{ Letter from the President }


Mary Sue Coleman

Not since the Great Depression has our mission as a public university been as important, or challenging, as it has been this past year. As the state and the nation face these times of economic uncertainty, we remain committed to maintaining and strengthening the University of Michigan’s unique environment of teaching, research, and leadership.

Where other universities have been forced to close academic programs and suspend construction of new facilities, U-M has been able to move forward through careful planning and the diligent use and investment of resources.

As president, this economic climate has given me pause to appreciate more than ever the values and strengths of our university. My seven years at Michigan have been built upon a depth of experiences in higher education, including tenures at the universities of Texas, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Iowa. Like U-M, all are public universities; and three, like Michigan, are members of the Association of American Universities, with large and robust research enterprises.

Each of these institutions, with its unique merits, is outstanding. But with our breadth and depth, the University of Michigan stands alone. This university is in a different league with its national and international standing, its scholarly scope, and most of its 19 schools ranked among the very best. With our range of academic programs and our culture of interdisciplinary cooperation, the opportunities we offer our undergraduate and graduate students, as well as our faculty, are simply not available at other leading universities.

This is the essence of The Michigan Difference.

Preserving what is special about the University of Michigan has been at the forefront of our decision-making about the university’s finances. Keeping the U-M strong during this tough economic time has been our highest priority. As a leading university, we are critical to the future well-being of thousands of young people. And we are critical to the rebirth of the state of Michigan as it deals with the refocusing of the auto industry and the development of a more entrepreneurial economy. In that sense, we represent a larger societal purpose that builds on our long-standing contributions in teaching and research.

The University of Michigan is moving forward because of the leadership of our Board of Regents and the diligence of our financial team. Morale is high: we are confounding people both here and nationally with our financial stability. This solidity, along with our ability to recruit and retain faculty and staff, as well as attract record numbers of students, is the foundation for our future.

Four activities underlie our continuing stability and strong performance.

First, we have aggressively focused on what the corporate world knows as market presence. We are seeing results in all aspects of our operations: strong admissions; steady growth in research funding, which we anticipate will continue and be augmented by federal stimulus dollars; contributions to economic development activities with genuine impact throughout our region; successful faculty hiring at a time when few universities are extending offers; and productive faculty, as evidenced by accomplishments such as membership in the national academies and appointments to prominent national leadership positions.

Second, we are generating funding at a time when revenue growth in most organizations is extremely challenging, if it occurs at all. Our research funding stands at record levels, with a notable increase in industry awards. In FY 2009, total research expenditures exceeded $1 billion for the first time, a milestone that highlights the university’s role as an economic resource benefiting the entire state. Support from our donors has reached historic highs and continues, even with a downturn that surely is affecting their resources. We are offering more classes in spring and summer terms; treating more patients throughout our Health System; and seeing more students transfer from community colleges.

Third, we are deeply committed to controlling costs. We have asked people and programs across the institution to make sacrifices, and the savings are significant. Our efforts have included changes in employee benefits, such as health care and institutional retirement contributions for new employees; discontinuing operation of our public television station; being more deliberate in how we use and allocate space on campus; reducing energy usage; and asking our schools, colleges, and units to accept budget cuts.

And lastly, the university’s cash and balance sheet management is the envy of higher education. We have an excellent bond rating that represents an external assessment of confidence in our market strength, financial position, and resource management. Our investment and spending rule strategy has been prudent and is sustaining us at a time when other universities are being forced to make drastic cuts.

The university’s executive team and I are determined not merely to hold our own as an institution, but to advance among our peers on a global scale. We anticipate more budget challenges in the near future, but building on our strengths, we remain confident in the university’s ability to lead the way forward.

As our society works through this financial crisis, there has been much discussion about the source of our nation’s economic strengths and potential for growth. An educated, innovative workforce is critical to this future, and the University of Michigan—in Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn—is on firm footing to prepare tomorrow’s engineers, artists, lawyers, economists, scientists, and entrepreneurs.

This commitment is amplified by our collaboration with Michigan State University and Wayne State University as partners in the University Research Corridor. The URC is a testament to the power of research universities to develop intellectual capital that both stimulates the economy and improves our quality of life.

Higher education is the source of the people and ideas that are the driving force for our collective future as a region and nation. We must work together to protect, sustain, and grow the University of Michigan, because more than ever, our work matters—in teaching, research, health care, and in service to our state and the world.


Mary Sue Coleman Signature

Mary Sue Coleman | President

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