Dean’s Update

Winter 2017

Dear Michigan Engineering Community,

Happy New Year! It’s 2017 and my prediction is that this will be a very big year for the College. It is the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial year, and we will be able to celebrate our long history of educating future leaders, discovering new technologies and finding solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. And it also will be a time to build on that history toward an exciting future — new facilities projects, department-chair searches and academic programs. Some of you have already heard me talk about our new vision and mission — going from great to best as we serve the common good.

But among the most important things for us – and the entire University – will be continuing to work on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. As I mentioned at the town hall meeting a few months ago, I am committed to making significant strides in this area. Here are a few examples I can share with you right now about our work:

  • An Implicit Bias Workshop for graduate students is being planned by the Society of Minority Engineers and Scientists – Graduate Component (SMES-G), in cooperation with the College and other student organizations. The plan is to run two sessions, with 100 students per workshop, to help students become aware that all of us have biases that affect how we interact with those around us. We are looking at additional ways to support graduate and undergraduate students with similar opportunities.
  • We are piloting the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), which assesses a person’s abilities to successfully interact with people from different cultures and includes one-on-one sessions with selected students and faculty.
  • We will be organizing opportunities for students to gather, converse and exchange ideas. We are planning fireside chats for graduate students and other events for undergraduate students.
  • In partnership with Rackham, we will invite graduate students to a workshop on the topic of having difficult and crucial conversations.
  • In “1000 Cuts,” a session put on by CRLT Players for faculty members, participants will think together about the many forces that shape campus climate, and work toward developing or refining a skill set to respond productively and compassionately to individuals who have negative climate experiences at our university.
  • We have added a module on inclusive teaching into our new faculty member orientation program, and are providing resources to all faculty members for addressing DEI issues in the classroom. We are holding teaching circles for faculty members on inclusive teaching. We are also researching other ways to support the faculty in this area.
  • We’re looking into more proactive ways to encourage students from a variety of backgrounds and regions of the country to come to Michigan Engineering.
  • We are planning a major set of events on MLK Day, including a keynote with speaker Margot Lee Shetterly. She is the author of Hidden Figures, which was adapted into a film in select theaters now. It is the true story of the African American women “human computers” at NASA who used math to change their own lives – and their country’s future. Shetterly will talk about race, gender, science, the history of technology and more. This month, you’ll also see students telling their stories on social media with the hashtag #IAmNotHidden – I encourage you to share yours and celebrate the diversity we do share on campus.

Working on diversity, equity and inclusion is a process — as such, it is an ongoing effort. It also requires your thoughtful participation. I encourage each of you to consider how you can engage with these activities or others to make our campus and community respectful of diversity, more equitable and more inclusive.

In my first months as Dean, I have been truly impressed by the talents and dedication of our students, staff and faculty. This is a strong, vibrant community. Together we will do great things, and I look forward to working with all of you to make 2017 an amazing year.

Go Blue!

Alec