University leaders share update on culture, values work


Community input is shaping work to strengthen university culture and identify a set of unifying shared values, according to university leaders at a community assembly May 16.

Representatives from the Culture Change Values Identification Working Group highlighted findings from the group’s work, including feedback from several faculty and staff engagement activities.

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They were joined by President Mary Sue Coleman, Provost Laurie McCauley and other leaders involved in university culture change efforts.

“Michigan is big, diverse and decentralized,” Coleman said. “We educate, explore, heal, entertain and serve. To do all this, and to do it well, we must work from a shared set of values that serve as the foundation for excellence that is always associated with the University of Michigan.”

The working group was created last summer to identify a set of unifying shared values. This currently does not exist at U-M.

Watch a video of the May 16 community assembly.

After examining value statements from 23 schools, colleges and units, the group began engaging employees. Since last winter, it has conducted two dozen information sessions with faculty and staff stakeholder groups, launched a universitywide poll, and conducted focus groups.

Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer and senior director for faculty and leadership development at Michigan Medicine, and Patricia Hurn, dean of the School of Nursing, co-chair the group.

“Establishing shared values is one part of a larger effort to build a culture that fosters trust and provides a strong foundation to live up to our highest ideals,” said Jacobs.

In February, the group launched a poll asking faculty and staff which values best represent the university culture they want to create. Nearly 4,500 responded. The following were identified, in order, as the most important values:

  1. Integrity
  2. Excellence
  3. Respect
  4. Inclusion
  5. Equity
  6. Diversity
  7. Innovation
  8. Transparency
  9. Collaboration
  10. Community
  11. Service

The working group also conducted 11 focus groups with faculty and staff groups.

“In our focus groups, we learned more about how we are living the top values, how we are not living the values, and obstacles preventing us from living the values,” Jacobs said.

Diversity, equity and inclusion, academic excellence and collaboration were named as some of the ways the university currently lives its top values. Participants cited lack of accountability, examples of leaders not modeling values, and hubris as a few areas where the university needs to improve.

Representatives from various units leading culture change work — including the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Human Resources — participated in the assembly and helped answer questions from faculty and staff. 

“We heard loud and clear that the more voices included in the identification process the better, that this work must be aligned to existing culture work happening on our campuses, and that we must change our systems, processes and policies to support our community in living these values so that we can hold ourselves accountable,” Hurn said.

The working group is in the process of synthesizing this information to develop recommendations for next steps. These recommendations will be presented to the Board of Regents in June. The values eventually will inform U-M’s workplace behaviors, norms, processes and structures to build the culture it aspires to create.

The current scope is the Ann Arbor campus and Michigan Medicine. Separate work is underway on the Dearborn and Flint campuses to address campus-specific priorities and evaluate where they are in the culture journey.

After reviewing with university leaders, faculty and staff will be asked to provide further input as the university seeks to narrow down, define and attribute behaviors for a set of unifying values.

Additional information about the initiative can also be found on the Culture Journey website and a recording of the assembly will be posted there soon.


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