SAN DIEGO — While many University students traveled to the Golden Coast to laze in the sun over Spring Break, University President Mary Sue Coleman traveled to California for a different reason: to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Presented by the American Council on Education, the award recognized Coleman’s work in higher education as a professor, administrator and university president.

Before ACE President Molly Corbett Broad presented her with the award, Coleman gave the distinguished Robert H. Atwell Lecture before more than 500 higher education officials at the organization’s 96th annual meeting at the Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel in San Diego.

In her speech titled “Innovate, Disrupt, Repeat,” Coleman focused primarily on the importance of entrepreneurship and innovation in higher education. Calling Michigan the “first Silicon Valley,” Coleman spoke of the state’s entrepreneurial drive in the automobile industry in the early 20th century. She said entrepreneurship gives students the opportunity to navigate the ever-changing, unpredictable job market today.

“It’s not just what our students will gain, but also what our University gains with the similar mindset focused on innovation,” Coleman said.

Coleman defined three key ways to establish a more innovative environment at a university: establishing policies to support experimentation, building a vibrant campus ecosystem and creating a culture of innovation. She said the University used these steps to reach its entrepreneurial educational goals, though the potential is still growing.

The University has expanded its entrepreneurial efforts in several ways during the past few years. With 34 undergraduate and 64 graduate courses currently offered in entrepreneurship, Coleman said students are the driving force in this change in the campus climate.

“This generation of students has a passion for entrepreneurship that almost knows no bounds,” Coleman said.

Coleman touched on several initiatives around campus, including the creation of a minor in entrepreneurship, the establishment of the Center for Entrepreneurship and the creation of the Senior Council to the Provost for Entrepreneurial Education, among dozens of other programs put in place.

“We have reimagined our future,” Coleman said. “Entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation, technology virtualization and collaboration is making it happen now.”

After Coleman’s speech, Corbett Broad presented Coleman with her award, lauding her work during her tenure at the University.

“It is clear that she has and will continue to receive well-deserved recognition,” Broad said. “We all know that leaving from her post as president of the University of Michigan does not mean that she won’t continue her service in the field of higher education.”

“I’m very proud ACE can add to the crescendo of thanks that is deservedly given to Mary Sue Coleman,” she added.

Coleman received her undergraduate degree in chemistry from Grinnell College and her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of North Carolina. Before coming to the University, Coleman worked at the University of Kentucky for 20 years as the director of its cancer research center and later as the president of the University of Iowa.

During her tenure as the University’s 13th president, Coleman spearheaded a host of initiatives aimed at improving student life, campus infrastructure and research funding, among other administrative tasks.

Throughout her presidency, Coleman faced several legal and political battles, including Proposal 2, which banned affirmative action in college admissions decisions — a proposal Coleman publicly opposes.

Coleman led the University’s largest capital campaign — The Michigan Difference — which garnered $3.2 billion by the time it concluded in 2008. The campaign funded numerous campus renovations and additions, including the construction of the Ford School of Public Policy’s Weill Hall and the Ross School of Business.

In November, Coleman launched the University’s next fundraising campaign, Victors for Michigan, which aims to be the largest such initiative in the history of public higher education with a $4 billion goal. The campaign aspires to raise $1 billion in financial aid for students by the end of its run, which will conclude during the tenure of University President-elect Mark Schlissel.

Additionally, Coleman and her husband donated $1 million of their own money to support students who plan to study abroad.

At a Lansing Regional Economic Club luncheon in February, Coleman said she will serve on a number of boards during her retirement, including continuing her efforts on the board of directors of the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and as a member of the National Institute of Health’s Advisory Council. She will also co-chair a project for the American Academy of Art and Sciences that will examine the significance of public research universities.

Coleman added that she plans to keep a house in Ann Arbor to attend football games in the fall.

“I won’t be lying on a beach anywhere,” she said in February.

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