Someone recently asked me to name my most important New Year’s Resolution. I said, “Make UM-Dearborn’s community STRONG.” That was easy on two counts: One, it’s been my resolution for the last 10 years, and Two, I’ve had lots of help. In fact, I’d say it’s OUR resolution, not mine.

As I step down today as Vice Chancellor, I reflect on some special things that have happened at UM-Dearborn since I came in 2005—things that have made the idea that “We are a community of higher education, not just an institution of higher education,” part of our culture, part of who we are.
In 2005 UM-Dearborn students, faculty, and staff marked the 13th Annual (next Monday will be the 22nd) MLK Day of Service, an opportunity for giving back to the larger community outside the campus. As a new vice chancellor, I quickly saw that our students were more drawn to service projects than they were to traditional clubs and organizations. In fact, clubs that put service at the core of their activities were far more successful than those that were just social.

We were, in fact, creating a Culture of Service that would define our campus personality and make our students so much more than just “Parking Lot Stalkers.” The creation of the CIViC in the UC gave our students a connection to the community outside the campus that took service to a new level. I have seen the CIViC help us become a community intent on learning about problems and then advocating for change and creating solutions. Just one of the outcomes has been the recognition that there are those in our community who don’t have enough food and the resulting creation of the CIViC’s UM-Dearborn Food Bank to meet that need.

The growing sense of community exemplified by the CIViC also spurred student engagement on campus. Students have always been engaged inside the classroom: the challenge and support of our faculty have been capturing students’ energy and boosting their achievement since our founding in 1959. But in the last 10 years there has been an explosion of student energy and achievement outside the classroom as well. Student organizations such as the Muslim Student Association, Black Student Union, Jewish Student Organization, Arab Student Union, Voices of Triumph Gospel Choir, and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship give voice to the rich tapestry of faiths and cultures, races and ethnicities that make up our community. Advocacy and activism are nurtured through (among many others) the Alliance for Disability Awareness, Amnesty International, PRIDE, Women in Learning and Leadership (WILL), and Student Veterans Association. Panhellenic and Inter-Fraternity Council are bringing Greek Life to new levels of membership, service, and leadership. Athletics is rising to give the campus a new rallying point for pride and satisfaction. And I could not forget Student Government, strong and vibrant, doing the students’ business.

“We are a community,” students say now in 2015. And they would go on to say that it is a community of service and inclusion. All the diversity of our campus is celebrated in the concept of inclusion. Each member of the community brings something from her or his culture, faith, ethnicity, experience to us, and we embrace it and make it part of who we are. This campus is a community of difference makers intent on using diversity to make the community better for all.

As I reflect on my 10 years as the Students’ Vice Chancellor, I realize I have been merely the voice of who you are: members, participants, contributors—all practicing community through service and support for each other and those beyond in the larger community. You are not just the Leaders and Best, you are ALL Difference Makers. You see the need for change and make it, and everything around you is better as a result. I have been telling new students for 10 years that we expect we will be a better place because they are here. I have never been disappointed. As a result, I have no doubt that OUR New Year’s Resolution will be carried out splendidly. The UM-Dearborn Community will only become stronger. It will be a joy to see what you do!
What an honor it has been to believe in you, to champion you, to support you. Year after year I have watched you—and those who came before you—grow, change, achieve. You have never failed to energize, to inspire, to amaze, in short, to make a difference. Thank you for making our community of higher education strong and giving me the best 10 years of my life.