Office of the Vice President for Student Life
Fireside Chat of January 20th, 2014
President Coleman: Hello! How are all of you doing? Well, welcome! Let’s get started. These chats are just open, relaxed places for all of you guys to get to ask us questions or tell us how you’re feeling about campus and I’m looking forward to it. Sadly, Vice President Harper isn’t feeling too well so I’ll try to answer as much as I can so she can save her voice. So, before we begin who here is an undergrad? (*students raise hands*) Ok, so we do have some graduate students as well! Great! So, who would like to ask the first question? No one? Ok, if you all don’t ask me questions I’m going to ask you some (*laughs*). How about you, could you tell me some things about you and what you’re involved in?
Student: Well, I’m a member of FEMMES, which is Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and the Sciences.
President Coleman: Oo, I’ve never heard of that! Could you tell me more about that? Y’know I’m a scientist as well.
Student: Well, FEMMES work to break down the existing gender disparities in the STEM fields. We host educational outreach programs related to math, science, and engineering for 4th-6th grade girls from underserved areas and we try to create engaging, hands-on activities in all our programs allow girls to learn in a fun, supportive environment and explore their potential in the STEM fields.
President Coleman: That sounds amazing! And how about you, Alex? Tell me about your involvement.
Building a Better Michigan
Alex: Hi President Coleman and VP Harper! First I just wanted to say thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to be here. I’m really involved with Central Student Government but I would say my main involvement is with Building a Better Michigan and I wanted to take this time to thank you and Royster for all your support in that initiative.
President Coleman: Yes! Could you tell everyone what that is so that they know.
Alex: Well, BBM is a group of students working with administration to work on the renovations for the Unions and Rec Sports buildings.
President Coleman: It will be a lot of work (laughs). We appreciate your work with it, especially since you all probably won’t directly benefit from them but many, many succeeding classes ahead will benefit from these renovations.
Emily: When will the renovations be done?
President Coleman: Well, we’ve been thinking long term and so they won’t be done for a while and we want them to last a while as well. I know we are working on Pierpont now and then Mitchell Field, but all of the renovations will take about 10 years total.
Vice President Harper: What do you guys think of the new Starbucks and Au Bon Pain?
Students: *murmurs of approval and appreciation*
Michigan International Job Market
Yuyang: Hello President Coleman, my name is Yuyang. I am a graduate student studying Industrial Operations Engineering in their 5 year program and so I also did undergrad here. When I was an undergrad I worked with international student groups often and now I am helping to start an org to help international students find jobs in an easier way. There has been a lot support and I have to thank the Career Center especially. However, one issue we keep running into is that the resources we are finding are not necessarily specific enough for international students and some students haven’t found it useful. I’ve also heard that the Business School has amazing resources for students, including international students, looking to find jobs.
President Coleman: The Michigan research corner, which are the three major research universities in the state of Michigan- us, Michigan State, and Wayne State- received a grant to help international students get jobs in Michigan. *gives info on people to contact, removed for privacy* And I also agree with you on Ross, but since they have a more streamlined job track, that could perhaps be the reason.
Local, Fresh Foods
Munmun: Hello, my name is Munmun Khan, I am a Gates Millennium Scholar here on campus studying international studies. I had two things I wanted to talk about. For one, as excited I am about the new Starbucks I would like to see more local support in terms of fresh groceries and produce and I am wondering if smaller businesses like that have access. I know we have the farmer’s markets but those can be far away at times and are not really permanent solutions.
President Coleman: It would be great to have a grocery store closer to campus do you know about White’s market? It was a market that was on campus for some time.
Student: Another thing is that the food should be affordable too! The markets we have here like Kroger’s and Whole Foods are really expensive.
President Coleman: We understand. And then there are some options, such as Meijer, but it is far, I get it.
Munmun: My second point that I wanted to talk on is Diversity. We’ve received a lot about the initiatives for diversity and thank you all for the work you have been doing but this is a serious matter for students of color. I come from a predominantly low-income, immigrant community home and really am impacted by these issues the at the University. As excited as I am and as much as I would love to see a Trotter on central we need more.
President Coleman: I don’t disagree, we have a lot of work to do and we know we do.
