President Mary Sue Coleman at ease and in charge
greets Chris Hunter, a 6-foot-11-inch freshman from Gary, Ind.,
who will be on the basketball team. Coleman spoke to students
and served ice cream during the Welcome Week event Thursday.
Billy Schmidt, an assistant coach, looks on. (Photo by Martin
Vloet, U-M Photo Services)
U-Ms 13th president quickly is earning a reputation as someone
who is both interesting and interested. Mary Sue Coleman enjoys
meeting people and immediately makes them feel at ease with her
engaging communication style.
On campus since early August, Coleman has met with many people already about a number of issues, including the life sciences,
the Ed Martin investigation, the admissions lawsuits, the budget
and executive leadership vacancies. Her packed agenda includes many
activities where she will have a chance to get to know U-M students,
faculty and staff.
Recently she met with the Record to talk about her first few weeks
on campus. The following is a part of that interview.
LTG: Of course the first question, how is it going?
Coleman: Im almost at the end of three weeks, and I feel like
Ive been here forever. It feels so comfortable. People have
been very kind everywherenot only people within the University,
but when I go to stores and try to find my way around. Its
been a very nice transition. And were enjoying Ann Arbor.
I think it was good to come a few weeks before school started so
we could find our way. Im still trying to imprint the map
in my brain about streets, but I am learning some routes. Im
in pretty good shape.
LTG: Lets talk about priorities. Even before arriving, you
said that among the first priorities is filling vacant positions,
and we see that steps have been taken.
Coleman: Yes, I appointed an interim executive vice president for medical
affairs (EVPMA) so that we could keep moving forward because there
are many issues that we have to deal with. We got our three search
committees set up for development, chief financial officer and for
the EVPMA. Im working on the life sciences right now, and
I am having discussions about the provost.
LTG: Any feeling about time frames for the searches?
Coleman: These committees need to be appropriately deliberate about
what they are doing. Some may go longer than others. In my discussions
with the chairs, Ive said Id like the committees to
work with all deliberate speed. But I understand that they have
to do their work. We will hope that maybe some things can happen
this semester. If so, that will be great.
LTG: What about the Life Sciences Institute?
Coleman: I hope to make an announcement within the next few weeks,
but were still doing a lot of internal work. Shortly after
the semester starts well make some progress there.
LTG: Where do you see us going, as far as our position in the life
Coleman: All of us believe that in this century research in the life
sciences is going to make a huge difference in our lives because
of what is made possible by the information that we have now. I
think the correct investments were made. Its important for
Michigan, as one of the leading research universities in the nation,
to have a major impact on that area. And this decision to create
an institute was a way for the University to position itself extremely
LTG: You have inherited a number of initiatives, like the life
sciences, that you have expressed a commitment to, but how will
you make your mark on those projects?
Coleman: I think every single president has a different style and way
of doing things. I imagine when people get used to me, and see how
I work, that they will see that I have a style that is unique. Im
thrilled that there are so many areas of such distinction at Michigan.
It is a remarkable University. I will be trying to further the aspirations
that people have. I may have a slightly different way of shaping
and fashioning some of the things that are moving forward at Michigan
than another president would. But I think people will enjoy working
with me, and I certainly look forward to working with everyone here.
LTG: We know your background with the sciences, but what would
you say to the arts and humanities people about some of their interests,
like the Miller Theatre?
Coleman: If people will go back and check my record, those in the humanities
and arts at Iowa would say I have been supportive of those areas
because I understand their importance to the quality of our lives.
Universities can provide wonderful ways for us to explore ideas
and celebrate the creativity of people through such things as performance.
I hope people will be pleased with my approach.
LTG: What specifically can you say about the Miller Theatre?
Coleman: I need to step back in a lot of areas and really look at the
plans for what we are doing. I am still at that stage with this
LTG: Weve talked about those plans that already were underway,
but is there anything you know at this very moment that you want
Coleman: Sure, weve talked about some changes. Ive begun
to talk about things I might want to fashion a little bit differently,
and Ill have some ideas that well roll out over time.
