University welcomes new faculty to a year of challenges


Top University of Michigan administrators upheld the ritual of welcoming new faculty, this year by means of a virtual orientation Aug 26.

Speaking via Zoom to an audience of more than 200, President Mark Schlissel, Provost Susan Collins and Vice President for Research Rebecca Cunningham outlined resources to help newcomers navigate a rich and complex work environment.

A common theme across the 2020 New Faculty Orientation welcoming remarks was the unique nature of the current moment, which Schlissel termed “the most challenging of his leadership career.”

All three leaders emphasized the need for self-care as faculty manage professional obligations and family care against a backdrop that includes a global pandemic, severe economic crisis, protests for racial justice, and the recognition of fundamental inequalities in our society.

Strategies to disrupt inequities in teaching and learning were highlighted in the CRLT Players video sketch “Act for Equity.”
Strategies to disrupt inequities in teaching and learning were highlighted in the CRLT Players video sketch “Act for Equity.”

Collins noted that, daunting as they may be, crises provide critical opportunities for scholarship and teaching in fulfillment of the university’s mission. She also urged new faculty to take advantage of U-M’s breadth and its support for interdisciplinary and collaborative research and team teaching.

“That’s really how great things are achieved. It’s the way we develop new insights,” she said.

The orientation is sponsored by the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching and the Office of the Provost.

In the second half of the orientation, the CRLT Players premiered a newly created video sketch, Act for Equity,” that invites instructors to choose teaching practices that disrupt patterns of inequity. Viewers then had the opportunity to interact with new colleagues in small breakout sessions, where they reflected on the sketch’s depictions of barriers faced by learners and possible responses.

Nearly two-thirds of participants stayed through an invigorating wrap-up discussion, sharing strategies they plan to use to promote positive classroom climates in which all students can succeed.

Additionally, they learned about resources from CRLT, ADVANCE, and other U-M offices that are available to support both faculty’s work with students and their own needs as new members of the campus community.

This year a Canvas site is serving as a gallery for introducing 50 campus offices whose representatives usually meet new faculty members at a face-to-face information fair.


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