Office of the Vice President for Student Life
Fireside Chat of September 11, 2014
The Victors at Michigan
Nick: Hi. My name is Nick. I am a junior in LS&A studying political science & philosophy.
President Schlissel: No one studies one thing any more.
Nick: Well, it’s a combined program but yeah. I know we’re in the middle of Victors of Michigan campaign and that’s a huge event to come into the presidency working on, but one idea I had been having to better execute it would be to be more open about where funds are going to go. For example, I know $1 billion is going to student support! I think that’s a way to get students more excited about the campaign; publicize it and show students ways to get involved.
President Schlissel: Definitely something we’re trying to do with alums and I think that’s a good point, thank you!
President Schlissel: While you’re all here, I wanted to get your opinion on intercollegiate athletics. How much do students worry about the sports culture here? I know we have about 900 athletes, which is a tiny fraction of the overall student body, and I was curious to get your opinions.
Clarence: Hi, I’m Clarence. I’m a Communication and Spanish major in LS&A. I’ve been a Michigan fan since I was little. It was one of the reasons I came here, really. One of the things I loved about it was that it has always been something that was student-motivated and student-driven. The students were as active in it as the athletes and that hasn’t been the case recently. It often feels like students have been removed from the entire process, especially if you consider ticket prices, schedules... athletics seems to be expanding despite other programs needing focus and funding and it really seems more about the image than the students.
Jen: Hi, my name is Jen. I study Public Policy and am working on a minor in business. I definitely agree with that! It seems more about brand than audience- we have higher ticket prices for weaker team and opponents. Dave Brandon doesn’t seem to care that number of student tickets went down and that students are not as student involved either.
Student: I completely agree. I’ve been saving up to buy tickets for this year from working on campus and decided that it wasn’t worth it. Not only did they get more expensive, you also can’t sit with your friends.
President Schlissel: Like most businesses... Athletics makes and spends $150 million per year. None of the money from the university goes to athletics, it is entirely self- supported. So what that means is that the football team tends to pays for all the other sports, including scholarships. It seems to me that they have become a little distracted and we need to make sure that the experience is not sucking resources away. It could be more fun if more students felt comfortable going since it is a part of the Michigan experience, so I think we’ll have to change something next year if there isn’t a change because we lose so much without the students. Then it’s almost like a side business.One thing I’ve learned in my time here is people want to win. A lot of people will get cranky when we don’t
And not a 6 and 5 win, more like a 9 and 3 win. And if they don’t win, everyone’s an expert and says what needs to be changed. And those changes take money. The market of collegiate athletics around the country takes high paid coaches and spectacular facilities. It takes money to be competitive and so the question becomes where do we get the money from that doesn’t hinder the education. It’s really a vicious cycle and is a real dilemma- how to strike the balance between investing enough to be good but not go too far to where you’re out of touch with the university.
Got a good idea?
Clarence: At the same time, I remember my freshman year, tickets weren’t as expensive and we had a better schedule but athletics still made a profit that year. I understand we want to increase it, yes, but it shouldn’t be at the cost of students.
President Schlissel: That’s what athletics is worried about- competing with the home experience. The root of the problem is it’s a sports entertainment business and now there are also legal things going on that may change things. It’s nice for student athletes to have these facilities and great programs so it is not all down sides, but it is a complicated thing.
Becca: Hi, I’m Becca. I’m a junior English major. I think we need something to build school morale. Between prices and other things people are turned off. We’re supposed to be excited to be here on a saturday, loving Michigan. Experiencing those are part of why I came here. I think it would also help if we increased student support at other games and were transparent about improvements being made.
President Schlissel: I’ve been told that the new teams are what changed up our schedules and I’m told it gets better next year and then the year after it’s even more competitive.
Luke: Hi, I’m Luke. I’m studying biomedical engineering. I had a roommate from Washington who came here for not just the athletics, but really for the combination of that and the great academics.
