Hanlon and Coleman speak with faculty

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University President Mary Sue Coleman addresses faculty at Monday's meeting of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs. Buy this photo

By Ashwini Natarajan, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 25, 2013

During Monday’s meeting of the University’s Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs, University President Mary Sue Coleman and University Provost Phil Hanlon spoke to faculty about the implications of online learning advancements, initiatives taken to increase student diversity and generate investments toward the University.

The meeting began with a discussion on the need to increase student diversity. Coleman encouraged the committee to engage further in the Leadership Excellence Achievement Diversity Scholars Program, which was developed by the University’s Alumni Association in 2008. The program aims to increase diversity in terms of race, gender and ethnicity by giving scholarships to students that range from $5,000 to $15,000 per year.

LEAD currently supports 127 students, including 40 freshmen inducted in the past year.

Coleman said the program also increases the success of recruiting out-of-state students, better matching efforts at University’s in-state recruitment.

“We also need to be able to recruit out-of-state (students), but oftentimes that problem is financial. That’s why the LEAD scholarship is so important, which is why I’m encouraging it,” Coleman said.

The committee also addressed the possibility of working with the Business Leaders for Michigan roundtable — which is composed of CEOs that are the state’s largest job providers — to raise funds for the University.

BLM is working on a strategic plan to turn around the state’s economy. Ten years ago, Michigan was a top-10 state in terms of job creation. Currently, it is in the bottom 10, having lost 800,000 jobs in the past 10 years.

Hanlon said the source of support and funding that BLM is working toward providing is vital for improving the health of Michigan’s economy by boosting the University’s financial base.

“It’s great to have an external voice outside the University making this case,” Hanlon said.

SACUA member Rachel Goldman, an engineering and physics professor, asked Coleman if BLM is interested in drawing investment for higher education in general or specific fields after hearing a claim that there is a corporate interest in creating more engineering schools in the state.

Coleman said support for higher education transcends engineering and covers all fields of education.

“There have been a lot of concerns nationally for science, technology, engineering and math ... (but) business leaders, in my opinion, have felt that a higher education investment is a good education investment in all fields, not narrowing the focus at all,” Coleman said. “There is some evidence that suggests that students (who study liberal arts) will form critical skills that they will be very successful as leaders.”

Coleman also said diversity in education should be valued and sought after in a quickly globalizing and interdisciplinary world and academic environment.

“We want to teach students that regardless of discipline, how do you think?” she said. “How do you solve problems? How do take the body of interdisciplinary knowledge that you gain and use it to work on a real world problem? And that involves many disciplines, not just one.”

After Coleman left the meeting, the committee discussed faculty retention within the University, and Hanlon said in the last academic year, the amount of faculty solicited by other universities grew for the third consecutive year. Over the past five or six years, the University won about 61 percent of cases, but over the past year won only 54 percent of the cases.

Biology Prof. John Lehman asked Hanlon and Coleman about future advancement in the University’s online course offerings.

Hanlon said new modules are going to change the way the University teaches by allowing for more active engagement with students, more student collaboration and a deeper understanding of how students learn most efficiently.

“My dad was a country doctor (and) he had almost no technology,” Hanlon said. “I feel like in the teaching space we are back where my dad was, if you want to know whether a student is learning or not, you look at them and try and figure out that dear in the headlights look ... I think we are looking at a future where we can use technology to see how students are learning.”