University President Mary Sue Coleman announced plans to hire 100 new tenure-track faculty members for interdisciplinary research in an address at the monthly meeting of the University Board of Regents yesterday.
The speech, which replaced Coleman’s annual “State of the University” address, summarized Coleman’s goals for her second term as University president. Coleman, who was appointed by the University Board of Regents in July 2002, finished her first five-year term in July. She signed a contract in June for a second term to run until 2012.
The centerpiece of Coleman’s goals for her next term is the plan for interdisciplinary research. The University plans to set aside $20 million for start-up costs like equipment and facilities and $10 million more for compensation for the new faculty members. Provost Teresa Sullivan said the money will come from the Presidential Faculty Recruitment and Retention Fund created last summer and from cutting costs in the office of the provost’s operating budget.
Coleman said she hopes multifaceted areas of study like environmental sustainability and alternative energy will become the University’s bread and butter over the next decade.
“This kind of work has never been more important,” Coleman said in her address. “Great universities like Michigan must transcend disciplines to be truly effective in addressing societal needs.”
In an interview with reporters after the speech, Coleman said she thinks the investment in interdisciplinary research will pay off in the long run.
“We’re making a strategic bet by doing this that that it’s going to, within the next five years, help us address the areas that are of most interest to the students and also in which there might be the best research opportunities,” she said.
Sullivan said after the regents meeting that she envisions a system where the University’s schools and colleges compete to produce the best proposals for new faculty members.
Departments will be able to use the program to hire additional faculty on top of those they hire with their normal operating budget because the appointments will be funded by the provost’s office. For that reason, Sullivan said she expects schools and colleges to start competing for the positions almost immediately.
“I’ll hear the first ideas tomorrow morning,” Sullivan said. “Did you see how fast the deans left that room?”
Coleman also announced the creation of the Michigan Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, a $100 million-plus project that will create entrepreneurship training programs at Michigan colleges and provide funding so researchers in the state of Michigan can market their research to investors.
The project will be funded by private donations and investment by the state’s colleges and universities. Stephen Forrest, the University’s vice president for research, said the program will eventually earn some money in royalties that will help offset the cost of the initiative.
“The initiative will advance commercialization of university research, promote partnerships between higher education and industry, and propel the work of entrepreneurial students and faculty,” Coleman said in her address. “It is, in effect, an investment in the people and ideas that emerge from our public universities as drivers of a knowledge-based economy.”
Coleman also touched on several other goals for her term in the address.
She said she intends to continue working to make North Campus a cohesive community of its own. She suggested that Baits Residence Hall could be renovated and converted into a living-learning community for students interested in the arts.
“Is North Campus like Central Campus? No, and by design it never will be,” Coleman said. “It is its own distinctive place, with distinguished academic programs and beautiful natural surroundings.”
Coleman also vowed to promote study-abroad by University students, increase the amount of research funding garnered by University faculty and continue raising money to offset declining state funding.
“It has been a privilege to serve this university for the last five years, and I am grateful for the support of the regents and so many others,” Coleman said. “I look forward to joining with all of you as we work together to carry this university to even greater heights.”