The University of Michigan has announced the appointment of Nick Tobier as special counsel to the provost on faculty civic engagement.

In this new part-time role, Tobier, associate professor and director of national engagement in the Stamps School of Art & Design, will build upon current community and civic engagement work to enhance learning, research and service opportunities for faculty, staff and students.

Nick Tobier

Tobier will report to the vice provost for global and engaged education. The appointment is 0.25 of an FTE in the first year and 0.5 in the second year, and is funded by the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, which is part of Student Life.

The role is described as one dedicated to capacity building on campus through faculty efforts and designed to: strengthen a culture of engagement for students, staff and faculty through curricular and co-curricular projects and processes; bolster faculty engagement and impact efforts in the community; enhance faculty-community ties; advance public discussion and social commitment to improve community engagement; and create opportunities to promote community engagement.

James Holloway, vice provost for global and engaged education, said the position would offer pedagogical support to nurture and foster academic efforts in teaching, research and service.

“The University of Michigan has a long history of community engagement, and through this new role we hope to further strengthen the ability of our faculty to tie their scholarship and teaching to the opportunities presented by communities all across the state of Michigan and beyond. Our faculty and students can learn so much from the people of this state, as well as from people all across the globe,” Holloway said.

Faculty, staff and students from schools and colleges across the university have been engaged with the community for a number of years through the efforts of individuals, schools and colleges, and through programs like the Ginsberg Center.

With an increased emphasis in recent years on outreach — into Detroit in particular — and the growth of engaged learning and research opportunities, U-M has discussed how to strengthen and enhance these efforts. To that end, the Provost’s Office also created a Council for Engaged Civic Education, of which Tobier currently is a member.

“Throughout his career as an artist, landscape architect, project manager and educator, Nick Tobier has been involved with community engagement in cities like Detroit, New York, Boston and beyond. His life’s work has been an example to students of his belief that artists and designers can and must be catalysts for social change,” Holloway said.

Tobier, alone and with his students, has been engaged with Detroit for a number of years. Among others, he has driven students to the city to teach art and design in schools that no longer have programs; sold fruits and vegetables at a mobile market he called F.O.O.D. (Field of Our Dreams); and trained high school students in bicycle repair, maintenance and construction, exhibiting some of their work at the Detroit International Anti Auto Show and Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit through an ongoing project called Brightmoor Cycles and Trailers.

He also has brought his highly interactive personal expressions of art, which he calls “public interruptions” or “public design actions,” to the streets of cities from Detroit to Tokyo.

Tobier earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from The Milton Avery Graduate Center at Bard College. He also studied landscape architecture in the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, and holds a bachelor’s degree in history and art from Swarthmore College. Prior to his appointment at the School of Art & Design in 2003, he spent four years as assistant professor at the School of Art at Alfred.