The first set of six public forums on the search for the next University president convened Tuesday on the Medical Center Campus and at the University’s Flint Campus.

Regent Katherine White (D) led the discussion Tuesday evening, along with Alison Ranney, a consultant with the firm hired to conduct the seaarch, Russell-Reynolds Associates.

Three faculty members of the Presidential Search Committee and four additional regents—Julia Darlow (D-Ann Arbor), Mark Bernstein (D) and Shauna Ryder Diggs (D) — jotted notes and asked follow-up questions to about 25 students, faculty and community members gathered in the Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building’s auditorium.

After briefly explaining the search process, White and Ranney asked the crowd of mostly faculty and medical students to consider the challenges the University will face over the next one, five or twenty years as well as qualities they would want the committee to keep in mind when choosing a candidate.

While a few periods of silence occurred in the mostly unfilled auditorium, a steady flow of comments generally characterized the forum. Comments centered on a wide array of issues and challenges. Some were focused on the University of Michigan Health System, with multiple speakers expressing the importance of a candidate with a background at an institution with a hospital. Two other contributors also expressed the importance of facing the challenges of the changing landscape of healthcare, following passage of the Affordable Care Act.

More generally, multiple medical school students addressed college affordability, touching on topics such as scholarships and tuition costs, as well as the need to attract students from diverse backgrounds in terms of race and socio-economic status. Other comments addressed alumni engagement and building cohesion and partnership between University of Michigan units and campuses, in Flint and Dearborn.

Peter Farrehi, an assistant professor in the department of internal medicine, pointed out that the next University president effect not just the campus in Ann Arbor, but the entire state of Michigan, including cities like Flint and Dearborn.

“The state is in dire need of the University’s leadership,” he said.

Farrehi mentioned that many people are interested in becoming more global, but the University and its next president must place greater emphasis on supporting the local community.

Multiple commenters mentioned community-oriented needs as challenges that are just as important as the University’s global expansion, both in the scope of the hospital and the University at large.

In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, White said many of these concerns were also echoed earlier in the day at a forum on the Flint campus.

The next public forums will occur on Thursday, Sept. 26 and Friday, Sept. 28.

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