State of the University: Coleman highlights accomplishments and new hires; talks budget
Meeting students’ educational needs through continued and expanded opportunities while managing the effects of an economy still in peril will be the biggest challenge U-M will face in the year to come, President Mary Sue Coleman said during her State of the University message to campus Wednesday.
President Mary Sue Coleman chats with members of the campus community after delivering the State of the Unviversity message Wednesday. (Photo by Scott Soderberg, Photo Services)
The president’s address was upbeat, as she expressed confidence the university would continue to serve students, the state of Michigan and the research and higher education communities with excellence, even as the prospect of declining budgets continues.
“Throughout our schools and colleges, faculty are being creative, innovative and truly inspirational in educating students at all levels,” Coleman said, citing several examples of exemplary teaching and research.
“Our enthusiasm to be the best, to be bold, regardless of economic projections and gloomy headlines, is more evident than ever in our innovation and creativity.”
A key focus of Coleman’s address this year was the state of academics at the university, including progress on hiring interdisciplinary junior faculty and other faculty members in areas of great demand and emerging areas of study. She also brought the community up to date on current cost-cutting initiatives, and indicated that more will be needed.
To date, 72 of the 100 interdisciplinary junior faculty positions Coleman announced three years ago have been approved. Of those, 25 have been filled. In addition, this year the Office of the Provost authorized additional faculty positions to be filled over the next two years.
“In this year’s budget we have funded an additional 50 tenure-track faculty positions. This complements the ongoing junior faculty initiative and ultimately will improve our student-faculty ratio. We are looking to our deans for how best to structure these positions, which will be filled by scholars with a wide range of experience,” Coleman announced.
In the area of cost-cutting, the university trimmed $135 million from the budget in the six-year period ending in 2009, at which time the president announced that another $100 million in efficiencies were needed by 2012. Although there is steady progress toward that goal, more must be trimmed in the years ahead, she said.
“Because of economic forecasts and a decline in state support that we do not expect will reverse any time soon, we now know that we must identify another $120 million in savings by 2017,” she said, adding that the goal in all of the cost-cutting is to preserve the quality of the academic experience.
“As an institution, we are many things to many people, and in recent years we have widened our scope through local and international collaborations in research, health care and economic development. We also have turned inward and looked for how best to use our resources, and along the way have changed how we conduct business.”
She recapped some of the year’s major accomplishments, among them:
• U-M has received $277 million in federal stimulus research funding.
• It holds first place in the United States in research and development spending among public universities; scientists here have created the state’s first human embryonic stem cell line.
• The university has formed new collaborations with energy researchers in Shanghai, health scientists in Beijing, and doctors and nurses in West Michigan.
• Twenty percent of the North Campus Research Complex’s 28 buildings have reopened, with some 400 faculty and staff on site.
Throughout her speech, the president told success stories of resourceful students and innovative faculty, including Mika Lavaque-Manty, who uses technology and unique methods of instruction in his Introduction to Political Theory class to help students in a very large lecture hall feel connected and engaged.
She highlighted one of the new interdisciplinary cluster hires — involving the Department of Geological Sciences and the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences — that promises to make U-M a leader in the study of sea-level impacts resulting from global climate change, and their affects on coastal regions.
Coleman also highlighted the work Sara Spangelo and Ben Kempke, who have helped create the first spacecraft built entirely by U-M students. The Radio Aurora Explorer will be carried into space in a matter of weeks.
“This is teaching and learning in action. It is concepts envisioned at the lab bench brought to reality. It is service that supports the good of society. The University of Michigan flourishes because our community believes in a promising future, one shaped by spectacular teachers, life-changing science and research, and talented graduates whose creativity is, literally, out of this world,” Coleman concluded.
“Faces change, buildings fall and rise, economies wax and wane. The University of Michigan thrives. We thrive because a great public university always looks forward, knowing there is nothing more powerful, more invigorating and more essential than creating and sharing knowledge.”