UM-Dearborn State of the University 2023


State of the University Address 2023

February 9, 2023

Good afternoon colleagues, students and especially special guests:

• Dearborn Heights Mayor, Bill Bazzi, and

• Senior Academic Provost, Wayne County Community College District, Tim Meyer.

What an extraordinary time to be at UM-Dearborn!

I’ve been looking forward to today and to a conversation about our accomplishments and aspirations as a campus community.

UM-Dearborn is not just an assemblage of classrooms, laboratories, and offices.

Rather, we are a vibrant community of dreamers, innovators, and change agents.

Our campus is a place of support and achievement, hard work and limitless possibilities.

We’ll explore all of that this afternoon. 

In planning for today, my wife Susan advised me not to be too clever or pithy, charming or intellectual.

In other words, she said, just be yourself.

But I do plan to try something a little different.  

I will spend less time here at the dias and then turn to you – our faculty, staff, and students – to showcase where we are as a university and where we will go next. 

And at the end, we’ll enjoy the Winter Carnival, even if it does feel a little more like a spring festival. 

I am ending my fifth year as chancellor, and I’ve never been prouder of UM-Dearborn’s impact or more excited about our potential.

My enthusiasm is amplified by the arrival of Santa Ono as the 15th president of the University of Michigan.

His energy is infectious.

It was an honor to welcome him to campus in December, and I know we can expect many future visits, selfies, and no doubt tweets.

He will again be on campus next Friday, February 17th, for a small reception to which you are all invited.

The pandemic upended our world, including how we teach, learn, and work.

Yet our students were flexible and focused, balancing their studies and extracurricular activities regardless of format, venue, or time of day.

They continued to learn, grow, and contribute. 

Because of our experience and what we have learned, we are doubling down on our identity as a non-residential campus.

Dean of Students Amy Finley and her strategic planning working group are leading the effort to make UM-Dearborn the model 21st-century commuter school. 

Over the past five years, we’ve invested significant efforts in crafting our collective vision for the future.

We’ve built the runway.

We have a flight plan.

And now, we’re ready to take off. 

Our leadership team is strong.

We have outstanding vice chancellors, deans and senior leaders across campus. 

I again want to welcome Gabriella Scarlatta as provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Her experience and leadership skills are vital to the success of both students and faculty.

Our financial direction and planning are solid under the watchful eye of Vice Chancellor Bryan Dadey.

We remain well prepared for the vicissitudes of demographics and the related changes in revenues.  

We continue to

build our strategic reserves, 

grow our philanthropic giving, 

and create an accommodating, flexible work environment. 

Our budget model gives our colleges and service units the tools and flexibility to make the best local decisions specific to their needs and abilities.

We may face challenging budget decisions in the coming months, but I am confident that we have the right people making the right decisions at the right time and in the right places to remain a strong and robust institution.

Donor support continues to be important, and Vice Chancellor Casandra Ulbrich has been working feverishly to restructure and staff Institutional Advancement for the launch of our upcoming capital campaign.

Thoughtful and meaningful work drives us.

Our strategic plan – the GO BLUEprint for Success – will make UM-Dearborn more relevant and vital than ever.

We’re doing so through

improved student experiences and success; 

support for faculty and staff excellence; 

and a focus on economic sustainability. 

Of course, underpinning our entire blueprint is a steadfast commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. 

Thank you, everyone, especially:

- Carrie Shumaker,

- Keisha Blevins,

- Gabriella Scarlatta,

- Bryan Dadey,

- and Marc Brigolin, for co-leading this strategic work. 

We are just beginning to quantify the impact of our plan with key performance indicators, and it would be easy to dedicate an entire afternoon to our progress.

But let me share some highlights.

Student success…. it is our overriding priority. 

UM-Dearborn’s unique focus on practice-based learning gives students opportunities to experiment, analyze, question, and, yes… perhaps even fail, so they are best prepared for the workforce and the world. 

I’m proud that our four-year graduation rates have grown by 3 percent during my time here.

This is a credit to our students, our faculty and our staff.

It’s not just work in the classroom that carries our students over the finish line.

We provide programs like:

- Dearborn Support,

- Experience+,

- our Wolverine Mentor Collective,

- and outstanding mental health services. 

We still have a large gap between where our graduation rates are now and where we want to be, so we must remain vigilant in and out of the classroom. 

Being a UM-Dearborn student means engaging with exceptional professors, who are leaders in their fields.

We’ve seen external research funding double in the past five years.

Many of our professors were recently ranked among the top 2 percent of scientists cited worldwide.

Just as important as the life of the mind — is our physical environment.

Executive Director Carol Glick and her team are identifying ways to elevate our sustainability.

We are paying closer attention to how we use our buildings, and adjusting energy needs when necessary.

Our water-filling stations have replaced the equivalent of more than 100,000 plastic bottles.

Think of that – a bottle for almost every seat in Michigan Stadium! 

As I mentioned earlier, DEI is a major part of our strategic plan.

We appointed the inaugural Chancellor’s Inclusive Excellence Fellows to build on our these initiatives.

Engineering Professor Hafiz Malik… and Terri Laws, Associate Professor of African and African American Studies are working on two inspiring projects that will make our campus a more welcoming and supportive place to learn, teach and research.

This is part of our $1 million investment in diversity initiatives.

