Chancellor's Office

Chancellor's update on the Metropolitan Vision


April 26, 2006

Dear Colleagues,

It has been a year since our campus-wide strategic vision retreat, and I am writing to give you a summary update on some of the progress that we have made on the goals that were set out last April.  I hope you will forgive a longer-than-usual communication, but there is a lot to share.

As you know, the retreat led to the formulation of a "metropolitan vision" for the campus.  This vision has now been shared extensively with the Board of Regents, the Executive Officers of the university, and our legislators and other leaders, and the response has been a very favorable one.  The vision that we have expressed can be simply put:

    The University of Michigan-Dearborn embodies the excellence of the University of Michigan in service to metropolitan Detroit.

This vision was broken out last year into four central goals:

  • Increasing enrollment toward a goal of 12,000 students;
  • Enhancing the academic excellence of our programs;
  • Deepening the level of student engagement in academics, campus life and the community; and
  • Making an impact on some of the core challenges facing this metropolitan area.

We have made progress in each of these areas.

Enrollment growth.  The significant increase in last fall’s number of first-year students, up by more than 20 percent from the year before, is a good sign for the future.  The number of transfer numbers also increased significantly last fall.  The preliminary data for next fall are not yet definitive, but we have good reason to expect further progress in growing the freshman class and the transfer class in 2006-07 as well.

Campus leadership is also giving renewed attention to another key aspect of enrollment management, the topic of student retention.  EMSL (Enrollment Management and Student Life) sponsored a consulting visit to campus this winter by Donald Hossler, a nationally recognized expert on student retention from Indiana University.  Dr. Hossler’s recommendations are currently being studied by the senior officers and deans, in order to create better processes for enhancing retention of the students whom we bring to the campus.

These positive enrollment results were not by accident, but the result of truly concerted efforts by dozens of faculty and staff members, led by Stanley Henderson, vice chancellor for enrollment management and student life, and the newly appointed director of admissions and orientation, Christopher Tremblay.  Vice Chancellor Henderson is leading efforts to assemble a multiyear enrollment growth plan at the undergraduate level that will involve the full spectrum of enrollment management--including strategic analysis of emerging student academic needs, innovative approaches to student recruitment and retention, and full collaboration among academic and non-academic units.

Last fall’s entering class also was one of the most competitive in the campus’s history, with an average high school grade-point average of 3.5 and average ACT score of 24.  These high-quality students are drawn to our campus in large part because of the quality of our faculty members, and because of the manifest benefits our students gain from their University of Michigan-Dearborn educations.

We are applying similar efforts to increase enrollment at the graduate level, where the significant growth over the past decade has stalled out in the last year or so.  The deans and the provost have focused special attention on the internal processes and the marketing and communications efforts that make up our graduate recruitment plan, and we believe that these efforts can be improved in coming years.  Here too, it is critical that we anticipate the educational needs that prospective students will have in the future and design academic programs that address those needs.

Academic excellence.  The deans of each of the academic units have reiterated their commitment to assessing and deepening the quality of the academic experience for their students—both undergraduate and graduate.  Like all of us who have spent much of our lives in universities, they know that maintaining academic excellence requires constant attention and dynamic collaboration among faculty.  These collaborations are occurring in all of the academic units, but for the sake of brevity, I want to cite just a few recent examples.  For instance, the first-year seminar program in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) has been successful in building learning communities among both students and faculty, and the College has expanded the program to include a dozen seminars paired with composition courses.  The College has begun convening regular brown-bag discussions for faculty to discuss teaching practices and principles.  The “Difficult Dialogues” program that recently received funding from the Ford Foundation has begun a series of faculty and course development activities to promote respectful but free and uninhibited discussion of contentious political, religious, racial and cultural issues.  Across campus, in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the faculty are undertaking a review and revision of Engineering 100, the gateway to the study of engineering for first-year students.  And College of Business faculty have undertaken a thorough-going curriculum assessment program that measures whether the school is achieving predefined learning objectives at all levels.

