Schlissel outlines goals for sustainability, biosciences

Friday, October 23, 2015 - 6:39pm

Innovation, collaboration and a desire to address major societal issues were at the heart of University President Mark Schlissel’s Leadership Breakfast address Friday morning in the Michigan Union Ballroom.

In addition to unveiling a number of new initiatives, Schlissel provided an update on the University’s ongoing fundraising campaign, Victors for Michigan — announcing the campaign recently reached $3 billion in donations toward its $4 billion goal.

Investing in the Biosciences

Among the various topics Schlissel touched on was an ongoing University initiative to enhance and tap into the full potential of the University’s biosciences programs. As part of that initiative, Schlissel announced the creation of a new campus position: vice provost for biological sciences.

The heightened investment in the biosciences will also create 30 new faculty positions, as well as allocate $150 million to promote subject-related research and education.

The vice provost will report directly to University Provost Martha Pollack, in addition to chairing a forthcoming coordinating committee. The committee will comprise leaders from departments relating to the biosciences. These include, but are not limited to, faculty in the the life sciences and those in the Schools of Medicine, Dentistry, Kinesiology.

The announcement of this new leadership position comes in wake of a biosciences advisory panel Schlissel launched in the fall of 2014. The panel, chaired by Pollack, was tasked with identifying strengths, challenges and opportunities for the University’s biosciences faculty and students. The University is currently in the process of constructing a multi-million dollar biosciences building on the site of the former ROTC building.

“The goal of this initiative is to make the U of M a powerhouse in the biosciences and a global leader in discovery and societal impact,” Schlissel said.

Sustainability on campus

Schlissel also addressed his initiative to improve environmental sustainability on campus.

In February, Schlissel formed committees of faculty and students to review the University’s sustainability goals and brainstorm ways to reduce the University’s waste and greenhouse gas reduction.

Building on both of those efforts, the University will launch a unified, campus-wide recycling program that expands food waste composting, Schlissel said.

“We’ve been a leader in campus recycling since 1989, but over the years different types and styles of bins and signage have emerged, and the level of success has varied across the campus,” he said. “Currently, recycling paper in Fleming looks different than it does in the (North Campus Research Complex), and that’s caused confusion and limited our ability to affect change and behaviors.”

He also announced the launch of a waste management study within the University’s Health System, which currently generates nearly half of the University’s solid waste.

Along with these two initiatives, Schlissel also called on the University’s Athletic Department to collaborate with sustainability experts on campus to design a zero-waste game day program, which will be piloted during one football game next year.

“This test should tell us a great deal about how to design a long term sustainable system,” Schlissel said.

Schlissel said the University will also invest in a new natural gas fuel turbine project to extend the reach of the University’s central power plant, generating heat and electricity more efficiently while simultaneously cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

Cross-campus, cross-state, and Detroit stewardship

In addition to campus sustainability, Schlissel also addressed the relationship between the University flagship and satellite campuses.

“For the University of Michigan to maximize its public impact, continuing to build, develop and enhance our partnerships will be crucial,” Schlissel said. “Our three campuses: Ann Arbor, Flint and Dearborn serve a broad range of stakeholders and provide a wealth of benefits to people, communities and businesses in the state of Michigan.”

Schlissel said he would like to develop more opportunities to increase faculty research and collaboration between the three campuses.

He also said he would like to make it easier for students to transfer between the three campuses — and to move easily from earning an undergraduate degree on one campus to earning a graduate or professional degree on another.

To facilitate this enhanced relationship between the three campuses, Schlissel has created a new position within his office specifically designed to improve his communication with UM-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little and UM-Flint Chancellor Susan Borrego.

“All three of our campuses are known for their impact, and they all have indelible places in both the past and future of our great University,” he said.

 

Schlissel said in addition to improving relations between the University’s three campuses, he would like to improve the partnerships among other members of the state’s higher education community.

Schlissel cited success in the University’s current participation in the University Research Corridor, a collaboration between the University, Michigan State University and Wayne State University to promote research partnerships that seek ways to strengthen the state’s economy. However, Schlissel said he sees much potential for partnerships between the University and other state institutions of higher education.

“We have always had a very special relationship with Detroit, having been founded there in 1817,” he said. “Our faculty, students and staff are doing very exciting work there,” Schlissel said, adding that the University’s Detroit Center works with 17 academic units on campus, with 20,000 annual visitors. “The city is an exciting source of inspiration and creativity for us and I’m eager to see our collaborations continue.”

Ultimately, he concluded his address with a pledge:

“The listening and learning I’ve done during year one of my presidency will not end with year one … I relish the opportunity to collaborate with all of you and tap into your expertise for the good of the University and those we serve.”