Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Record Update First

Michigan Road Scholars prepare to hit the highway

This May marks the 10th Michigan Road Scholars Tour, designed to increase mutual knowledge and understanding between the university and the people and communities of the state.

Dubbed as a seminar on wheels, the program cultivates an awareness of the state's distinctive geography, economy, culture, government and politics, history, educational systems, health and social issues while encouraging public service and research to address state problems, and showing how U-M is connected to the entire state, organizers say.

The five-day Road Scholars tour has traveled to every region of the state in its quest to meet with and understand the needs of the people. This tour will take place May 4-8, and participants will post updates via Facebook.

“The two aspects of the tour I most enjoy are seeing, as we travel throughout the state, how our faculty group comes together and develops a sense of community, and seeing how they respond to the level of appreciation and enthusiasm that community members show us for coming into their neighborhoods," says Richard Carter, associate director of state outreach, who has participated in every tour.

As the new group gets ready to board the bus, several past scholars reflect on their Michigan Road Scholars experience and how it impacted their work.

“By knowing more about Michigan, I was able to use more Michigan examples in class,” says María Dorantes, director, Elementary Spanish Program, who joined the tour in 2005. “It not only helped engage Michigan students, but taught the out-of-state students different facts and information as well, while learning Spanish. I was able to identify more with Michigan and its history and sites.’’

Marty Hershock, chair and associate professor of history at the UM-Dearborn campus, who was part of the 2007 tour, says, “The visit to Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School and Focus Hope have also inspired me to undertake a number of initiatives to work more closely with city institutions and organizations and to make the city of Detroit's story more apparent.’’

Kenneth Stoffers, a clinical associate professor of dentistry who was part of the 2001 tour, recalls meeting a colleague involved with U-M Heath Sciences Scholars Program. “Ever since, she has been sending her students to visit our students in pre-doctoral training clinics to see what our students do.”

The Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research co-sponsored a Tribal Health Summit on campus, largely as a result of the 2007 and 2008 Michigan Road Scholar tours where participants interacted with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The summit was a starting point for creating partnerships between the tribes and the university.

“What I remember from my Road Scholar experience were the people we met along the way and how eager they were to share their stories, hopes and dreams with us,” says Stephen Landon, an assistant professor of theatre at the Flint campus who joined the tour in 2008.

Robin Queen, an associate professor of Germanic languages and linguistics, visited several of the northern Michigan tribes to find out more about their language (Anishnaabemowin) and revitalization initiatives the summer after the 2008 Michigan Road Scholar tour.

“It was a terrific view of the history of MI and its social problems. Since then, I have often used examples of visits that we did during this trip in a) my classes and b) faculty governance projects,” says Silvia Pedraza, a sociology professor who was part of the 2001 tour. “I have described our visit to the prison; our visit to the GM auto factory in Flint; our visit to St. Ignace and the fisheries there; our visit to the Lake Michigan area, near Sleeping Bear; my understanding of Michigan’s economy; and our visit to the beet sugar factory.”

Hershock adds, “The trip was extremely valuable to me. I also believe that it was of great benefit to the university. For me it was less about learning about Michigan than about feeling connected to the university. For most others, however, learning about the state (I believe) helped them to see the vital importance and consequence of the university’s public mission.”