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Updated 3:00 PM July 30, 2007




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President, execs tour Google
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Mary Sue Coleman beamed with pride as 40 out of more than 100 Ann Arbor-based Google employees told her what they majored in at the University.

Many said they had earned business, computer science or engineering degrees, but most of the alumni, including division head Grady Burnett, said they graduated with LSA degrees, having studied topics such as anthropology, history, Spanish and psychology.

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“I just couldn’t be prouder of you and what you’re doing,’’ the president told Google’s Ann Arbor team. “Attracting companies like Google is absolutely critical to the transformation of the Michigan economy… To see this be a reality and to look at the energy here in the office … It really is a dream come true.’’

Coleman and four executive officers—vice presidents Cynthia Wilbanks, Jerry May and E. Royster Harper, and U-M-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little—traveled three blocks from U-M central administrative offices, bearing gifts of a Michigan flag and two jars of maize and blue M&Ms.

The new home of the Google AdWords division at Division and Liberty offers an intersection where the Google, state of Michigan and U-M cultures blend together.

Like Google workers in other locations, the staff members enjoy free food and drinks in an office with beanbag chairs and colorful super hero and balloon-filled décor. Sometimes staff members even bring their dogs to work. A reflection of their current locale, the Ann Arbor offices also are filled with Michigan images, like a large Mackinac Bridge painting and Kellogg character statues.

Graduates of Michigan’s three research universities dominate the office, which has a bird’s-eye view of major U-M projects like the stadium renovation and North Quad Residential and Academic Complex construction.

Coleman’s Google journey began in 2003 when she visited the company’s California headquarters and encouraged company founder and U-M alumnus Larry Page to open an Ann Arbor office. A year after announcing his plans to set up shop near U-M, the division already is in its second Ann Arbor location and growing rapidly. Plans call for creating 1,000 Google jobs in Ann Arbor over the next few years.

President Mary Sue Coleman (right) and Vice President of Student Affairs E. Royster Harper (left) meet with Grady Burnett, director of online sales at Google, during a recent tour of the company's Ann Arbor office. Photo by Lin Jones, U-M Photo Services

The company, whose name has become a verb, began in September 1998—three years after Page, an East Lansing native and son of a Michigan State University computer science professor, graduated from U-M. Today Google is the dominant search engine company with a mission to organize the world’s information. The name Google is considered synonymous with searching. Since going public in 2004 the company’s stock has risen to a market capitalization of more than $158 billion.

In 2005 U-M became one of the nation’s first universities to work with Google to digitize its library collections, and Burnett said the company works with other U-M units as well, including the College of Engineering. This year, the remaining Big Ten Universities joined the project.

Since Google began putting the University collection online, Coleman noted how an obscure magazine from 1860, housed in U-M’s libraries, helped address a current crisis impacting the nation’s bees. People were able to find otherwise forgotten excerpts from the historic magazine via Google. The result: the library experienced a record number of requests for reprints of the book, and lessons learned more than 150 years ago have aided a current crisis.
Burnett said the Ann Arbor location is helping Google attract talent from U-M and its University Research Corridor partners, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, as well as a host of other talented workers from Michigan and other parts of the Midwest. He said the location also is helping to encourage Michigan natives to come back home.

“Google has been one of the biggest drivers of innovation the world has ever seen,’’ Coleman said.

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