Student Life

Office of the Vice President for Student Life

Fireside Chat of February 24th, 2014




President Coleman: Hello! How are all of you doing? Well, welcome! Let’s get started. These chats are a place we've created so you can tell us what’s on your mind and ask us questions. So we'll open it up to you- ask us something, tell us something about you. 


Recruit despite Gibbons


Jennifer: Hello, my name is Jennifer. I'm from Nashville and just wanted to say that Michigan has always felt like home and I had a friend who just got in and I'm trying to convince him to come, and been calling him everyday! *laughs* One thing that has been bothering me, though, has been the Gibbons case and why it has taken so long.


President Coleman: Well, we can’t talk about the Gibbons case for legal reasons but I believe we have pretty well-defined procedure. We really can’t talk about it, but I am very comfortable with the process we have for handling these issues.


Learning More, Together


Student: Hello, I am a senior at the business school. One of my favorite things about Michigan that I've always really liked is that there’s a great department for anything you want to do. The issue I've been having lately is that I'm beginning to realize that I haven't learned how I can apply what I've learned in business to other fields. It all feels very silo-like. So my question is how do we encourage inter-school interaction?


President Coleman: I think its one of our constant challenges, to get things to happen across the schools is challenging. I think it's partially based on budget, partially due to faculty being able to do the work together, and that's easier to do in some areas such as business's partnership with the engineering school, some things in the arts. We've tried to find ways to do these partnerships and we'd be interested if you wanted to write up some of your experiences we would show them to the deans. Everyone is trying to do good things, but there are some bureaucratic barriers.


Vice President Harper: We're excited, at least at the graduate level, because that is what we're trying to do that with Munger dorms. We don’t know how to do that at the undergrad levels just yet but Munger is literally to try and do that work.


President Coleman: At the end of the day, we’re saying we don’t take advantage of this huge spectrum of scholarly work and we know that to some extent. If you're willing to tell us a little bit about it from your reflection I think it would be useful!


Ian: I recently was able to attend a joint seminar series and I think that could have some potential in this regard.


President Coleman: Yes, I've heard of those. I know there also used to be a class called the Business of Biology and I thought that was a really good idea! They bring people in to talk about the sciences and entrepreneurship and their overlap. We can do more work like that.


Curriculum Conundrums


Sydney: Hi, I'm Sydney. I'm a senior from New York. I've had incredible experiences at Michigan. I'm in the Ford school now. Sophomore year, I determined what I wanted to do, but I wasn’t allowed to take certain courses as a junior or senior that I needed as pre-reqs for some of my other classes and some I was just interested in. What could be done to allow students like me to take these other courses of interest?


President Coleman: Our curriculum is decided on by our faculty. If your willing to share your perspective with your dean, I think a thoughtful note about these issues would be very helpful and I really encourage students to do this because your experiences and what you say do matter! It's up to faculty to make these decision and I always encourage student feedback, you knew what you wanted to do coming, but it could be helpful to have other courses to broaden your horizons, definitely.


Vice President Harper: I'm thinking it might be possible to advocate for a couple of places where pre-reqs are built in. So, it's like saying "we know you're not doing the sequence" and that would be the whole point of the class.


Zach: Hi, I'm Zach. I'm a senior studying philosophy and political theory and right now I'm working on my thesis while taking French 232. As I thought about it and I looked back at the classes I’ve taken the only had negative experiences I've had were with the large intro natural science classes. I know Brown has an interesting policy on looking at distribution requirements, has there been any dialogue about changing the strict requirements?


President Coleman: Not that I know of, again faculty make those decisions. I know there is a constant conversation about what courses give students the tools to be successful &, within LS&A, there's constant conversation about requirements of curriculum &, again, if you have thoughts about your experience tell the faculty! Feedback is necessary to improve.




Aubrey: Hi, my name is Aubrey. I'm a Dual Masters student in social work and public policy. I had an unrelated question, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on the #BBUM movement. What’s being done in the administration to address students' concerns?


