Chancellor's Office

Metropolitan impact: the future of manufacturing


June 9, 2006

Dear colleagues,

There are dozens of ways that the “metropolitan vision” that we are pursuing for UM-Dearborn is being incorporated into the daily intellectual life of the campus. Examples abound, from the middle school mathematics improvement project under way for Detroit public school teachers being led by CASL faculty members, to the recent study of the economic impact of the Detroit Wayne County Metropolitan Airport by College of Business faculty and teams of their students.

One of the central areas of metropolitan impact provided by the campus is in understanding and advancing the role of manufacturing as a foundation of this region’s economy. Our campus can help guide our region to the future of manufacturing, and it can shed light on the history and societal context of these fundamental technologies. At the risk of neglecting to highlight so many other important and influential projects, I want to call attention to two specific examples of ways different parts of the campus are advancing this key component of the metropolitan vision.

The first example comes from the very fruitful work of the Program in Science and Technology Studies (STS), a multidisciplinary project involving faculty from CASL and the College of Engineering and Computer Science. Launched in 2002, the Program in Science and Technology Studies is the first in the nation to give special attention to the impact of a single technology and a single industry—the automobile—on American life.

In addition to their innovative curricular offerings, faculty members involved in the STS program have sponsored international conferences, including the very successful meeting last fall on “The Future of the Automobile.” The seminar was one of the products of a new consortium of UM-Dearborn, the Henry Ford, the University of Detroit-Mercy and an international scholarly group, the Society for the History of Technology. (A video recording of the presentation is available at

More recently, the STS group has rolled out a Web site and online archive devoted to the impact of the automobile and the auto industry on American life, which is attracting 12,000 unique visitors per month. The site,, also involved collaborative and interdisciplinary work involving faculty and librarians on our campus and archivists and curators at the Henry Ford.

The second example I have in mind is the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s annual Technology Day, held this year on June 7. The program highlighted recent research conducted by our faculty members in collaboration with industry partners, as well as innovative industrial products and student displays. “The Future of the Automotive Industry” was the topic of the very popular and bullish keynote speech by well-known industry pundit John McElroy. And it is most appropriate that the event is sponsored by the campus’s Henry W. Patton Center for Engineering Education and Practice, since Henry Patton was a very devoted participant in the program until his death a couple of years ago.

Our connections to the automobile industry are both historic and enduring. No one can doubt that the restructuring under way in the auto industry will bring profound changes to Detroit and the metropolitan region. We can help in two ways: by helping the region understand this transition, and by helping to develop new approaches to manufacturing to allow us to remain competitive in a global market.

The two projects I’ve mentioned here are just two of the ways that we are making our metropolitan vision a reality, and they are outstanding examples of the ways that UM-Dearborn is applying the excellence of the University of Michigan toward meeting the needs of metropolitan Detroit. As our innovative faculty develop and deepen programs that intersect with the challenges and needs of our region, the university will demonstrate the vital role that we can play in the progress of southeast Michigan.


Daniel Little