, leading to greater predictability of the outcome of competition.

Goldberg has also developed programs to increase the number of underrepresented young people in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

Understanding how human activities impact ecological systems is critical for predicting and managing the consequences. In her talk, Goldberg will describe some of her work on the mechanisms driving ecological responses to global change, including the challenges of prediction in ecology.

Judith Irvine

“Linguistic Difference and Social Stereotyping”

Photo of Judith Irvine
Judith Irvine

Irvine is the Edward Sapir Distinguished University Professor Emerita of Linguistic Anthropology, and professor emerita of anthropology.

An internationally recognized leader in anthropological theory and analysis, Irvine is well-known for her groundbreaking research on the relationship between language and other social forms. She redefined key conceptual frameworks in linguistic anthropology, such as formality in language use and ideology of language. She has stressed throughout her career the importance of combining ethnographic research with linguistic investigation.

Irvine’s lecture will be about sociolinguistic stereotypes, including how they are built and what people do with them. Cross-cultural research shows that perceived differences in ways of speaking contribute to stereotyping and social categorization, and that linguistic and social behaviors that don’t fit in the preconceived system are ignored, considered marginal exceptions or actively suppressed.

Irvine will use examples from the United States and West Africa to illustrate regional stereotypes; linguistic enactments of social hierarchy; multilingualism, language mapping and ideologies of ethnicity; and nonstandard language as anti-elite politics.

The Distinguished University Professorships were established in 1947 to recognize senior faculty with exceptional scholarly or creative achievements, national and international reputations for academic excellence and superior records of teaching, mentoring and service.

Each professorship bears a name determined by the appointed professor in consultation with his or her dean. Recipients are invited to give an inaugural lecture early in their appointments.


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