President Coleman: Ok. Let me start and then pass to Vice President Harper as she’s been doing a lot of work on it. I was touched by the campaign and what students said about their experience and I think you can’t read them without being touched and without saying we are wasting this opportunity we have to appreciate each other. I mean, this is one of the things we have done extensive research on and went to court for; the value of diversity, and to think that we are not living up to the dream- its very disappointing in one sense but gives us an avenue to have frank conversations with each other to create a welcoming environment.


Vice President Harper: So, we've been meeting with the students; we've had 5 meetings since the issue was raised. A lot of the conversations are understanding what has been said and what is being done. We are making progress on a lot of issues: emergency help, cash flow (we're making a web portal for all students to help with this), affordable housing without having to go so far off campus so students don't feel cut off because many of those students don’t have cars and so we're working with AATA to fix that as well- we're having robust conversations about how do we- in light of the law- get creative to get students to come to Michigan and love it here. We have students who’ve been admitted and now we need them to say yes and that's work we can all do! How do we say to students who hear about these things  in the news that they aren’t wanted here- which is not true but what they have heard- to come to Michigan? We know from research that a student is more likely to come if we get them here to see campus, so we're working on that as well. The challenge is once we get the numbers- a critical mass- that takes care of many of the issues- loneliness, not seeing others in your classes, etc.), but how do we get there? We've also talked about the multicultural center and right now its on the way and we're rethinking and trying to find a place closer and thinking about how we open it up for all of us to learn and grow and we're doing this work with students- they are saying to us we need to strengthen how we do our work together and that there's a real communication issue- we've having that convo for about 12 years *laughs*- how do we do this with our strong position, especially since we’ve been so cautious? That's the work we're trying to do now.


President Coleman: Too cautious, I'd say. This is an interesting time for the university. I'm  confident that we will continue to work as hard as we can to find what's right for everybody and for the educational success of everybody and I know the president-elect will work hard on this as well.

Vice President Harper: Ok, now... I don’t mean this in the way it will sound *laughs*, I think students should hold us accountable but also ask "What can I do to improve these issues?" Students can also critically analyze your orgs- notice where things like diversity are lacking and then ask why and what you can do to improve it. We're making a set of work for incoming students- because sometimes we’re offensive and make others feel unwelcomed without realizing it. We were talking about this on our way over actually- so if you think about the basketball team, everyone knows they're on the team- we all say its great to be a wolverine and then we forget! And administrators, we're not hanging out at 3AM, hanging out of windows, in classes- I said never again after my dissertation *laughs*- we're not in those spaces! The complaints we’ve heard, we’re not there! *laughs* So hold us accountable and then hold yourselves accountable too.


Transfer Diversity


Tyler: Hi, I'm Tyler. I had a question about college access. First, thanks for all your comments, this has been great so far. I'm senior studying Political Science and Philosophy and I started as a transfer student. I'm also a first generation student. I got heavily involved with CSG (Central Student Government) advocating for transfer experience here, and so I'm wondering what is the university doing to look at the transfer process to increase diversity?


President Coleman: This is one of the strategies our Provost is very excited about. We've been looking at colleges close to us since that is a way for people to feel comfortable. A few years ago the Jack Kent foundation really encouraged the transfer route and as a consequence of that publicity we started making alliances to help students know how to make the transfer so they know which courses to take and which will transfer and be successful. If there is anything you could do to help other students, we'd glad to hear it. Did you feel you were academically prepared?


Tyler: Yeah, definitely! I had a 4.0 there... doing well here *laughs*.


Venezuelan Voices


Ana: Hello, my name is Ana. I am a student from Venezuela.


President Coleman: My husband studied in Venezuela for a while in college- he loved the experience!


Ana: That's amazing! I wanted to talk about the student movement fighting for freedom of expression in my country. I think this should be a concern for everyone, especially for a community as diverse as Michigan- that in my country the government is cutting resources for education and other basic rights. It's important to raise awareness, and so I wanted to know what can we do as a university to raise awareness against these human rights injustices?


President Coleman: I think one of the best things you can do is speak out, perhaps an opinion piece for the Daily.


