Working group to develop cultural change process, survey U-M community


The university has established a working group on culture change, the purpose of which is to create an environment of mutual respect and accountability that is free of retaliation, where everyone can feel safe to report misconduct and feel supported throughout the process.

The working group was announced at the July 15 Board of Regents meeting.

The group will engage the U-M community to gather feedback to establish new community expectations, workplace norms and shared values through several methods, including campus surveys, focus groups and town halls.

President Mark Schlissel appointed the group, which is to be led by Patricia Hurn, dean of the School of Nursing, and Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer for the university and senior director for faculty and leadership development at Michigan Medicine.

“My hope is that anyone who walks the halls of the university can feel the desired culture, feel psychologically, physically and socially safe and feel they can bring their best selves to campus every day,” Jacobs said. “Our goal is to engage with the U-M community to develop the kind of culture and climate where everyone can thrive.”

The group consists of faculty and staff representatives from the Ann Arbor campus and Michigan Medicine, including students and others still to be appointed. Internal consultants from Organizational Learning are working directly with the Flint and Dearborn campuses.

This effort is part of the university’s work with the consulting firm Guidepost Solutions to create a set of unifying, shared values and set a lasting high standard for campus behaviors, systems and practices.

“I applaud the recently announced chartering of the U-M working group on culture change to address culture change and to identify campus wide shared values and desired behaviors,” said Larry Plutko, former University of Texas system chief compliance officer and Guidepost senior consultant. “Unifying, shared values and behaviors are the foundation of university culture and serve as action guides, defining the path forward to establish standards of conduct and sustainable ethical systems for U-M community.”

The culture change process will be broken up into five phases and will aim to identify and analyze the formal and unspoken values present and at work in our communities, and engage with the community at large, Jacobs said.

The first phase, which will launch in the fall, relates to the Ann Arbor campus and will focus on gathering evidence and analyzing culture and climate data from the community.

In this video, Sonya Jacobs, chief organizational learning officer for the university and senior director for faculty and leadership development at Michigan Medicine, explains the goals of a new working group on culture change.

“We look forward to beginning a thorough, thoughtful and evidence-based process that will lead to a strengthening of our culture and our ability to live our values,” Hurn said. “The working group is a collaborative effort that will help renew the shared assurance of trust and respect that every member of our community deserves.”

The working group reports to the president and is sponsored by the university’s three executive vice presidents.


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