Metropolitan impact.  I have been very pleased to observe that many of our faculty members have adopted the “metropolitan vision” of the campus in their teaching and research, and are beginning to apply this emphasis as they develop new courses and new ways of teaching.  We know that many of our students are intensely curious about the history of this region, and very committed to being part of its future.

During the past year and a half we have refined our metropolitan focus to highlight several key areas: the future of manufacturing, race, urban environment, Pre-K-12 schooling, and regional leadership.  Here too there have been substantial achievements. Women on the Move's second event this winter drew another 300 participants and will yield a rich crop of applicants for 20 slots in the CASL Women SOAR program.  The launch of the Viscogliosi series of lectures on economic innovation has been well-received by business leaders in the region.  The innovative programs in advanced vehicle systems and spray-forming technology in the College of Engineering and Computer Science have attracted major external funding, both federal and corporate.  Faculty in both engineering and management submitted extensive proposals to the Twenty-First Century Jobs Fund two months ago; this is one of the State of Michigan’s most ambitious efforts to stimulate new economic activity in the state, and our faculty came forward with innovative and ambitious proposals.  The School of Education continues to sharpen its focus on providing excellent preparation for students as they move towards teaching positions in urban and metropolitan classrooms.  The faculty and its leaders are reaching out in productive partnerships to Westwood schools and other neighboring metropolitan school districts, including Dearborn and Detroit.  The Institute for Local Government got off to a great start with programs for school board members and other elected officials and civic leaders across the region, including an important new curriculum for city officials on hate incidents.  We dedicated the Rouge River Gateway Greenways Trail during this academic year, making manifest our practical links with the communities throughout southeastern Michigan and our commitment to partnership around efforts to better understand and improve the natural environment we share.  And College of Business faculty recently completed an economic impact study for Detroit Metropolitan Airport—a significant contribution to the economic development potential of the “aeropolis” concept that Wayne County is pursuing.  These are just a few examples of creative projects and programs by our faculty, staff and students that have the potential of significantly contributing to solutions to some of the major challenges faced by our metropolitan region.

Student engagement.  These efforts on the academic level have overlapped with other programs stimulating greater levels of engagement among our students.  The ground-breaking series of “Conversations on Race” has enriched the level of discussions in many ways across campus.  Student life staff have taken important steps towards creating a more integrated and accessible “front end” for students interested in service activities on campus and in our communities.  Several of our students were recently honored by the Michigan Campus Compact for their involvement in service activities.  The program on civic engagement and service learning has truly gathered steam over the last year, with dozens of examples of current campus efforts along these lines.  I know that there are numerous projects under way that bring our students into greater contact in the community, including environmental programs, tutoring in local schools, service projects of all types.  Thanks are in order to Professor Georgina Hickey and her students for their efforts during the past year in creating an inventory of these programs and leading the Civic Engagement committee working to increase the civic engagement of our students. 

The Three-Campus Vision.  Finally, there has been a significant sharpening of the "Three-Campus Vision,” President Mary Sue Coleman’s formulation of ways that the Dearborn campus complements the overall mission of the University of Michigan.  I believe that the University of Michigan as a whole is strengthened by the dedication and excellence of the Dearborn campus, and especially so because of our ability and commitment to creating positive impact on the communities, businesses and organizations of southeastern Michigan.  And the leadership of the university is increasingly responsive to this “value proposition” for the contributions that UM-Dearborn can make to the overall excellence of the University of Michigan.  To quote President Coleman, "We will move Michigan to a new level of excellence by building on the distinctive academic strengths of our three campuses.  The University of Michigan-Dearborn, with its metropolitan mission, is uniquely positioned to combine scholarship, dialogue, and action for the benefit of southeastern Michigan."  

The collective efforts of our faculty, staff, students and alumni over the past year are bringing this metropolitan vision to fruition.  We still have much to accomplish, and I am looking forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead to continue to build on the significant accomplishments we have made over the past year.


Daniel Little