LTG: Any you can talk about at this time?
Coleman: Not yet, because I havent been able to complete the
circles and consult with everyone. I think people will find that
I am pretty consultative. I like to talk and fashion ideas. Then,
Ill say, Well okay, why dont we try X. I
think I make better decisions when I do that. Im impressed
that Michigan seems to have been a very open and communicative institution.
LTG: On the issue of the budget, this is a tough time. . .
Coleman: [The state of] Michigan is facing a budget deficit, and we
dont know quite yet how that will affect our educational funding.
I think that we were treated very well up until now, considering
the challenges that the state faces. But this has been a worry in
many states, and it will be a worry in Michigan. This is going to
be a tough year. We are going to look at every dollar we spend.
LTG: I occasionally read about the expectation of tighter fund
availability from different research funding agencies. Yet, the
University has enjoyed increasing success in securing research dollars.
Do you predict that will continue?
Coleman: Its really dependent on the agency. And you are absolutely
right, how we do in research funding is tied to how much money is
available out there, in part. As far as the areas in which we have
done extremely well, their budgets are doing well. The NIHthe
National Institutes of Healthis still showing robust growth
in the research level, and our faculty and staff have been very
good at garnering those funds. The National Science Foundation,
another area where the University of Michigan has traditionally
done extremely well, probably will have a big budget increase this
year. Both of those bode well for us. There are other agencies whose
budgets have been cut, so it may be a struggle for certain areas.
But we have such good and competitive researchers here that I suspect
they will be out there, and those that traditionally have done well
will continue to do so.
LTG: You have had considerable interaction with students in the
past. How will you be involved with Michigan students?
Coleman: Ive already met with Sarah Boot, MSA president, and
weve talked about some of the events I will be involved withsome
of the opening celebrations we have, the convocation and certainly
the vigil the students are planning for Sept. 11. Then I have a
series of meetings set up where students can come talk to me in
a more informal setting, a series of receptions, trying to get out
and make myself accessible. I think it is important. Ive really
enjoyed interactions with students at Iowa, and hearing what they
had to say. Its important to talk with student leaders but
it also is fun to just talk with students.
LTG: How will you interact with faculty and staff?
Coleman: What I am doing to get myself oriented to campus is trying
to get invited to various faculty meetings and groups so that I
can go and meet people in their departments. I also want to find
some ways to go to different areas on campus, to various support
units, to meet with staff. I also will tour the medical campus,
and Ill be spending time at Dearborn and Flint just meeting
with students, faculty and staff.
LTG: Lets talk briefly about the admissions lawsuitsI
understand we are preparing our response for the Supreme Court.
Coleman: We are, but we still are waiting on the Circuit Court for
the second opinion. I dont want to be presumptive about what
the Supreme Court will do, but we are preparing to go forward. I
feel very good about the legal team. I feel confident and believe
(if the Supreme Court should take the case) the outcome will be
in our favor.
LTG: Is there anything else you would like to say to the Record
Coleman: Just that I am very excited about being here. Every day I
learn a little bit more about a new area of research or some innovative
teaching or some new program thats going on. Its thrilling.
I am energized every day. Everybody tells me that I just wont
believe what its like to be in Michigan Stadium. I am looking
forward to that. I know that we have a field hockey team that won
the national championship this year, and I am very proud of that.
I am also very excited to learn about ice hockey.
LTG: That is new to you?
Coleman: That is new. [Laughs] That isnt a sport that we had
at Iowa, so I am excited.
LTG: Is it going to be tough on Homecoming, against Iowa?
Coleman: [Laughing] Oh well, yeah, but I said I will cheer for Iowa
except when they are playing Michigan. Then Ill cheer for
Michigan. I think there a lot of Iowans coming to that game, too.