As U-M approaches its bicentennial in 2017, the first steps are being taken toward a celebration that explores the university’s heritage as well as its future as a leading public university.
President Mary Sue Coleman has named a Bicentennial Planning Committee and charged the group with developing an overall plan for the celebration. It is to report back in May, say co-chairs Howard Markel and Gary Krenz.
“The point of this committee is not to plan the daily events of this celebration but to come up with a sense of how to both celebrate the university’s past while looking to the future,” says Markel, the George E. Wantz Distinguished Professor of the History of Medicine.
Krenz noted that some groups already are under way on specific projects, and that in the years ahead others will be established to undertake detailed planning. A website will be launched soon to provide the community with ongoing information.
In addition honoring U-M’s rich history, Markel says the planning group will try to propose activities that address where the university expects to be in its third century.
“With distance learning and increasing technology, what is the role of liberal arts in a modern university? How can we remain an elite university but not be elitist? How can we keep education affordable while maintaining our reputation for excellence? These are some of the questions that came up in our first meeting,” he says.
The group met Nov. 11 for a general idea discussion and will meet monthly until the report is complete.
“2017 will be a remarkable moment for U-M. Reaching its 200th birthday puts U-M in a pretty small group of American universities,” says Krenz, special counsel to the president. “Reaching the 200th at a time of significant transition in higher education, and in the larger world, gives us the opportunity to bring our intellectual resources to bear in a collective deliberation about the present and future. We want events commensurate with these factors, while being mindful of the fact that we are living in a period of constrained resources. We want a scope that reaches our students, staff, faculty, alumni, others in higher education as well as other sectors, and the public.”
At its first meeting, the group came up with an impressive list of ideas, including having a national symposium on higher education with a renowned guest speaker, commissioning a special music composition and developing a major art exhibit, among others, Markel says, adding that the group has not settled on any of the ideas yet.
“That’s why we’re starting out really early, so we have time to seek additional input and to develop these things,” he says. “We hope to have many, many more discussions.”
Krenz says the group looks forward to ideas from others on campus. Suggestions may be sent to the committee at UM.Bicentennial.Ideas@umich.edu or Bicentennial Planning Committee, Office of the President, 2074 Fleming Administration Building 1340.
Leaders also hope the early start will give units a chance to think about how they, too, might plan their own activities.
Susan Douglas, professor of communication studies, on what inspires her: "My students inspire me. I love teaching undergraduates: their energy, their optimism, their openness to new ideas."
Face of Our Time exhibit, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. through Feb. 5, U-M Museum of Art.