The University of Michigan held a symposium as part of University President Santa Ono’s inauguration ceremony Tuesday morning. The Inauguration Symposium was preceded by a student poster session, two keynote speakers and discussions with a faculty panel.
The symposium opened with a poster session featuring student projects on either of the symposium topics, including “intersection of race and the identity of U-M” and “fighting climate change.” A panel of judges evaluated the posters at the symposium and awarded at least five from each topic with up to $5,000 to fund the student’s projects.
U-M Flint sophomore Alexandra Barto and freshman Marwa Hammami traveled to Ann Arbor for the symposium to present their poster “A walk through history,” an original walkthrough experience that would highlight diversity on campus. The pair told The Michigan Daily they wanted to attend the session to increase recognition for the U-M Flint campus.
“The University of Michigan-Flint (campus) is very underestimated,” Hammami said. “Each campus is rich with its history and how it started.”
LSA senior Thea Bultman attended the poster session representing Wolverine Support Network, a student-run organization centered on student mental health. WSN’s poster proposed a forum where non-traditional students can voice their opinions on campus mental health resources. The University announced plans to expand student mental health resources through Uwill an outside mental health service on Monday. Bultman told The Daily she sees this announcement as a good step for the University to take.
“I think it’s really great that they’re leaning into (Uwill),” Bultman said. “(We want to) make sure that with CAPS’s capacity, students can still get the support they need.”
Rackham students Katherine Geraghty and Diana Martinez presented their plan for reclaiming land on the Inglewood oil field in Los Angeles, which was created as a part of a project for the School of Environment and Sustainability. Martinez told The Daily the pair chose to bring the project to the postering session due to its range of applications.
“This project will be an initiative that will serve not only (Los Angeles),” Martinez said. “It would be more of a broad thing. With the guidelines we’re developing, it can be applied anywhere.”
Rackham student Henry Valachovic attended the poster session as a representative of Michigan Marine Energy, a new organization focused on wave energy, and presented plans for a wave energy solution in Alaska. Valachovic told The Daily he wants to promote the use of wave energy as an alternative to fossil fuels in Alaska.
“Over half of all wave energy potential in the U.S. is in the southern coast of Alaska,” Valachovic said. “Right now, (Alaska) relies pretty much solely on diesel energy, one of the highest carbon types of energy.”
U-M alum Frank H. Wu, president of Queens College in New York, was the event’s first keynote speaker and gave a talk titled “The University and its Community: Past, Present and Future.” While discussing the University’s past, Wu spoke about the impact that white flight, the migration of the white middle class to the suburbs, had on the city of Detroit, which had allowed blue-collar automotive workers to retire with a pension only prior to the migration.
“Suburban sprawl soon crossed 8 Mile Road and that network of interstate highways enabled families to empty out neighborhoods even as those highways divided some neighborhoods,” Wu said. “There (was) hope again, though, that the artisans and farmers (would return) and even the rebuilding of the magnificent train station downtown.”
The first panel was moderated by Corie Pauling, president and CEO of the U-M Alumni Association. While discussing the future of the University, Pauling spoke on the incoming Generation Alpha, or children born after 2010.
“(Generation Alpha) is used to a world of extremes, whether we’re talking about weather, whether we’re talking about the extreme prevalence of school shootings,” Pauling said. “They are used to education without books. They learn from screens. And lastly, they are completely dedicated to saving the planet.”
The second keynote speaker was Janet Napolitano, former secretary of Homeland Security. Her session, titled “Working Together to Tackle the Climate Crisis,” focused on the steps universities can take to combat climate change. When Napolitano was president of the University of California, she introduced a plan for the university to obtain a carbon neutrality plan for 2025.
“As we’ve now discovered, however, achieving true carbon neutrality is virtually impossible without purchasing carbon offsets and carbon offsets themselves are nearly impossible to measure,” Napolitano said. “So we need to be real about this.”
Napolitano also spoke on the importance of universities in combating climate change due to their ability to make rapid changes as large institutions.
“Universities can take risks in ways small businesses can’t,” Napolitano said. “(The students) want to say ‘I’m going to try this new mode of operation.’”
Daily Staff Reporter Matthew Shanbom can be reached at email@example.com.