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  President Coleman addresses Senate Assembly
U-M to invest $2.5M in team teaching, ethics curriculum

Related story: Initiative to increase team teaching, multiple perspectives>

The University's strengths come from its faculty members, President Mary Sue Coleman told the Senate Assembly Sept. 26, and she asked them to meet the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities facing U-M as she outlined the University's future priorities.

"I hope you will join me in taking great pride in our accomplishments, because you are responsible for them," Coleman told the assembly and other members of the University community gathered in Rackham Amphitheatre. "Keep on reflecting, keep on suggesting, and keep on constructing our University of Michigan."

Speaking at the first Senate Assembly meeting of the academic year, Coleman celebrated the University's accomplishments and laid out the priorities and challenges ahead. She said U-M's foundation and its future are in research, scholarship and creative work.

"My foremost goal, and one I know you share, is that the University never waver in its commitment to academic excellence," she said.

Coleman said a key to sustaining that excellence is through collaboration (see Initiative to increase team teaching, multiple perspectives>).

"We know that interdisciplinary research is a hallmark of Michigan, and we have some real team-teaching success stories in areas such as global change, American culture and women's studies," she said, announcing that $2.5 million will be used to develop three new multidisciplinary programs and three complex courses.

"When our students move on to careers or graduate work, they will know the value of applying multiple perspectives to a problem, and they will understand the benefits of synthesizing materials from many viewpoints."

A second task force exploring ethics in public life has found the University can and should do more to make ethics a priority in teaching, research and public service.

"We as a community are going to talk, really talk, about ethics," she said, adding that the University will begin in November a series of public forums on current ethical issues. The University also will develop new undergraduate courses primarily for first- and second-year students that address ethics, and will find ways to incorporate these issues in existing courses.

Coleman talked about several areas of strategic investment that will continue the University's leadership in research. She spoke of the promise and potential of the Center for Stem Cell Biology, and said the Life Sciences Institute is gaining remarkable momentum with strong faculty hires and robust research. She also credited the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and the Biological Sciences for making astounding advancements.

The University's research strengths are being used to address some of the critical challenges to society, including finding alternatives to energy use, she said.

"We are a country with less than 5 percent of the world's population, but we consume 24 percent of its energy," she said. "That imbalance cannot long exist. The University is well positioned to take a leadership role in developing new ways to power our society."

Health care is another area in which Coleman said the University stands to emerge as a great leader. The task force charged with developing the Michigan Healthy Community Initiative has advanced some long-term plans for programs that focus on mental health, cost-effective health care and student health. In the short run, the University will kick off a physical activity challenge this winter that will have everyone on campus taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle, she said.

The University's dedication to academic quality extends beyond research laboratories and institutes, and goes deep into the classrooms and theatres, Coleman told the audience. In the spring, U-M will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Hopwood Program, which she called the University's signature mark of great writers.

In addition, she encouraged faculty to attend the Oct. 14 tribute to Arthur Miller, a theatre legend and one of the Hopwood program's earliest winners.

Coleman updated faculty on the progress of the $2.5 billion The Michigan Difference campaign, which recently topped the $1.8 billion mark.

"Since our first days as a university, we have relied on private support to take that extra step in teaching and research," she said. "Today, with the continuing decline in state appropriations, donor support is fundamental to our excellence. We have made phenomenal progress, and it is due to the hard work of many people."

Coleman has advocated for greater engagement in the community and world. She discussed her summer trip to China, the Michigan in Washington program that allows students to live and study in Washington, D.C., and the recently opened U-M Detroit Center.

"As a great public university, we know we must be relevant and useful to society," she said. "And we are—globally, nationally, locally and virtually. Your work makes it so."

Coleman said faculty achievements would be moot if the University becomes inaccessible. She said the M-PACT financial aid program so far has awarded grants to 2,239 students from the state. The program enhances financial aid packages for students from low- and moderate-income families by replacing debt dollar-for-dollar with additional grant assistance.

She also pointed to the University's success in reaching out to diverse student groups, citing a double-digit increase in applications and enrollment deposits from African-American and Hispanic students this year, and the positive feedback from the launch of En Espanol, a Spanish-language Web site targeted toward the growing Latino population.

"The University of Michigan is the face of diversity in higher education, and we must continue to make access real," she said.

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