It’s such an honor to be president of the University of Michigan.
We’re one of the leading public research universities in the country, with $1.7 billion in research expenditures last year. We have more than 100 top-10 graduate programs. Our students come to learn and grow as leaders from nearly every county in Michigan, all 50 states and more than 130 countries around the world. University of Michigan Health’s adult hospitals and the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital have been ranked the best in Michigan. Even our beloved fight song, “The Victors,” is regularly found at the top of lists ranking the best college fight songs — and rightly so!
What I’ve learned in my time since starting as president this fall is that behind these remarkable numbers and countless accolades are thousands of people — faculty, students, staff, alumni and so many others — who embody the commitment to excellence that keeps this institution performing at such a high level. They conduct the research that helps address some of our society’s most urgent challenges. They create the art that connects us, inspires us and helps us to think more deeply about our world. They enrich our campus community with diverse viewpoints and experiences. And they support and amplify the university’s innovative work through entrepreneurship, mentoring, selflessness and generosity.
One of those people is former U-M President Emerita Mary Sue Coleman, who returned to serve the university for 10 months on an interim basis before I stepped into the role in October. Her commitment to this institution and its students is something we should all admire. I will be eternally grateful for the guidance and wisdom she shared with me as I made my transition to this office.
Across our three campuses, more than 65,000 students are pursuing their academic goals and earning their degrees in a wide breadth of disciplines. At Michigan Medicine, our health care professionals handled more than 2.6 million patient clinic visits in the last year. The university’s research activity during FY 2022 generated 433 new inventions and 16 startup companies and ranged in scope from genetic data accessibility to internet interfaces for the visually impaired.
In short, the University of Michigan is thriving.
Amplifying our research enterprise
For more than a decade, the University of Michigan has been top-ranked in research volume among U.S. public universities. This vast, broad enterprise powers medical breakthroughs, solutions to environmental challenges, advancements in technology and engineering, a better understanding of human behavior and so much more. The research enterprise also plays a key role in driving economic growth, with U-M research contributing $97 million to Michigan’s economy over the past fiscal year.
Earlier this year, U-M was awarded a five-year, $53 million renewal agreement from the federal government to continue and expand the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), with the goal of helping to conserve and manage the region’s natural resources. CIGLR is hosted by U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability and its scientists and their students work alongside National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers to seek solutions for some of the most pressing Great Lakes issues, including a changing regional climate and invasive species. The $53 million renewal was the largest sponsored award in the School for Environment and Sustainability’s history.
In another area of vital research, U-M received a $5.5 million federal grant in September to launch a National Institutes of Health (NIH) firearm research coordinating center that will oversee community-based research projects designed to reduce firearm-related injuries. In collaboration with the NIH, the U-M Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention will provide cross-network coordination, communication, analytics, engagement and dissemination efforts to help advance three new research projects.
These are just two examples of how the university’s vast and vibrant research ecosystem is well positioned to take on many of our society’s biggest problems. As president, I am committed to making us even more essential as a leading research university that serves our state, our nation and our world.
The university will soon launch a phased strategy to amplify research and scholarship activity across disciplines so teams are positioned to rapidly address and solve critical challenges affecting communities worldwide.
Working toward a sustainable future
Perhaps the most critical challenge we’re actively involved in addressing is the global climate crisis. And while we have incredible scholars and leaders in this space, this problem isn’t merely for climate scientists to solve. Universities are societies within themselves, with massive operational footprints, and U-M has made considerable strides toward university-wide carbon neutrality in recent years.
Earlier this year, the Ann Arbor campus achieved its goal — set in 2011— of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent, three years ahead of a 2025 target. The university also is on pace to reduce Scope 1 emissions (those from direct sources) and Scope 2 emissions (those from purchased energy) by 50 percent by 2025, exceeding Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change guidance to reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030.
The important work can’t be done in a vacuum, which is why I’m proud that U-M will now serve as the lead institution for the University Climate Change Coalition. The UC3 convenes 23 leading North American universities toward climate action on campus, in communities, and at a global scale.
We can, and will, extend our impact through our bold and strategic leadership on this issue.
The Michigan Difference
I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and listen to hundreds of people in the University of Michigan community over the past few months. I’ve heard where you think we’re succeeding and where you think we need to improve. I take these messages to heart, and I assure you they will help to guide my priorities in the months and years ahead.
A key factor in the university’s ability to deliver on its mission has been its continued financial strength, and the Chief Financial Officer’s Report outlines U-M’s healthy finances in greater detail.
Additionally, the Report of the Vice President for Development highlights a record year for generosity, with donors offering $515 million in total cash gifts. That includes $233 million in student support alone.
The University of Michigan is growing and thriving, and its people are the reason. What an incredible privilege it is to be a part of this vibrant community dedicated to excellence.
Despite challenging moments, the university has had an incredible year of achievement. I look forward to the future, and all that we will accomplish together.
Santa J. Ono