Alexa: Hi, I’m Alexa. I’m a Junior in the Residential College. Jumping off of the point about diversity, we should think about using classes like IGR for the Race & Ethnicity requirement and focus more on how to foster interaction between students. Often, in classes the count towards the R&E requirement, we learn about ancient things *gives example of class* and those things are important but they aren’t meeting the needs of students.
President Coleman: Things change over time and needs change and that has clearly happened here. We can and will reexamine it- I just received a book from Pat Gurin, and she does extensive research on intergroup dialogues, much of it done here at Michigan, and we are very proud of that work- even though it was painful. I know Royster and the Provost are putting together a student and faculty council to work on these issues as well. We are also in the middle of the capital campaign and our main focus is student support. We are not naïve about some of the struggles our students face because this place can be a big change and adjustment.
Omar: So, sadly, President Coleman we all know that you are retiring this summer and I am curious; what measures are being taken to prepare the next President of the university?
President Coleman: Well, I hadn’t been here in 15 years when I came in and... you learn very quickly. (laughs) There’s the great group of Vice President’s who will help them learn the ropes. (laughs) I remember my first student convocation- I had heard the Victors before but didn’t know to hail, to raise my fist when we say “Hail!” and Lester Monts was standing next to me and he took my hand and raised it for me (laughs)
I am slightly worried about this notion of scorecards for Universities because you really cannot have one measure for universities because how do you measure the numerous impacts these experiences have on students? There’s also a national conversation that leans towards education as a private good, not a public one, and I think that is a big issue will we be facing too.
For the Love of Michigan
President Coleman: I have been talking to donors quite a bit these last few months and there’s one question that keeps coming up and so I’d thought I’d ask you all- What makes people love Michigan?
Omar: For me, it has been the student orgs. That’s where I’ve excelled. They really helped me grow as a person and as a leader and nourished my passions.
President Coleman: Alex what do you think?
Alex: Well, I thought I was smart coming here and I think there’s a really humbling quality of failing and learning; in my respects this is the place where you grow up is really how it feels sometimes.
Sonia: Hi, I’m Sonia- I’m a sophomore studying social computing informatics.
President Coleman: Ok, now you’ve got to tell us what that is (laughs)
Sonia: Sure! Its a great program. We’re learning how to integrate technology into society, essentially. I was really excited about it! I took a few engineering classes and didn’t really like it and was unsure of what I wanted to do and then found this! And I think a part of why we all love Michigan so much is that regardless of what you chose to do, you can find a community in all aspects of learning and meet all types of people who can teach you all types of different things. I remember one time, walking towards a football game it started hailing and I thought everyone was going to run to the stadium screaming and instead we all started singing Hail to the Victors! That type of community is what makes people love it here.
Student: Hi, I’m a social theory and practice major and I work here at union in the Center for Campus Involvement. One of my jobs was I had to make a major-specific event. As I began to learn more about my major and discovered a lot of interesting information about the Information programs here and was able to sit down with creator of the Bachelor of Science in Information major and planned an event with him from the ground up to help students learn more about the programs offered. And I’m only a freshman. And that’s, for me, part of why I love it here; because you can walk down these streets and look in the buildings and know amazing things are happening.
Maddie: I think it is also the unity, which is a very visible thing here at Michigan. People see all the school spirit and when you’re here you get opportunities to unite your educational experience into your extracurriculars and I think that is amazing.
President Coleman: I really liked all your comments. I will remember all of these, they’re great!
President Coleman: (continued from above) What's the most common question you get as a tour guide?
Maddie: The Weather, which really was not fun when I gave a tour during the polar vortex. (room mumbles)
President Coleman: Y’know when I went to college in Iowa we would get massive, massive snowstorms and cold temperatures but I have never heard the term polar vortex before- I mean, is this something new they made up? (laughs)
How do we rank?
Wei: Hello, I am a doctoral student in the School of Information and since I have been studying my topic everyday in my school I really feel a part of the school community now, which is great since it is my first year in the program and I am loving the experience. I had one question that I’ve always been interested in. How do you see the rankings from US News, etc. When viewing schools we all look at them; how do you see them?
