In January of 1969, Bo Schembechler began his career as one of the University’s most legendary football coaches. Almost 38 years later, he is tackling a new challenge -attending a Systematic Thinking class, one of the prerequisites for the Gerald Ford School of Public Policy’s new Bachelor of Arts degree.

Jessica Boullion
Former Michigan football coach Bo Schembechler attends class yesterday afternoon in Weill Hall. Schembechler is auditing the course. (BEN SIMON/Daily)

Schembechler said he heard about the class through his involvement with the School of Public Policy on its board of directors.

“The class sounded interesting and there was space left, so I decided to enroll,” Schembechler said.

While he does not attend the discussions, he said he has sat through every lecture but one thus far. He plans on continuing in the class for the remainder of the semester.

“When I’ve been in town, I’ve never missed a class,” Schembechler said. “Although I must say that I’ve been late a couple of times.”

The class, overseen by former University Provost Paul Courant, explores using systematic thinking in solving a wide range of current problems. The first topic explored was globalization with a focus on the auto industry. The class has since shifted to copyright issues.

Five professors teach the course, and at least two faculty members teach each topic.

“The course is by no means limited to Public Policy BA candidates,”

Courant said. “It would be good if more of our students used the kind of things that one learns in college to think about problems in the world.”

Business school student Karen Boore has class with Schembechler.

“He seems like a fun guy,” Boore said. “His presence doesn’t impact the class much, but anyone important to the University adds some value to the class.”

Schembechler said he attends the class as a silent observer in order to listen and learn about what’s going on in the world. He does not take the exams or participate in the class because he doesn’t want to interfere with the natural flow of discussion.

“His attendance in class has been a nice way to raise awareness on campus about our new undergraduate program,” Public Policy Dean Rebecca Blank said.

The Public Policy BA program will begin in fall 2007. Students will apply to the program during their sophomore years to be admitted to the Ford School for their final two years at the University.

The program will accept 50 students per year, and the application deadline for the fall 2007 term is Feb. 1.

Blank said the addition of an undergraduate program will expand and diversify the Ford School.

“There are a number of good schools, such as Duke and Princeton, that offer well-regarded public policy undergraduate programs,” Blank said. “We thought we could offer something just as good that would be of interest to a number of undergraduates and that would enrich the undergraduate curriculum overall.”

Schembechler said he is thoroughly enjoying the class. He retired from coaching here 16 years ago but said he still feels connected to the University.

“While I worked with the Tigers and on other projects for a few years, I never really left the University of Michigan,” Schembechler said. “Most of the current students don’t recognize me anymore, but I still feel very welcome. I’ve always had an office”.

Schembechler’s career

Bo Schembechler led the University football team to 13 Big Ten championships during his 21-year tenure, in which the team won 194 games.

In his 27 years of coaching, including the six at Miami University in Ohio, Schembechler’s teams never had a losing season.

His years solidified Michigan’s rivalry with Ohio State as one of the most competitive in all of sports. In 1969, Schembechler’s team overcame heavily favored OSU in what would become the coach’s statement game.

Schembechler retired as the winningest coach in Division I football history, but his win total has since been eclipsed.
Schembechler was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

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