Fabiana: Well, we've written pieces for the Daily and we've already held two events.


President Coleman: That's great! I think that kind of advocacy and education for people is important.


Ana: We were thinking that perhaps something like a university conference weekend would be helpful where Venezuelan students and faculty are invited to talk about the situations at home. I've been to some of these at Yale and Columbia and would love to have it here as well.


President Coleman: There's a person I think you should contact. Let me tell you about James Holloway, I think he would be interested in sponsoring something like this- he works in the Provost's office. You should meet with him, he will know the various contacts who would know what's happening that you could plug into. But, please keep it up and let others know! I'm going tell my husband I met students from Venezuela, he'll love that *laughs*


Admin Activism


Brianna: Hi, I'm bus-driver-Bri *laughs*. I want to continue in this dialogue of activism and I'm curious; what personally have you both been involved in as activists and how do you get involved in activism?


President Coleman: It's hard to be involved as President. It's one of the things I think is



extraordinarily important though and so one of the things we do is my husband and I give personally to the LEAD scholarship program. Our alumni can recruit underrepresented students for us and everywhere I go I tell people if you want to help, give money to that scholarship program and I try to encourage students to speak their mind about all sorts of political thought.


Vice President Harper: I'll talk a little more about her activism, because she's being humble. When you have an administration that’s responsive and says we hear our students and we need to do something- she uses her power in service to her values. One of the first contributions she made was to the multicultural center, to study abroad programs like GIEU, work study in the summer, she’s supportive of that too, so I think her advocacy has been around the work she’s done as an advocate and activist. I think mine shows up in how I try to think about the work I do, what our goals and commitments are to the institution… I'm very concerned about young and poor children having a chance, and that work doesn’t’ show up at the university until about 10-12 years later. That’s where I- beyond hearing students and doing my work- am an activist. I put a lot of activism around education and poor children.


Residency Woes


Vikramjit: Hello, my name is Vikramjit. I've been living in Ann Arbor for about 3 years. I currently work here in the US on a work visa but what’s bothered me is that despite how long we've lived here, worked here, myself and some other students I know are not eligible for in-state tuition.

President Coleman: I know the residence requirements are tough. I'd recommend you go through the appeal process, if you have not. That's decided at a whole other level, I have no power over it.

Arts Engagement


Tori: Hi, my name is Tori. I am a first year student in the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. My experience has been incredible so far!


President Coleman: Amazing! What area?


Tori: Vocal performance. I have been noticing students are concerned about attendance level at performances. There have been a lot of conversations about how hard it is to reach out and get the word out about of performances. It feels very separated. Is there anything the university or the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance could do to promote the performances?


Vice President Harper: Performances amongst students? As in, put on by students?


Tori: Yes.


President Coleman: What area do people seem most concerned about?


Tori: I would say orchestral, but there are wide-ranging concerns among students.


Jennifer: One thing I know people have done before is use the "passport to the arts" program. I know I, personally, would appreciate an email of the performances for the month. I think the College of Engineering sends out a summary of events of this happening on the campus each week.


President Coleman: What are the most effective strategies, perhaps some new ones, to make it more immediate?


Tori: The only way to get in touch with students on Central Campus we've found is putting out posters, which isn’t so effective anymore.


Vice President Harper: I've got a great advisory board and I'm thinking we could have a great conversation about this. I see one of my members here who is also in the Glee Club.


Matt: Yeah. Hi, I'm Matt. Glee Club uses a multitude of options- like flyering, and I know SMTD has a range of publicity options but you can also look into a lot of outlets like the Center for Campus Involvement.


President Coleman: I appreciate you bringing this up because our students are unbelievable!


Student Involvement in Admin Influence


Roger: Hi, my name is Roger and I'm a senior majoring in business and mathematics. Thank you both for making this time!


President Coleman: Oh sure!


Roger: My question is, if a student will be involved in activism, what do you think the best way is to voice their opinion to influence your decision on topics? How do we have more events like this to make sure our voices to get realized and recognized?


