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As the University of Michigan reaches its 200th year, two Presidential Bicentennial Professors have paid tribute to the innovation the school has been known for by announcing the Campus of the Future Competition.

For this contest, Joanna Millunchick, a material science and engineering professor, and Mika LaVaque-Manty, a professor of political science, are inviting University students and post-doctoral fellows from all disciplines to come together to create projects that reinvent the idea of the University and what is means to be a Wolverine. 

All University students have the opportunity to submit a project abstract by May 1, which could lead to a project showcase in October and the chance to win $25,000 in prizes. The projects will be assessed by a panel of judges during the showcase next semester. Students from all majors are encouraged to submit their ideas.

Millunchick expressed her excitement for the competition and working with students.  

“I’m really looking forward to seeing all the ideas, and getting the students to expand on what they’re thinking,” she said. “So far, the people I’ve met are so inspirational. It’s fun working with the students, that’s my favorite part always.”

The Campus of the Future Competition emphasizes three main scales: the room scale, building scale and total campus scale. These encompass the scope of what one’s project could focus on — they also challenge students to come up with new ideas as to how the University could change its methods to accommodate more individuals with diverse backgrounds.

According to the competition’s message, the University hopes to adapt to the ongoing needs of the community with the quickly shifting world.  

LaVaque-Manty further explained the many dimensions of this project and how there are various interpretations of what the prompt could mean.

“You can think of campus of the future in all kinds of ways,” he said. “When we use the word ‘campus,’ we might be meaning higher education in general or university campuses or we might be meaning campuses here — and we might be talking about space in the Diag. It means all the things that happen on campus. How do you learn? How do you learn outside the classroom? And anybody who has ideas is eligible.”

All the project areas can be taken literally or metaphorically, he explained. According to the examples on the website, students can come up with new ways to design the classroom or reinvent what a “lecture” consists of in a room setting.

One example of a project comes from Associate Musicology Prof. Mark Clague, Jonathan Kuuskoski, assistant director of entrepreneurship and career services in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and Jeremy Peters lecturer in the Music, Theatre and Dance School. Their art- and business-based project, known as the Maize Collective, is looking for students who want to offer others real-life experience in the music industry.

Clague defined the type of students they hope to see for this project.

“(We are looking for) students who are excited about trying new things and experimenting and are able to confront problems and envision solutions with a robust intellect that can take on the uncertainty of entrepreneurship of a changing world and be able to thrive in that environment,” he said.

Millunchick and LaVaque-Manty emphasized there are many ways to paint pictures of the future for the University, and that students are crucial to creating those images.

“Our symposium, Campus of the Future, was always very future-looking, and our children are our future, it’s a cliché, but it’s a cliché for a reason,” Millunchick said.

LSA junior Michelle Diaz is a project manager for the Campus of the Future Competition. She explained the competition is important because it allows members of the student body a chance to express themselves. 

“I know U of M has a lot of problems, and I’m not saying U of M is perfect, but this project offered students a voice, and I think that gets lost a lot in the visualization of the future, people think of hover boards and things like that, but this can include things that can better our campus,” she said.

Millunchick furthered Diaz’s statement by explaining how the University is defined by the talents and the passions of the students.

“The University is nothing without the students,” she said. “A lot of the Spring Symposium was focused on backward thinking, more historical looking at where we were, and one of the nice things about the bicentennial celebration is the chance to look forward. The people that are going to be taking our places — the places of the professors and administrators — are the students.”

When asked about the Campus of the Future Competition, University students were excited about the opportunity to showcase their various abilities. LSA freshman Sage Renstrom-Richards discussed why she appreciated the competition’s emphasis on student abilities.

“Hearing from a large group of students who have real experiences in the University can be helpful, because we are the ones who actually know how it works,” she said. “We know what goes on here, and we may have a better idea of what might be helpful or effective to improve the functions of the school.”

As a computer science major, Renstrom-Richards felt the competition would allow her to demonstrate her strengths while also allowing her to create change at the University.

“I’ve had ideas in the past about how online tools like Wolverine Access and Schedule Builder can be improved to be easier for students to use,” she said. “I think that the competition could be a good opportunity to showcase that and to incentivize that, and even with the ideas that come from the projects could be used by other people with similar ideas in computer science.”

There will be an informational session on April 10 at 5:00 pm in Room 2244 in the Undergraduate Science Building.

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