As one of the most influential members of the University and community, President Mary Sue Coleman knows a lot about the interaction between the two. Coleman shared her views with Daily Staff Writer Charles Paradis about the diversity and future of students and the community.
On how the community and the campus interact … The campus and community bring together their respective strengths to create an exciting learning environment in a socially and culturally dynamic mid-sized community. The University is an attractive place to teach and learn. It is located amidst a viable downtown business district, great schools and a variety of safe, well-maintained neighborhoods. The diverse interests and talents of people that attend the University create a broad economic impact that inherently comes with any entity of 30,000 employees and 38,000 students.
If you are asking how the community and campus interact operationally, the answer is quite well: In place, there are extensive communication venues and opportunities where community and University personnel work to address basic concerns such as: parking, traffic, public safety, construction, housing, technology transfer, hosting visitors and generating community well being and overall economic development.
On what the role of the campus is within the role of the community … The campus is one part of, and a partner with, the community. Just as every community might be described as a mosaic of its various parts, I think the University contributes significantly to Ann Arbor’s mosaic. From the varied talents and interests of our faculty and students, to the public assets that are the University facilities, libraries, museums, to the economic driver that is derived from our own employment, the companies spin off from University discoveries and the area businesses that are dependent upon student or institutional expenditures.
On how various events bring the campus and the community together … Enriching events such as the current Royal Shakespeare Company performances or the “Ann Arbor Reads” activity where everyone is encouraged to read the same book (this winter: “Lincoln’s DNA”) and share in discussion sessions and lecture programs are far better examples of the campus and community: partnering, sharing strengths, celebrating life and coming together.
Though the campus is impacted, the University has little to no involvement with the Hash Bash and Art Fair.
On the level of activism on campus as direct result of community awareness and social responsibility … I think that the unique levels of community awareness and social responsibility in Ann Arbor contribute to an atmosphere that conveys to students; you can express yourself here. People are tolerant, open to diverse ideas and respectful civil discourse is the norm in this campus/community.
On how the campus and the community approach issues of homelessness and drug abuse differently or similarly … As individuals, campus and community members approach these issues similarly. As an institution, the University approaches these issues as a provider of service as well as a partner in addressing these problems. Not only are we preparing the next generation of social workers, psychiatrists and counselors; we are also providing direct assistance and services to the existing population. The work of our Family Medicine supported Free Clinic and our compact with Washtenaw County Mental Health Department provides individuals, here in Ann Arbor, assistance with both their mental health and physical health challenges.
On what role the University has in helping students become good leaders for the community … The responsibility of preparing future leaders, in all fields, is at the core of the University’s mission. Aside from the leadership development one might expect from coursework, instruction and experience, the University has supported the establishment of a community service learning center and fostered student service opportunities and local internships.
On whether or not students on campus see themselves as part of the community … While the experiences are as varied as the number of students, in general I don’t think most students see themselves as part of the local community. The seeds of that mindset are sown at the start of the higher educational experience. It is often said that one, “leaves home” to go to college. Most all rent living space while attending classes. Students are even statistically categorized by many as part of the “transient population.” Understandably, student focus is also more inwardly directed. That is, they are attending the University to garner knowledge and skills which they can then utilize in making a difference in the “outside” community.