President Coleman: Well, there are thousands of ranking systems and most use very many differing input measures but they don’t measure student experience; outputs like that are hard to measure! I don’t think they necessarily reflect the student experiences. I think it depends. If we rank well- I say it’s a great ranking system (laughs). If we don’t, well (laughs).
A Lease to Distress
Caleab: Hi, my name is Caleab and I’m a sophomore studying Engineering and in the Michigan Research Community. I love the learning community! I am sad that I don’t get to go back next year. I was wondering if there is any work being done to change leasing policies around campus, in terms of sign-up times? I think one of the hardest things is that getting apartments conflicts a lot with housing’s timeline- which is a really good system! People do better living on campus, partially because it’s more convenient, especially when it comes to getting food.
President Coleman: One of the best things about college- I thought- was going someplace to get food I didn’t have to cook (laughs). We have talked about the issue of the early lease, but haven’t been able to change it much. Its tough though, I agree.
New Facilities, Same Problems
Emily: Hi, I’m Emily. I also wanted to talk a little about some Alice Lloyd issues. Despite being recently renovated we have been having issues with flies in the restrooms. And they aren’t regular flies, they are huge.
Sonia: Those are also a big issue in the MLB, which causes a lot of problems for Architecture students whose studios are in the basement.
Caleb: So I was actually talking to a facilities person one day about the storm drain flies and he said it was persistent problem and there’s nothing they can really do about it for a permanent fix because of the foundation- or something like that.
President Coleman: We need a regular fly patrol (laughs)
Modesty with Money
Student: Hi, I live in East Quad and I love it, it’s great, but there’s so much tech: massive smart tvs computer stations, and the first thing I see is the cost of them; and I struggle a lot to pay for school and I wonder about where we, as a University, are spending our money. I feel like we have misinterpreted ideas of funds and that a lot of tech around campus has not been and isn’t being used well.
President Coleman: That’s a fair point.
Vice President Harper: That is! And its… its really about us trying to find this sweet spot between too much and enough- I hear it all the time and I appreciate it and it makes me sad because it’s a hard balance and its one we’re continually struggling with and trying to work at finding so that students don’t feel that way. Thank you for expressing your feelings on that.
Polar Vortex Policy
Sam: Hi, my name is Sam. I am a dual degree student in Ross and Michigan Research Community. I read a recent article about the polar vortex and out policies and noticed that we don’t have a way to shut down school if necessary. Is that true, and if so what are we doing about it?
President Coleman: It is true. As I’m sure some of you know,
U of M hasn’t shut down since 1978. We now have a group that is working to designate essential and nonessential employees so that we can begin working on those procedures. Part of the issue is that we have a 24-hour system here and have so much to provide that that is not an easy question to answer. I don’t think its an easy question even still with us having a group on it now. Anything to add? You were at the meeting Royster.
Vice President Harper: Well, we know parents were very concerned about children safety- especially since part of the issue was that students were going to come back no matter what! It just didn’t feel as dangerous to them. I’m guessing maybe they were tired of being at home (laughs).
Alexander: Do we have any plans to reevaluate our emergency planning alert system outside of the current one?
Vice President Harper: We are actually working on a new system and we need people to sign up for it! The trick with this is that we have to find the balance between alerting everyone and knowing there’s harm; all of that adds to the complication.
Alexander: I’ve also been talking with some staff and they say while they are well-trained, some of them felt like they didn’t know what to do.
President Coleman: We’ve been thinking of hosting some table talk exercises to talk about what could happen to train people, and it’s work that will continually need to be done. What do you do when something you never expected would happen happens? It's something we are always working on.
Nathan: Hi, I’m Nathan, I’m a sophomore in Chemical Engineering. I had a quick follow up from Sam’s question about closing the school. Is there any chance we could use- especially if they already exist- wind tunnels to connect them all for worst cases scenarios? How hard is it to plan for that bad weather; what's the thought process?
President Coleman: Well we haven’t put as much thought into it because, frankly, it wasn’t bad enough. before this last storm. It’s a complicated question because we don’t run like the public schools and so there are all these factors we have to take into account that make the question more difficult that just whether or not students will have class.
President Coleman: Thank all of you for coming! Always very energizing, really appreciate your sharing your ideas with me!