While a real fire may have been missing from University President Mary Sue Coleman’s fireside chat yesterday, six high-definition fireplaces complete with crackling sound effects were on display.
E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, joined Coleman in a room replete with snacks and beanbag chairs in North Quad Residence Hall. The invited students in attendance at the monthly discussion asked Coleman and Harper about a variety of topics ranging from the Sugar Bowl bid to ways to engage with residents in Detroit.
Coleman said she plans to attend the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Jan. 3 when Michigan takes on Virginia Tech.
“If you had asked me a year ago this time if I thought we were going to be invited to the Sugar Bowl, I would’ve said no way,” Coleman told the group of about 40 students.
She added that her trip to Louisiana next month will be mostly business-related, and she will be speaking with various donors.
“For me it’s a development opportunity, and I get to talk to people who are donors to the University,” Coleman said.
Turning the discussion in a different direction, LSA junior Amanda Orley asked Coleman how administrators plan to keep University graduates working in Michigan.
Coleman urged students to consider staying in the state before looking elsewhere for jobs. To encourage the reversal of what is known as the brain drain, Coleman said she asks Michigan businesses to offer internships for students and added that her involvement with Business Leaders for Michigan — an organization working to make Michigan a top state for business — has been helpful on this front.
Engineering senior Scott Wilson asked Coleman and Harper about public transportation and ways to link the Ann Arbor campus to Detroit. As examples of the connection between the two, Harper mentioned the Ginsberg Center, which provides community service opportunities in the city including Alternative Weekends and Alternative Spring Breaks, the Detroit Partnership — an organization which creates volunteer opportunities for students in Detroit — and the University’s America Reads Tutoring Corps, a program in which University students help local elementary school children with their reading skills.
“It’s important that we travel abroad and to be out and about in the world, but we really could make a commitment to something much more local,” Harper said.
Wilson also brought up his concern that North and Central campuses aren’t as connected as they could be.
Coleman said improving transit between the two campuses is an important way the University tries to make North Campus more accessible for all students.
“We’d love to have a monorail,” Coleman added with a chuckle.
Harper said she frequently rides the buses to and from North Campus to get the student perspective, but she said it is a “real struggle” to make the campus more appealing. The North Campus Initiative is one attempt to do so.
In an interview after the event, Coleman said almost every student who comes to her monthly fireside chats has a chance to ask questions and provides valuable input.
“One of the things I love about Michigan students is they’re not shy about telling me what they think,” Coleman said.