Reflections and Projections (January 27, 2020)

Dear Colleagues,

Reflecting over my first eighteen months as Chancellor has given me the opportunity to take stock of, and appreciate, our accomplishments as well as consider what still lies ahead.

To be certain, our successes derive from our collective effort as a team comprising many hard-working and talented individuals. 

I would like to share some of our selected achievements, big and small, and take a brief time-out to thank you for all your help in getting us here and also thank you for all the effort you will undoubtedly invest going forward. 

As you will see from the list of selected items below, we have been very busy!

Building and Enhancing Administrative Efficiency

  • Realigned and/or restructured 
    • Enrollment Management and Student Life, 
    • Research, 
    • Athletics, and 
    • Emergency Management 
  • Because of personnel retirements or departures and administrative restructuring, we are (re)building a high performing senior management team, welcoming the following accomplished individuals to their new positions (net zero new hires)
    • Provost & Executive Vice Chancellor - Dr. Susan Alcock
    • Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement - Dr. Casandra Ulbrich 
    • Chief of Staff to the Chancellor - Keisha Blevins, JD  
    • Vice Provost for Enrollment Management - Melissa Stone 
    • Vice Provost for Research (interim) - Dr. Yi Lu Murphey 
    • Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety - Gary Gorski 
    • Director of the Office of Institutional Equity - Pamela Heatlie, JD 
    • Executive Director Institutional Research and Effectiveness - Becky Chadwick

Enhancing the Student, Faculty and Staff Experience

  • Enhanced the student commencement and convocation experiences. 
  • Arranged free student memberships to The Henry Ford. 
  • Arranged free access to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal for students, faculty and staff.
  • Retained a Washington DC-based firm, McAllister & Quinn, to help us enhance external research funding to support faculty and student work.
  • Installed new Block “M” outside of the University Center to help build pride and better create a sense of place.
  • Opened our new, expanded and enhanced Stamelos Art Gallery.
  • Installed Zagster bikeshare (our campus station was the most utilized compared to all other stations in the city of Dearborn system.

Engaging with our Communities

  • Launched new and improved version of “Reporter.”
  • Launched UM-Dearborn podcast series to share campus activities.
  • Launched Campus Conversations with the Chancellor to share campus updates, receive comments and suggestions, and engage in dialogue.
  • Celebrated many campus and external community events at Chancellor’s residence to get to know faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and community leaders more personally and share news of campus developments. 
  • Held first UM-Dearborn tailgate at home (Ann Arbor) and Bowl football games to better build alumni relations.   

Planning for the Future

  • Completed the Situational Analysis to contextualize strategic planning effort.
  • Finalizing Strategic Plan (more than 150 participants, 177-page report and 211 recommendations).
  • Developing a Strategic Enrollment Management (SEM) plan.
  • Prepared Urban Futures white paper outlining a coordinated university-wide Spire of Excellence.
  • Conducted student housing-demand study in support of a strategic enrollment strategy.
  • Developing new Responsibility Center Management (RCM) based budget model to assign budget responsibility to operational units and incent innovation.
  • Launched Thought Leader Series to bring creative ideas to campus.
  • Ensured UM-Dearborn representation on Detroit Innovation Center Steering Committee allowing Dearborn participation.

Of course, all of our planning is most assuredly a necessary first step to efficacious action.

We have but a moment to catch our breath and appreciate what together we have accomplished.

So what is next on our horizon? 

  • Next month (February) we will be holding multiple Town Hall meetings to discuss in detail the Strategic Plan suggestions and seek input on prioritization.  More very soon on dates and times!
  • Once our Strategic Plan is finalized, we will build appropriate teams to develop objectives, goals, metrics, resource needs and implementation plans for each priority. We hope this will be completed in the March - April time frame.
  • Under the leadership of Director Chadwick, we will be expanding and improving our ability to make data-informed decisions and improve our institutional effectiveness. 
  • Working under the leadership of VPEM Stone, with campus wide collaboration, by the end of the semester we will finalize and begin to operationalize our new SEM plan, focusing on increasing enrollment and enhancing student success.
  • Similarly, once our new RCM budget model is complete (hopefully by the end of the semester), we will run it in “shadow” mode for at least one cycle to identify and address any unforeseen “glitches” and fine-tune operation.
  • I have asked our Institutional Advancement team to help ramp up significantly our alumni relations and fundraising enterprise.
  • Beginning this semester, I along with the Provost, Senior Academic Leadership and faculty will formulate plans to launch the Urban Futures Spire of Excellence.
  • Working under the leadership of Provost Alcock, this semester we will plan for and launch searches for two college deans and a permanent vice provost for research.
  • Later this summer, we will be opening and moving into our new state-of-the-art Engineering Laboratory Building.                               

These are just a few items on our institutional “to do” list. Although this may appear a bit daunting, I am encouraged and emboldened by the outstanding talented and indefatigable faculty and staff.  

Working together, we will build upon our past success and lead UM-Dearborn to the next epoch in our exciting future, a future filled with promise for our students, faculty, staff and community.

Go Blue. Go Dearborn!

Domenico Grasso


Office of the Chancellor

1070 - Administration Building
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128
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Phone: 313-593-5500
Fax: 313-593-5204