In an address to the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs yesterday, Ruth Person, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Flint, spoke about the campus’s current state of affairs and its future plans for increasing the University’s role in the Flint community.
Person — a University alum who has worked in her current position for just over a year — told SACUA — the University’s leading faculty governing body — that she was originally drawn to working at the University’s Flint campus because of the challenge that would come with working in a community that was hit particularly hard by the down economy.
“It was really about the challenge,” she said. “So all right, let’s see if we collectively — we meaning everybody in the leadership community — can turn this around.”
About 80,000 General Motors employees used to call the city of Flint home, Person said, but now only about 5,000 GM employees live there. This makes the student body of the University’s Flint campus larger than the once-booming population of autoworkers, she said.
Person discussed the “daunting challenge” of trying to revitalize Flint and said that, in doing so, she is trying to make connections between the University and businesses in the city.
In terms of admissions at the campus, Person said that applications are on the rise and they are continuing to work on revising admissions standards to “accept a better student body.”
Like the University’s Ann Arbor campus, the Flint campus also received a report from the Higher Learning Commission last month, which recommended reaccrediting the campus with no further stipulations.
Person also updated SACUA on a series of administrative changes at the Flint campus. Current Provost Jack Kay will become Provost and Executive Vice President at Eastern Michigan University starting in July. After a search, Gerard Voland — currently the dean of engineering at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne — will assume the provost position at the Flint campus come July.
“I’m really looking forward to working with Gerard and having the interim folks, who’ve done a great job, go back to what they were doing,” Person said.
She added that the campus will also acquire two new deans in health and education.
Because the Flint campus’s current strategic plan, which addresses planning for admissions and academics as well as other affairs of the campus, expires in 2010, Person said officials have begun to develop a new plan that she said she hopes will be drafted by January 2011. Person said she is currently developing a steering committee and sub-committee for the strategic planning process.
“It’s been a great discussion for me getting to know different faculty and them helping us work through populating that process,” Person said. “It’s been a very collaborative process.”
Person said that the challenge for the University’s Flint campus will be determining the enrollment capacity of the campus and then figuring out how that fits into the operations of the campus as a whole.
In terms of relationships with the community, Person spoke about the Flint campus’s unique opportunity for junior and senior high school students in the area to dual enroll both at their high schools and at the University.
High school students can participate in this program by indicating interest in the health profession and they pay a reduced fee to attend classes, Person said. But she also acknowledged the possibility that current Flint students could be displaced with this influx of high school students through the program.
Because Flint currently faces many economic challenges, Person said the city could be used as an incubator to explore issues that occur in smaller cities.
“We have the opportunity to develop a unique role and that is to be much more focused on sort of small city, urban kinds of issues, as they both pertain to higher education,” Person said. “(Flint) is a great laboratory when you think about it, for all kinds of social, academic, environmental and business kinds of issues.”