The University Record, January 15, 2001

Research spending ‘means to an end’

By Lee Katterman
Office of the Vice President for Research

Ulaby
According to the traditional measures of U-M research and scholarship, fiscal year 2000 was very successful, Fawwaz T. Ulaby, vice president for research, told the Regents at their December meeting. U-M research expenditures reached $545 million in FY 2000, an increase of 9.1 percent over the previous year. New research awards, which fuel U-M research endeavors for several years ahead, jumped significantly—$650 million—rising 45 percent over the previous fiscal year.

“Being a top research university clearly means more than spending the most money on research and scholarship. The money we spend is just a means to an end, but what is that end we seek?” Ulaby stated.

“As a great university, our mission is to serve society through educating individuals, expanding the knowledge base in all areas of study, searching for truth in its purest form and applying new knowledge and truths for the betterment of humankind,” Ulaby said. “Research, scholarship and artistic expression are at the core of our mission and the catalytic agents of discovery.”

The concrete impact on the campus of activities in the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) occurs through its work on research policy, administrative matters, support of faculty research and scholarship, and in a number of other ways, “guided by the same high-minded goals that permeate this great University,” he added.

Ulaby’s remarks focused on the more than 15,000 graduate students attending the University. “OVPR’s interest in and influence of graduate students is specifically linked to their role in research,” he said. This occurs most directly through OVPR’s support of faculty scholarship and research, “for we know that our efforts to provide funding or facilities to faculty also supports graduate students.” OVPR also works closely with the Horace H. Rackham School, the Office of the Provost and the schools and colleges to serve the needs of the graduate students.

“Graduate school is a wonderful opportunity to experience the creation of new knowledge and the discovery of hitherto unknown truths,” Ulaby observed. “The graduate student is given the opportunity to work with faculty mentors who spend innumerable hours listening to the student’s ideas, challenging him or her to reach greater heights, together plotting a course to answer a question and, when they have their answer, to once again plot a course to answer new questions raised by the previous answer, and so on. This one-to-one experience exists today at a large university like Michigan, just as it did 500 years ago at Cambridge or Oxford. It is indispensable in the training of future intellectual leaders.”

Ulaby also spoke of the important relationships graduate students forge with fellow students. “Graduate students will often work closely with individuals from many social and ethnic backgrounds, some of whom may be foreign born and educated. In this setting, the graduate student develops lifelong bonds with these people, and their view of the world grows in intangible but very important ways,” he said.

Ulaby presented a video at the meeting that featured comments by more than two dozen graduate students on why they chose Michigan for graduate study, what the excitement of discovery means to them, their views on faculty mentors and their aspirations after graduation.

Working with graduate students is among the most rewarding activities for faculty, Ulaby noted. “I can share with you from my personal experience as a mentor of graduate students that it is wonderfully gratifying to observe the intellectual transformation that occurs in these young people over the course of their graduate work.”

U-M’s graduate students also make a tremendous impact beyond the University, he noted. “These students are one of the primary sources of the next generation of leaders and creators of new knowledge. Through these students—as they pursue their careers, as well as through the professional and academic literature that they contribute to—universities enrich our way of life, and society enhances its capacity to meet our long-term needs.”

The full text of Ulaby’s presentation to the Regents, including the transcript of the video, is posted on the Web at www.research.umich.edu.