President Schlissel: Yeah, we’re definitely struggling with that balance and it can’t fade, it’s too much apart of Michigan’s culture.
Life of an Academic
President Schlissel: So what about academics? Have you all found your experiences to be that you’re able to meet with professors and get good mentoring and get the classes you want and need.
Student: Hi. I’m a senior studying psychology. I remember my first year, I had a lot of trouble getting into the classes I wanted and I’m an out of state student and I feel that we should be able to have the classes we want earlier because we are paying so much more money. In terms of minors, it’s been difficult to find any I like and it would nice if we had more freedom to shape the experience and possibly even make some of our own minors.
President Schlissel: Is that common experience you all are having?
Student: I know this year I had some major scheduling issues because most of the classes I need to take are all scheduled at the same time.
President Schlissel: So maybe this is something we might be able to do something about it. I know the problem with things like this at Brown was that no one wanted to take classes early or on Fridays.
Sarah: Hi, I’m Sarah, a Molecular Bio major. One thing that I struggled with this semester is that all of my classes are on Tuesdays and Thursday and the classes I need to take to graduate are overlapping. Plus, it’s hard to get into office hours with professors often enough to get them to know you.
Joseph: I’ve actually had very open professors and office hours in my experience. It does take a little bit of effort to send them an email and build that relationship but I’ve found that it is very much a give and take sort of situation.
President Schlissel: So, it sounds like what I am hearing is that it can vary across disciplines, especially in the sciences since you are trying to probably volunteer at research labs and professors may only have so many spots for more students applying.
Student: One experience I’ve had in helping with that is doing a study abroad trip. It was helpful in building that relationship because we had to take a class with the professor before we left with them the next semester.
President Schlissel: That’s part of what we’re raising money for- for opening up those opportunities for more students with our faculty!
Clarence: I’ve noticed that with Spanish I have had a better relationship with those professors and I really think it is because the classes are smaller as opposed to my Communication classes, where in some of them I’ve had up to 350 students in a class but with Spanish I’ve had all of them with below 30 students. In my Comm classes though I have an excellent GSI and it’s almost as good of a relationship because they can instruct me more on life immediately after college so I think it depends on what you’re looking for too.
Jess: Hi, I’m Jessica, I’m a Political Science major in LSA. I’ve never had a professor say no to wanting to get to know me more. I think GSIs are a great resource to do well in the class but for more world knowledge you really need a professor and sometimes that means making an extra effort.
President Schlissel: I’ve worked in very different sized academic environments. Brown, which was much smaller, Princeton, which was smaller even, then Berkley which is even larger than here. The pattern I’ve tended to notice is that at smaller schools people look out for you more but at bigger places you have to learn to take care of yourself a little more and have to be more assertive and I think those are good life skills to learn, especially now.
Advice about Advising
President Schlissel: So how about advising? Good experiences there?
Student: I have a great LS&A advisor, but when I went to my honors advisor it felt like I was a fish in a big pond. My departmental advising is also great in English, my advisor answered all of my questions.
Student: The advising I receive from Public Policy is great! I have heard that honors advising is trouble from a lot of friends though.
Student: I’ve had 3 different advisors because 2 left so I don’t really know mine. However, my MCS (Michigan Community Scholars) advising is great and I think the learning communities’ advising has been great in general.
Student: I’m in honors studying Biomedical Science and when I went to them with a broader question they couldn’t really help me narrow it down. Like, trying to figure out what you want to do with your life- not too helpful. I’m not even sure if that’s their job, but if not them then who else?
Tiffany: Hi, My name’s Tiffany. I just declared Biomolecular Science and I recently visited Ghana. I’m studying to be pre-med and in my experience it’s been really hard to get personal advice from the advisors. You can get your GPA advice, sure, but when I went to them looking for med schools to apply to they just game me this huge database to go to and there wasn’t really any help in deciding which ones I should check out or might fit me.
