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Updated 2:00 PM November 8, 2006




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Michigan Difference initiative highlights unique U-M character

A faculty member whose work gives us new insight, greater understanding or a transformed way of looking at our world.

Students whose rich experiences, inside and outside the classroom, prepare them for successful and productive lives as adults.

Alumni who've made a remarkable impact on the world.

All these are the evidence illuminating a phrase that has come to describe U-M: The Michigan Difference.
Fred and Barbara Erb, benefactors of the Erb Institute, are featured in this print piece for The Michigan Difference. (Courtesy Vice President For Communications)

First used for the fund-raising campaign of the same name, The Michigan Difference now is the basis of a communications initiative that will build on the theme as a way to illustrate the range of activities and attributes that set U-M apart as a premier university.

"As the campaign progressed and stories of the marvelous achievements of so many of our faculty, staff, students and alumni were told, a clear picture of this outstanding University emerged," says Lisa Rudgers, vice president of communications. "The role of Michigan as a major educational and research university, whose various constituents make a difference every day on campus, in our communities and across the globe, is a story that we felt must be celebrated and shared."

The Universitywide Michigan Difference communications initiative kicked off in late September with the debut of the new 30-second public service announcement (PSA) aired during Michigan football games. Against an audio backdrop of an upbeat variation on "The Victors," the PSA salutes English Department faculty member and poet Thylias Moss, stem cell researcher Sean Morrison and LSA senior Isabelle Carbonell, a volunteer for Crossing Borders. It also highlights alumni Fred Erb, whose donation established the Erb Institute for global sustainable enterprise; Chris Van Allsburg, whose classic holiday book "Polar Express" also has been made into an animated film; and Jack Li, whose volunteer and research activities as a recent undergraduate comprise an impressive list.

All of those featured in the PSA are the embodiment of The Michigan Difference, Rudgers says. The spot can be viewed online at

In addition, Michigan Difference banners made a public appearance on North University in mid-October during events held to mark the midpoint of $2.5 billion fund-raising campaign. The banners, punctuated by a bold headline "HAIL," recognize faculty, students and alumni who create and inspire The Michigan Difference.

Now in development and due for launch in December is a Michigan Difference Web site that will offer a collection of carefully chosen stories that provide compelling evidence of The Michigan Difference, says Brett Ashley, director of Michigan Marketing & Design, the campus unit leading the project. The collection is designed to be a resource to those engaged in outreach to potential students, alumni, donors and friends. Each feature potentially could contain stories, photographs, video, sound clips and illustrations.

"The site will be a collection of stories about people and milestones—the truly unique accomplishments that set us apart from other public universities," Ashley says. "We welcome people from all across campus to be our partners in telling The Michigan Difference story, and we urge you to send us your ideas."

The e-mail address for submitting Michigan Difference stories is

To encourage University units to adopt The Michigan Difference look and feel in their own communications materials, Rudgers says an "Order the Difference" Web site will launch in 2007. The site will provide cost-free design in the form of templates for brochures, pocket folders and other materials. Accessible only to campus, the site will be protected by a Kerberos password.

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