By RICKY LINDSAY, Editor-in-Chief
Getting to know the University of Michigan-Dearborn better is a process that the University of Michigan’s president, Mark Schlissel, is serious about.
Schlissel made this clear Monday, Feb. 15 at an open forum held inside the Institution for Advanced Vehicle Systems building, noting the importance of continuing to better understand UM-Dearborn and identifying how he can add value to the work of campus employees.
The forum marked Schlissel’s second public appearance on campus this year — he was in attendance during Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson’s presentation in January. Schlissel said he met with 10 to 12 undergraduate students before the forum.
“Over the years, we’ve had varying levels of intensity of relationship with our leadership in Ann Arbor. One thing I can report to you is that President Mark Schlissel has demonstrated himself from the very start — literally from the very start, frankly, before he began his job — as having an active and eager interest in learning about the Dearborn campus, learning about students, learning about our mission, learning about our curriculum in a way which is very neat and is very sincere,” UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little said. “On this stage, about a year ago, you said you’d like to be here more often than the ceremonial forum, and you’ve been true to that word… That is a real gesture of interest and commitment to our campus. You’ve said many times, in my hearing, you are president of the whole university.”
Schissel is trying to make the Ann Arbor campus a “diverse and inclusive educational community.” UM-Dearborn is the model for such an environment.
“Dearborn as a campus and a community as a whole… is much more of a melting pot than Ann Arbor is, to be certain. And you’ve really built a community where the students do feel an inclusive environment,” Schlissel said. “They feel that in their classrooms, they’re getting to know students who are different them then, that their faculty… are sensitive to these differences in a way that makes students comfortable and similarly valued.
“That’s something that I’m working hard to try to achieve on the Ann Arbor campus, where there’s actually a lot of good will but a long way to go.”
As he learns more about UM-Dearborn and UM-Flint, Schlissel said he’s thinking of ways to further link the University of Michigan’s three campuses, from student, faculty and administration perspectives.
“Although our budgets come separately from the state, and we’re often recognized separately… we really are one university,” Schlissel said. “The public thinks of us in a highly integrated way, and I want to try to make the resources of all three campuses available to one another.
One way to further link the campuses from a student perspective is to allow UM-Dearborn students to take courses at the Ann Arbor campus.
“If there’s a course they need to take or want to take that isn’t offered here or isn’t offered in the time frame they need it, just make it easier for them to take that course in Ann Arbor, and vice versa. Just make our students feel like they’re more of an integrated whole,” Schlissel said.
Schlissel noted that his staff is trying to find ways that faculty at the campuses can take advantage of this for collaboration, “either by teaching together or by sharing in research projects.”
MCubed, a seed-funding initiative which stimulates faculty research, has been at the Ann Arbor campus since 2012. It could be a way for UM-Dearborn faculty to take advantage of the link between campuses.
Through MCubed, a faculty member receives a token but can only cash it in for research support. If that faculty member collaborates with two other faculty members who have tokens, they can get $15,000 or $60,000 to advance their research idea, according to MCubed’s website.
Schlissel said he has taken funds from his office to extend MCubed to UM-Dearborn, “either on this campus amongst different disciplines or different disciplines here and disciplines in Ann Arbor.”
Another thing that has been extended to UM-Dearborn was a fund matching strategy the Ann Arbor campus used to stimulate scholarship philanthropy. Scholarship donations will be matched at a 4-to-1 ratio, from donations of at least $50,000 up to $1 million.
“Hopefully one thing that we’ll do is increase the philanthropy for scholarships here on this campus, but another thing it does is it removes a sort of imbalance in the incentive of a donor to support this campus compared to the Ann Arbor campus,” Schlissel said. “If you’re getting a match for Ann Arbor and you’re not getting a match for Dearborn, then the money may be disproportionately flowing in the direction of the match, so we’ve taken away that barrier to scholarship aid.”
Schlissel said scholarships are not limited to scholarships, but entail anything that benefits students, such as money for internships, funding for graduate students and research and study abroad support for undergraduates.
“I’m very hopeful that that results in a burst of giving that allows this campus to be more supportive than it already is of its students,” Schlissel said.