'You did the university proud'
Chancellor Domenico Grasso hosted a campus Town Hall with U-M President Mark Schlissel, where the U-M leader shared information about university initiatives and answered questions from the UM-Dearborn campus community.
U-M President Mark Schlissel met virtually with UM-Dearborn community members to discuss the Fall 2021 semester, COVID vaccination and the importance of environmental sustainability efforts, among other topics
Chancellor Domenico Grasso hosted the April 28 Town Hall where the U-M leader shared information about university initiatives and answered questions from the UM-Dearborn campus community.
Here are a few takeaways from the hour-long event.
President Schlissel says congratulations and thank you.
Schissel started the Town Hall by saying he’s impressed with the work done at UM-Dearborn and said the campus community should be proud. He also congratulated the new Michigan graduates, who were honored in a series of graduation ceremonies from April 29 through May 4.
“It’s always a big deal graduating college. It marks a life-changing moment,” he said. “I’m proud of our graduates and our faculty and staff who helped them get to this stage.”
Schissel said he made a virtual visit to campus in April and met with the Faculty Senate, Staff Senate, student leaders, along with Chancellor Grasso and the campus’ leadership team. After speaking with campus, Schissel said he walked away with a sense of optimism.
“We talked about what the fall is going to look like, the importance of vaccination, what the future holds for the university, and how we can best serve our students and the state by changing lives through higher ed,” he said. “Everyone in Dearborn has pulled together in a way I’m really impressed with.”
Schlissel thanked the campus community for focusing on the mission of public service, applying knowledge and developing leaders. “You’ve fulfilled your commitments to the university, your commitments to our students. I’m very grateful and you did the university proud under such challenging circumstances.”
The fall transition: Schlissel anticipates ‘a new normal’ as 2022 approaches.
Schlissel said he views the fall semester as a transition from the university’s adaptation to the pandemic to the year 2022, “which I hope is a pretty normal year.”
Schlissel said in-person education is preferred. With vaccination opportunities increasing, “we have to get back to providing education the best way we know how.”
He said the fall semester will likely have mask wearing on campus and a variety of remote course offerings, but he anticipates changes will occur during the fall semester and into 2022.
“As more people are vaccinated and there are fewer potential hosts for the virus, we’ll be able to get back to more and more normal activities,” he said. “As the pandemic comes under increasing control, some of the strictures on how we live and convene and on the kind of events we can do together will diminish. Hopefully by the end of the year, we will have achieved a new normal.”
But that “new normal” doesn’t need to overlook lessons the university learned from the pandemic like the importance of flexible work arrangements and expanding educational reach through more online offerings.
“Although our sweet spot is a largely in-person education, it doesn’t mean that we can’t be flexible,” Schlissel said. “I think there are things we learned that will serve us well in the future.”
COVID vaccination and education is key to managing the pandemic.
For a successful transition to post-pandemic, Schlissel said vaccination — and education around the vaccine — is essential.
Schissel, the first physician U-M president, has research expertise in immunology. He reflected on COVID from a biomedical science perspective: “We’ve gone from the first description of a new disease to the identification of the virus that causes it to its genetic sequence to a diagnostic test… to a vaccine — all inside of a year.” He called it a pinch-me moment in bioscience and, having done immune system-focused research, Schissel said he’s confident in the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.
Schlissel also said he supports UM-Dearborn’s fall plan of strongly encouraging vaccination.
“The vaccine is really the key,” said Schlissel, who received the Pfizer vaccine, but said he would have taken any of the approved vaccines. “COVID is much more dangerous by far than the rate of (vaccine) side effects.”
The university continues to focus on carbon neutrality.
Talking about the U-M Carbon Neutrality Report, which was recently released, Schlissel said the three U-M campuses and Michigan Medicine share the same goal of reducing the carbon footprint — but the approaches will be different. “Each of the campuses will figure out how to achieve our shared set of goals.”
Since UM-Dearborn is a commuter campus, there will be a focus on reducing Scope 3 emissions, which are caused by actions like driving to campus every day. Grasso said campus leadership is currently exploring ways to do this. Approaches may be flexible work arrangements, telecommuting options for employees and multi-purpose infrastructure like solar-paneled carports.
Schlissel said some of the carbon neutrality report’s recommendations will take time, but others can be implemented soon. A near-future action will be for the U-M system to get purchased electricity from renewable resources. Speaking of the report and getting to carbon neutrality, Schlissel said, “It’s an essential responsibility that we have to one another and to broader society.”
During the Town Hall, Schlissel also spoke about the importance of U-M sexual misconduct policies and survivor support, balancing vaccine hesitancy and COVID safety, the U-M Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer national search and more. You can watch it here.