Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Alumni speakers, art propel Rackham centennial celebration

The yearlong Rackham Graduate School centennial celebration picks up in October with a distinguished alumni lecture series and exhibit of the creative work of recent Master of Fine Arts alumni.


View the schedule of Rackham Centennial Lectures.

The Rackham Centennial Lectures are intended to celebrate a long tradition of leadership and excellence in graduate education and showcase the quality and diversity of the intellectual legacy of Michigan's graduate alumni. More than 60 Rackham degree programs have invited distinguished alumni back to campus to talk with current faculty and graduate students.

"The breadth of topics covered by the speakers underscores one of U-M's core strengths — how well we foster the creative talent, intellectual curiosity and rigorous discipline of our graduate students, who then go on to pursue innovative research and practices that address some of the world's most critical and complex problems," Rackham Dean Janet Weiss says.

The centennial also will feature an exhibit of the creative work produced by young MFA alumni. "The Rackham Centennial Exhibit: Artists Innovators Alums" is presented from 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, Sept. 28-Dec. 17.

"We have been using the Rackham Building's fourth-floor corridors as art exhibition space for several years, so it seems fitting that we feature there the work of our recent graduates," Weiss says.

Since the Rackham Graduate School conferred its first degree in 1912, U-M has become a national leader in graduate education in the United States.

"We look back with admiration on 100 years of notable achievements by graduates who have pursued careers of distinction and impact around the world and look forward with great anticipation to the contributions of the next generation," Weiss says.

This summer, the centennial celebration focused on heated competition through Rackham Centennial Spring Summer Fellowship Award program. Rackham received more than 750 applications for 100 awards. Master's and doctoral students used them to carry out research, scholarly and creative projects in collaboration with faculty mentors during the spring-summer term.

Weiss says such support can be transformative if graduate students build on the momentum of the academic year to step up the intensity of their research, explore new career possibilities through unpaid internships, or collaborate with government, industry, or community organizations, rather than taking a detour to earn money for the summer.

"Michigan graduate students have the curiosity, commitment, and expertise to make a real difference in the world. The centennial awards empowered some of our students to achieve great things this summer," Weiss says.

Among students earning the awards were:

• Michael Cherney, a doctoral student analyzing data in tusk growth records of mammoths and mastodons to understand how they lived and what caused their extinction.

• Julia Raskin-Masters, a master's student examining the physical characteristics of vacant land in Detroit and how these traits may affect residents and neighborhood perceptions.

• Russell Funk, a doctoral student whose research examines the factors that promote successful entrepreneurship in emerging high technology industries.

• Laura Herold, a doctoral student exploring the relationship between children's vocabulary achievement and their exposure to particular instruction and interactions in reading and writing, to improve the educational and social outcomes of at-risk children.