Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, December 11, 2009

Coleman, panelists gauge impact of Cherry Commission strategies

In the five years since the Cherry Commission urged new strategies to boost higher education, state universities have created vital collaborations and entrepreneurial activity has surged at U-M and in Michigan, along with efforts to boost research and business collaborations, President Mary Sue Coleman said Thursday.

Click here for a link to the full Cherry Commission report on higher education and economic growth.

But with the state in financial crisis, there is a long way to go, she said. “Despite the economic crisis that developed between then and now, or perhaps because of that crisis, we have an obligation to follow through with those recommendations. We will have to re-commit ourselves to the goals outlined by the commission; our future depends on it.”

Coleman’s remarks came during a panel presentation titled “Higher Education and Economic Growth in Michigan: Looking Back and Looking Ahead on the Fifth Anniversary of the Cherry Commission.” The program was presented at the Michigan Union by the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry speaks during a panel discussion on higher education and economic growth Thursday. (Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Joining Coleman as panelists were: Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry; Michael Hansen, president of the Michigan Community College Association; and Mark Murray, president of Meijer Inc.

In 2004 Gov. Jennifer Granholm charged the Lieutenant Governor’s Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth with identifying strategies to improve postsecondary attainment and completion in Michigan. To mark the five-year anniversary of the commission, leaders of the education and business communities in Michigan convened at U-M to address the past, present and future of higher education and economic growth in Michigan.

In contributing to the original Cherry Commission report, a work group headed by Coleman offered six key recommendations, including creating a culture of entrepreneurship and commercializing more research.

As examples of progress toward those goals, Coleman cited: the recent success of the U-M student organization MPowered Entrepreneurship, which drew 2,165 ideas for new businesses, products or ventures in its recent second annual 1,000 Pitches competition; and the University Research Corridor involving U-M, Michigan Sate University and Wayne State University, a collaboration to align resources to transform, strengthen and diversify the state’s economy that is seeing results.

Other recommendation's from Coleman's work group were:

•  Creating an emerging economy initiative.

•  Establishing a higher education/higher pay compact.

•  Expanding the role of higher education in community development.

•  Aligning higher education with economic needs and opportunities.

“Our state faces an uphill battle. But no matter what part of the state we come from, we share a common goal: We want to transform Michigan for the better,” she said.

Among its 19 overall recommendations, the Cherry Commission urged forging an expectation that all students will achieve a postsecondary degree or credential, and setting high expectations for high school students through rigorous standards and curriculum. Cherry said the latter recommendation was fulfilled by the state’s passage of a more rigorous high school curriculum in math and science, enacted before the 2007-08 school year.

“This is essential in our high-tech economy,” he said.

Hansen, representing state community colleges, said those institutions also are promoting entrepreneurship as a way to grow economically.

“There is a deep entrepreneurial spirit in this state and we are clearly in a period of reinvention,” Murray said. “We have a great deal of urgency to get at this work.”