Jay Z must have gotten it right.

In place of their monthly public meeting, the University’s Board of Regents will spend Jan. 16 and 17 in New York City gleaning some Empire State inspiration from a handful of the East Coast’s most prominent higher education leaders. Between meetings, the regents will also court the region’s vast network of alumni and donors at two events planned by the University’s Office of Development.

Following their Jan. 2013 trip to California, the University’s delegation plans to confront an array of issues, including digital education, diversity on campus and college affordability.

Like Los Angeles, New York City has one of the largest populations of University alumni and around 2,000 University students call the state home.

In an e-mail, Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R), chair of the Board of Regents, said although a similar fact-finding trip had not occurred for more than a decade, the regents found that last year’s trip included “the best sessions ever in their many years of service on the board.”

Newman said the trip is intended to provide the regents and the University’s top officers with an opportunity to discuss pressing issues in higher education and chart the instiution’s course into the future.

“Taking time to do a little blue-sky thinking and asking ourselves ‘what if’ questions is really important and very valuable,” Newman wrote. “It is especially pertinent this year as we search for the next president of the University.”

University President Mary Sue Coleman, Provost Martha Pollack, Tim Slottow, executive vice president and chief financial officer, and Sally Churchill, vice president and secretary, will accompany the eight regents.

Ora Pescovitz, University Health System chief executive officer, Jerry May, vice president for development and E. Royster Harper, vice president for student life will also participate in some of the sessions.

Sessions to cover affordability, healthcare and digital education

During the trip, the group will hold a series of meetings designed to provide insights into a set of challenges facing higher education institutions across the country.

Similar to the California trip schedule, which tapped leaders from University of California- Berkeley, Stanford University and Google, the regents will hear from the East Coast’s top university administrators during two days of sessions.

Though a portion of the discussion in California included the ongoing budget difficulties faced by the University of California system, the New York trip schedule is weighted more towards sessions with leaders or former leaders of private institutions.

The regents plan to meet with Bill Bowen, president emeritus of Princeton University, Peter Salovey, president of Yale University, Mike John, retired executive vice president for medical affairs at Emory University and Edward Miller, retired executive vice president for medical affairs at John Hopkins University.

However, in an interview with The Michigan Daily, Coleman said New York is a place where a lot of people are broadly thinking about higher education’s greatest challenges. She emphasized New York’s central location as a key factor in facilitating the scheduling of sessions with leaders from up and down the East Coast.

“I think that a lot of the ideas they have and the lessons they’ve learned over time will be applicable for us,” Coleman said.

Bowen, who is the current president of the Mellon Foundation, will lead the regents in a discussion about how best to foster an evolution in undergraduate education while maintain quality instruction.

Bowen secured funding for the studies testing the efficacy of online learning at the Mellon Foundation.

“He is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world because he has been at it for so long and he has funded work and really looked at the evidence and the data,” Coleman said.

Similar conversations about the role of online education have been ongoing at the University. In the fall, Pollack launched a series of town hall forums on digital education.

Salovey, the president of Yale University, will also lead a dialogue covering the University’s most prominent issues, including diversity, affordability and engaged learning.

Though the regents discussed affordability and digital education during last year’s trip to California, healthcare will also be at the forefront of the regents’ agenda in New York.

Coleman said the new emphasis on this particular discussion emerged from the recent implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, one of the biggest factors changing the evolution of university health systems.

In the fall, multiple speakers at the public presidential search forums said experience managing a large health system is a critical trait need in the next University president.

John, the former executive vice president for medical affairs at Emory University and Miller, retired executive vice president for medical affairs at John Hopkins University, are scheduled to lead a dialogue on the future of healthcare reform and academic medical centers.

Coleman said all of the meetings are designed to foster open dialogue, rather than structured, less engaging PowerPoint presentations.

“(The trip) gives an opportunity to sort of break out of the mold, and not have the structured meetings and the committee meetings that we would normally have with the regents meeting,” Coleman said. “It gives an opportunity for people to have a wider ranger discussion, think in different ways.”

Regents to engage donor, alumni network

Coinciding with the Regents’ meeting will be two events hosted by the University’s Office of Development to work the New York donor base. There are currently 38,000 alumni living within 50 miles of New York City.

The events will take place less than three months after the University kicked off the Victors for Michigan campaign, which aims to raise $4 billion over the next few years. Though the University will not actually raise money during the two New York events, development officials hope engaging donors will translate into gifts down the road.

May, the University’s vice president for development, is spearheading this week’s event, along with the University’s two development officers based in New York and a third officer from Boston.

In light of the $525 million the University raised in New York during its last fundraising campaign, The Michigan Difference, May reallocated development resources and added an additional officer to the state to work the donor base more frequently.

At Thursday night’s event, the focus will be on engaging the University’s high level donors, and May said he is surprised by the event’s expected turnout.

“We thought we were going to have about 110 of our donors … but this time we’re having 150, at least,” May said. “We’re having a spectacular response.”

May said the larger than expected showing is for three reasons: well known New York real estate mogul Stephen Ross will host the event, the University’s regents will be in-house and the event is being held at Jazz at the Lincoln Center.

In addition, eight students from the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance are being flown to New York to perform a few songs for the gathering of donors.

The cost of the fundraising event was not available at time of publication, though the money will come from Office of Development funds.

“We want them (the donors) to come, we want them to have a good time, and then we’ll talk with them about what they can do,” May said. “Some of those donors can do $25,000, but some can do $500,000.”

A breakfast planned for Friday morning will be less showy and focused on engaging the next generation of donors. May and the development team will shift gears slightly to engage 50 to 75 younger alumni who might be looking to make their first gift.

“Some of those people will be the big donors in the next campaign,” May said.

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