I want to thank Keisha Blevins;

our dedicated leaders;

and our campuswide DEI working group for their efforts.

It’s so important to celebrate our diversity.

I’m proud to host this event in the newly named James C. Renick University Center.

Chancellor Renick was a champion of inclusion and community engagement.

The recent renaming ensures future generations will know, respect, and treasure his legacy.

Looking to the future, we are conducting national searches for deans of our College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters and our College of Business.

We are indebted to Deans Martin Hershock and Raju Balakrishnan for their leadership over the past decade and look forward to building upon their achievements.

We will celebrate their leadership and contributions later this year. 

We continuously strive for improvement.

We always want to hear from students about how UM-Dearborn can better help them succeed.

So we’re launching an engaging initiative.

Students should watch for a new booth here in the Renick Center, where they can share their ideas and concerns directly with me and other senior leaders.

I may be showing my age, but I was influenced by Charlie Brown’s friend Lucy in the “Peanuts” comic strip, who sets up a booth and superciliously dispenses advice, for the bargain fee of five cents.

Our booth will be a little different.

We will be welcoming and, because it is not covered by insurance, won’t even charge a penny.

We’ll focus on listening as well as dispensing advice, if desired.

I look forward to our conversations and maybe even a cup of coffee or tea. 

Today’s advice may make a better tomorrow.

We also know tomorrow will have its hurdles.

Almost every public university in Michigan faces shrinking enrollment pools, and our state will see a decline in high school graduates over the next 10 years.

UM-Dearborn will not be immune from this challenge. 

Because more than 80% of our revenue derives from student tuition, significant changes in enrollment could be damaging. 

But because we are strategic, we are working on creative ways to address this potential decline, mitigate its consequences and continue to attract students. 

Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Melissa Stone recently released a draft strategic enrollment plan.

It is absolutely essential to have YOUR best thinking on this, too.

We will review all your feedback and share the final plan later this semester. 

Shortly, Vice Chancellor for External Relations Ken Kettenbeil… and Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy, Bailey Ayers-Korpal, will share ways all of us can tell OUR UM-Dearborn story to attract more students.

And that story is powerful.

It celebrates what is so special about being a Dearborn Wolverine. 

We must, and will, recruit and retain students by providing experiences and opportunities unlike any other university in southeastern Michigan.

Experiences where students learn by doing, alongside talented faculty, leading to academic success and rewarding careers.

There is no campus like ours. 

We are taking off in important new directions.

And we continue to commit all we have to create the optimal experience for our students. 

Now, I would like to turn to just some of the incredible students, staff and faculty who are moving our people-centered, practice-based mission forward. 

This new video shows one of the most important aspects of student success: removing financial barriers and reworking our financial aid model. 

Let’s watch.  Video plays. 

This focused on the Go Blue guarantee, but I want to emphasize that our new need-based strategy accommodates students across a broad socio-economic spectrum.

Puwadon could not be with us, but would Steven and Vale-ree-a stand so we can thank them? 

Valeria, we know we have invested well.

You’re a valued member of our community! 

After our students enroll, we must ensure that they feel engaged, guided, and on the right track to complete their degrees and ultimately launch their careers.

The Wolverine Mentor Collective does that. 

I’d like to invite Allison Kinsey, Assistant Director of the Office of Student Life, to the stage to lead a conversation about the program. 


Thank you Allison, Kelsey, Nicole and Victoria. 

I mentioned that we are  updating our university messaging and advertising campaigns so we are clearly articulating why students should continue their education in Dearborn.

I now ask Ken and Bailey to join me for a conversation on stage. 


You all know I am driven by the grand challenges of our time and ensuring that our students are well prepared to make a positive difference in the world once they graduate. 

Faculty are critical to this preparation.

Let’s hear from professors in all of our colleges who are infusing exciting research and practice-based learning in their classes and labs.


We have with us today Georges, Suvranta, Elena, Kris, Kahlyan, Nick and Natalie.

Can you please stand to be recognized. 

Student success doesn’t happen if students’ well-being is not at the forefront. 

How students feel, and how we support them inside and outside of the classroom, should be our number one priority because it is tied directly to our other number-one priority - student success. 

When you’re the chancellor, you can have two number one priorities.

Joining me to discuss how we are addressing student mental health are Sara Byczek, director of our counseling and psychological services - and Maddie Drury, Dearborn Support Coordinator. 


I would like to thank all of today’s participants, as well as the Office of External Relations and University Unions and Events for organizing this afternoon’s program.

And thanks to Greg Taylor and his team for handling the outstanding event production.

I bet it was a lot easier when I just spoke for 30 minutes! 

We can all be proud of the support and inspiration we provide our high-achieving students, helping their dreams become reality. 

Although some challenges loom on the horizon, I am confident in our collective talent, hard work, imagination and resourcefulness.  

Let’s go forward together with determination and passion, and pursue our “legacy of excellence,” as is rightfully emblazoned on the walls of the Renick University Center. 

Thank you for everything you do to distinguish UM-Dearborn.

It is a privilege and honor to lead this extraordinary community.

One of my favorite authors, Sinclair Lewis, once quipped, “Winter is not a season; it’s an occupation.”

But every occupation deserves time off, so now let’s enjoy our carnival. 

Go Blue – Go Dearborn!

And let’s Go Celebrate!

Office of the Chancellor

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