President Coleman: I think there are numerous ways and we probably do more than you think. So, we do listen to CSG- we don’t always agree, but we do listen. Being willing to serve on advisory committees that involve students is another way. There is one such committee, the Labor Standards Committee, a really thoughtful committee that reports to me. I think part of the issue though is that sometimes there are long-term conversations that need to take place around these issues and students are here for a finite time and if we don’t get it done in that time you think we aren’t working on it, but we are! We just won’t make rapid shifts. So, I think there are multiple ways and I appreciate students participating in things like this and I don’t think a student has ever held back *laughs*. This is a place where we’re all in this together, that’s how we try to do it.


Vice President Harper: Some of my best work has been student work *laughs*. It's important for us to think about how we increase that! What happens is you have to be on these boards before the "good" issue comes. Most units and executive officers and schools have places for student voices- where we struggle is with having students there.


President Coleman: A really great example of this is the students that were working to get the rec centers redone, Building a Better Michigan. I mean this was hard work for these students and it won't benefit you or them but they have put in that work. The same with Residence Life Initiative- it’s a process. I'm very optimistic that that kind of thing will continue though.


Vice President Harper- Services for Students with Disabilities, Sexual Assault, Prevention, and Awareness Center, Student Legal Services, all of these things came from student activism- the multicultural center. It's definitely something we want to keep up and we know makes us stronger.


Easing the Switch


Student: Hi, I'm a junior in LS&A. I'm an international student as well. My first two years here were in the College of Engineering but I lost that passion and transferred to Psychology. I had insufficient info and the International Center and Engineering weren’t speaking about my course work. My concern was- since I pay a lot of tuition- that I wanted to graduate in 4 to 4-and-a-half years but there were some pre-reqs I needed to take that were courses only for freshman and sophomores and I'm a junior. Everyone keeps telling me to wait but the class didn’t open and now I am also taking Spring/Summer classes because of this (another $20,000), and I just wish something could be done to override that process, make it better.


President Coleman: We’ll be glad to take your name and we can have someone look at your situation. The President has very little power- I can't tell faculty what to do, students what to do *laughs*. I'm sorry you’ve had this problem.


Go North- Pierpont Thanks


Student: I just wanted to thank you for your decision to update the North union.


Vice President Harper: YAY! *laughs*


Student: It really is like a gateway to North Campus.


President Coleman: Yes, the way she (VP Harper) convinced me was she took me over to the cafeteria. Your fellow students worked hard on this- when will it be done?


Vice President Harper- The fall. It'll be closing at the end of this week, we had to close it then for it to be open by the fall.


Student- It's really great because North Campus is almost like a food desert.


Vice President Harper: You all are agreeing? *laughs*


Broaden the Horizons we can see Abroad


Sydney: Hi, my name is Sydney. I did a study abroad program in Paris and it was an absolutely amazing experience. Some of my peers haven’t had the opportunity to go abroad and some said they couldn't find a program that fit. I was wondering what could be done on campus to promote/create better study abroad resources where we don’t have programs, like Paris?


President Coleman: It's always a difficult decision for us to make because we don’t have the resources to have programs everywhere. We encourage students to look at other universities that do have those programs and talk a lot with deans about asking their faculties to have a curriculum to have their students go abroad. There used to be a match program to encourage donors to give to these scholarships as well and I talk about it all the time with donors because it is a transformative experience for students- its something we need to be highlighting. And we need to leverage programs between universities. If you have thoughts, I hope that you’ll tell them your experiences.


Thanks for Work in Ghana


Sarah: Hi, my name is Sarah. I'm doctoral student in public health and I just wanted to thank you for your support in the African Care Initiative.


President Coleman: Oh, absolutely! I was there in '08 and I was astonished- we’ve been in Ghana for a long time! I think the work is having a huge impact and I've never been so inspired. It made me really proud. What is your work there?


Sarah: I'm working on access to safe abortions.


President Coleman: That's great.



President Coleman: Well, it's almost 5PM! We will stick around for awhile for anyone who wants to talk or get a picture. Thank you all for coming, this has been a great session! Have a great winter break!