University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced a new multidisciplinary program, Poverty Solutions, that aims to use research to aid those living in poverty, along with multiple other diversity initiatives at Wednesday’s leadership breakfast.

He also revealed plans for the University’s upcoming bicentennial next year, including the first University colloquia, set for Jan. 30, 2017, which will feature U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Susanne Baer of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany.

Poverty Solutions will be headed by Luke Shaefer, professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and the School of Social Work and community members and University researchers on campus.

Schlissel pointed to existing partnerships, like that with the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center, as foundations for the University’s commitment, and thanked faculty for recommending the creation of Poverty Solutions.

“One out of eight Americans live in poverty, and some Michigan cities are sometimes three times higher than that,” he said. “The aim is to translate research into actionable interventions and rigorously assess their effectiveness.”

Lynn Videka, dean of the School of Social Work, connected the new program with ongoing diversity issues in education policy.

“In addition to labor organizations, structural elements like unequal schools and mass incarceration … drive a lot of poverty in the United States,” she said. “I know faculty engaged in that center will indeed be investigating all of those issues with an action perspective.”

Schlissel also discussed plans for a new sustainability school to be opened in the next year in place of the current School of Natural Resources and the Environment. The academic program, which will be named later this semester, will have a broader mission than the Natural Resources and Environment School and focus on centralizing scholarship on the environment.

“We have yet to fully tap into our campus and the community’s potential as a living and learning laboratory,” he said.

Other updated sustainability efforts include the Zero Waste Program introduced last year. Schlissel set a goal for all University football games — which currently average an attendance of 107,601 spectators — to produce no unrecyclable waste next year.

Schlissel also emphasized two big data compilation initiatives: one dedicated to academic innovation and understanding student needs, and the other exploring how faculty members can boost the connection between their research and public discourse, during the breakfast.

“This will formally help us consider how we can leverage networked, accessed information, new modes of communication and data analytics to enhance a Michigan education and tailor it to each individual student and enhance impact on society,” he said of the innovation program.

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