The University Record, September 3, 1996

Innovation, collegiality, creativity emphasized at new faculty orientation

Interim President Homer A. Neal addressed new faculty at their orientation session last week in the Michigan Union Ballroom. Neal urged the group to view students and colleagues as resources for new ideas.

Photo by Bob Kalmbach

By Jared Blank


New faculty members were urged at their orientation last week to take advantage of the myriad programs and technologies on campus to improve quality and innovation in their teaching.

Interim President Homer A. Neal and Vice Provost for Academic Outreach and Information Technology Douglas E. Van Houweling addressed the faculty at a luncheon, part of the four-hour program introducing new faculty to the research and teaching resources available to them.

Neal stressed the importance of collegiality as a means to enhance creativity in teaching and research. "It is vital that we teach well. Michigan needs to be known for excellence in teaching as well as in research," he said.

"Just as we need excellent teaching," he added, "we also need to cultivate collegiality. Collegiality is a rare but precious commodity among those of us who are committed to the world of ideas and who are involved in their creation, preservation and exchange. I believe the health of the University---even its very survival---requires that we support one another, and that we continually strive to discover new ways to enlarge that support."

Neal listed three factors that he believes have contributed to the erosion of collegiality on college campuses. First, the growth of technology has lessened the dependence on shared space and common facilities, since many people can conduct research at home. Second, with the rapid advancement in knowledge, there is a lesser sense of a shared enterprise within departments and units. Last, faculty must look at students as "genuine colleagues."

He added that if faculty view students as colleagues, they can break down the stereotypes that continue to plague large universities. "One way to shatter the image is to create relations with students that bring them into the intellectual community in increasingly significant ways," he said. "One way to do this is through the use of research partnerships that ask of our students a kind of intellectual commitment that goes beyond the requirements of the classroom."

Van Houweling spoke about one major initiative designed specifically to foster collaboration---the Media Union, a four-million-square-foot building on North Campus filled with multimedia equipment that is available for use by anyone on campus.

"When I think about the Media Union, I don't think primarily about the facility. I think about the potential for learning," he said. "The Media Union will increase collegiality by lowering barriers across disciplines and bringing people together.

"It's about creation," he added. "We have tried to merge technology and creative capability in one place." Van Houweling noted that faculty will have access to innovative video, audio and virtual reality technologies.

"The Media Union was designed to help us jointly invent the future. This is a challenge I share with you."