Student: I know the Alumni Association also has 30 minute mentors so that could also be another really great resource. Through that program you can reach out to alumni in your field who might be more help and have more relevant experience than the advisors here.
Clarence: I wholeheartedly agree with the learning community advising. My original advisor was great! The learning community advisors’ load is much smaller so they can have a more personal connection with students and that’s really helpful.
Jess: Going off of 30 min mentors, I’ve been to the Career Center a lot the past few years and one thing I’ve noticed is that they aren’t particularly good at helping students explore what they want to do or to find jobs and things like that. They’re great once you found those things but it would be really useful if they helped with finding them as well.
For the Love of Michigan
President Schlissel: So, what do you love about the place?! Let’s not just stay harping on what could be better. It’s also important to focus on things easy to take for granted.
Joseph: The opportunities here are amazing, awe-inspiring. It’s my 4th year here and I plan on taking a 5th just to do more
I’m also in The Men’s Glee Club (snaps) and so I’ve been able to travel a lot with them. This past Spring we traveled to the West Coast and the year before we went to the East Coast. this Spring we’re traveling around mid-west and then I’m staying for the South African tour we’re taking in 2 years. I’ve also studied at Camp Davis, went to Greece to do research, studied abroad in New Zealand on a fellowship- knowing everyone and being able to navigate the resources, you can do whatever you want here!
Clarence: I think that our student groups here are second to none! I’m in Men’s Glee Club too and I’m also a part of student radio and I’ve gotten to broadcast games at the Big House, which is an amazing feat few have been able to do. The opportunities you get just being a student are outstanding!
Hattie: What do you think about Michigan? Want are you thinking- what are your top three initiatives or goals?
President Schlissel: Well athletics wouldn’t be on that list. I would be thrilled to not worry about it because it’s not why I'm here (laughs), but I do understand its importance. I don't know a place that has the breadth of excellence that Michigan does and that is as well represented. We have over 100 graduate and professional programs in the top 10 that are broad in their scope. One big thing to accomplish I think is to centralize that knowledge; to try and figure out ways to bring that breadth of expertise together to solve big problems in the world. If we can do that well, this could be the most important place in the whole world- right here in Ann Arbor. That could also change the way we educate students, where students would be taking on issues in a society and learning by making a contribution throughout this experience. One thing that hasn’t come up in this meeting but came up a lot in the Spring is that I want to make it more diverse place and make it easier to learn from each other and to learn how other people think. This is an amazing time for you all where you have relatively few responsibilities and are exposed to so many people and I think we should be more diverse and also tap into what we have to promote a culture of diverse learning, understanding, and cultural understanding. I think this is the best job in the world for someone like me- having a place that’s good and wants to get better and Mary Sue did a fantastic job setting this place up for success. It really is the best environment in the world for someone who loves school.
Student: Hello! I am an international student from China. One thing I love are the free museums! My father is the Vice President of a university in China and I came here because a nobel laureate at my father’s unversity recommended Michigan. I love that you can find whatever you want to do here and love learning about those opportunities. I really love being a Michigan Wolverine (applause).
Student: I’ve had a very positive experience in the music school! I like that it is very organized and academic, which is important for musicians! I’ve only been here 2 weeks, but I think it is good for musicians to be smart, some are even starting businesses! For instance, my piano teacher teaches piano and life skills and he is a very animated professor and I really like it. It is very different from Asian schools of music and I’m proud of being here. (applause)
Student: What’s your perspective on North Campus?
President Schlissel: I’m still trying to figure it out. Vice President Harper and I rode a bus to get there just to get the experience together and it takes a while to go between them. If you can’t go between 2 points in 10 minutes, can’t take classes in both places and that’s kind of sad. I know high speed rails won’t happen in a short term (laughs), so the plan is now to build up the community on North Campus and make it just as vibrant as on central campus, especially for students who live on North Campus but don’t necessarily have classes there.
President Schlissel: Ok, so we’ve got to end this now. I’ll be hanging around for a while too for pictures and such. Thanks for coming