The Detroit News reports on University of Michigan stem cell research that holds promise for people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The article quotes Eva Feldman, a UM professor and neurologist who’s leading a clinical trial using stem cells to treat patients: “I am extremely hopeful that we have found a way early in the course of the disease to make a true difference. Any treatment that can slow the progression of the disease is truly a home run for Lou Gehrig.” [Source]
Federal grant funds of $622,884 will flow to the city of Ann Arbor as a result of a much larger grant that was awarded to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI). UMTRI received a $14.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to pilot the use of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) safety technology in the city.
Ann Arbor city council action taken on May 13, 2013 – at a meeting that had started on May 6 – formally accepted the money and authorized a contract with the University of Michigan. The money will be used by the city of Ann Arbor to install telecommunications fiber, sensors and electronic equipment as well as some network support.
Reuters reports on how federal spending cuts under sequestration are affecting university research. The report quotes Steve Forrest, vice president of research at the University of Michigan: “There (are) going to be a lot of research jobs at risk. That will hit young researchers disproportionately hard.” [Source]
University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Jan. 19, 2012): The sixth floor of UM’s Ross School of Business was the venue for January’s meeting, where regents and executives dispatched the university’s business with an alacrity called for by president Mary Sue Coleman. There was no indication at the time that U.S. president Barack Obama would be speaking here later this month. News of his speech – to be delivered on Friday morning, Jan. 27 at UM’s Al Glick Fieldhouse – was announced on Monday.
Instead, regents dealt with less high-profile matters, approving a range of action items with little discussion. Those included funding for a major expansion of the UM Health System into Wayne County, along the I-275 corridor; renovations that will transform the entrance to Schembechler Hall and make a museum of football memorabilia more accessible to the public; and improvements to the university’s Northwood apartment complex on north campus.
But much of the meeting consisted of reports. Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, presented a sobering outlook for future research funding, calling the climate for federal funding “worrisome.” After his talk, regent Andrea Fischer Newman pointed out that tuition is helping to support the university’s $1.2 billion research program – about 25% of those research expenditures are covered internally.
Regents also heard from dean Alison Davis-Blake, who described how the business school is countering the caricature of managers that are only focused on short-term profits, and whose management skills consist of the ability to say, “You’re fired!” Graduates of Ross are taught to think more broadly, she said.
An item not on the agenda of the Jan. 19 meeting received considerable attention during public commentary. One student and three professors spoke against an effort to unionize graduate student research assistants (GSRAs).
Also during public commentary, the chair of the Sierra Club’s Huron Valley group raised concerns over the proposed Fuller Road Station, saying that the joint UM/city of Ann Arbor project runs counter to the university’s sustainability efforts. Fuller Road Station’s initial phase is a proposed parking structure, located near the UM medical campus, that could hold over 1,000 vehicles.
University of Michigan board of regents meeting (May 19, 2011): This month’s regents meeting, held at the Dearborn campus, began with rare public discord between a majority of board members and UM president Mary Sue Coleman – and an even rarer public debate between regents.
The issue was a resolution introduced at the start of Thursday’s meeting – an item not originally on the agenda – to support the rights of graduate student research assistants to decide whether to organize and be represented by a labor union. Before the vote, Coleman spoke out against the move, describing the relationship between graduate researchers and faculty as a special one that was fundamentally different than an employee-employer relationship. Changing the nature of that interaction could affect the university in significant ways, which she said caused her deep concern. The board’s two Republican regents – Andrew Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman – also objected to the resolution, both criticizing the fact that it had been introduced at the last minute without time for adequate discussion.
The resolution passed on a 6-2 vote, with Richner and Newman dissenting. It was notable in part because, with the exception of votes regarding tuition increases, nearly all votes by the board are unanimous, and in accord with the administration’s recommendations.
The meeting also included a variety of other action items, but none that spurred commentary by regents. They voted to increase room and board rates for 2011-12 by 3%, approved the schematic design for a $52 million expansion of Crisler Arena, and authorized the tenure or promotion of 169 faculty members on the Ann Arbor campus.
Regents also authorized creation of the Institute for Health Care Policy & Innovation, a new venture to be housed at renovated space in the North Campus Research Complex (NCRC) – a $13.7 million renovation project that regents also authorized at the meeting. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs, said the institute will be the largest co-located group of health care researchers anywhere in the world.
In other action related to the NCRC, regents approved agreements – among a collection of 17 conflict-of-interest disclosures – with six start-ups that will lease space in the former Pfizer site, as part of the university’s Venture Accelerator program.
And in another item added to the agenda during the meeting, regents voted to approve the hiring of Lisa Rudgers as UM’s new vice president for global communications and strategic initiatives, effective June 1 with a salary of $270,000.
The board also got an update from Sue Scarnecchia, UM’s vice president and general counsel, on the Compliance Resource Center – a new website that coordinates various compliance efforts at the university.
At the end of the meeting, philosophy professor Carl Cohen spoke during public commentary, passionately urging regents to intercede in the renovation of East Quad in order to prevent the Residential College from being pushed into smaller, inadequate space. The RC is a living-learning program that Cohen helped start in the 1960s, and that’s housed at East Quad. If regents did nothing, he said, “your Residential College will atrophy and fade away.”
University of Michigan board of regents meeting (Jan. 20, 2011): The university’s top research administrator, along with a faculty member who has successfully straddled the academic and entrepreneurial worlds, addressed regents at their January meeting about how university research is aiding economic development.
Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research and chair of the board for economic development agency Ann Arbor SPARK, described the concept of an “innovation pipeline,” with the input of funding and ideas yielding an output of jobs, prosperity and expanded opportunities for faculty and students. The process has leaks and clogs, he noted, but the university has strategically applied patches – citing as an example the Venture Accelerator program that launched this month.
And Jim Baker, director of the Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, was on hand to embody the efforts of faculty who successfully translate research into economic development. Baker’s talk focused on the rewards of creating new businesses – he observed that one reason why students come to UM is to enhance their economic prospects and improve their lives. Baker talked about the importance of keeping those graduates in Michigan to aid in the state’s economic recovery – and doing that requires jobs. He noted that the four companies he has helped launch in Ann Arbor have brought in $160 million in investments and created 45 new jobs so far.
Regents took action on several items during the meeting, including approval of two projects related to the athletics department: A $52 million renovation and expansion of Crisler Arena – the second phase of a major overhaul of that facility, which was built in 1968; and a $20 million project to install video scoreboards at Michigan Stadium, Crisler Arena and Yost Ice Arena. David Brandon, UM’s athletic director, made a brief appearance at the meeting but did not address the regents publicly. And this month’s biggest athletic-related news at UM – that Brady Hoke was hired as head football coach – received only a mention as part of president Mary Sue Coleman’s opening remarks. He did not attend the meeting.
Seven people spoke during public commentary on a variety of topics. Among them were: (1) a call to reassess Fuller Road Station, a proposed parking structure and possible train station near UM’s medical campus; ( 2) questions about the medical leave of Ken Magee, executive director of UM’s Department of Public Safety (DPS); (3) thanks from the leader of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival for the university’s support of that annual event; (4) criticism of the use of live animals to train survival flight nurses; and (5) a plea for financial support for The Loyal Opposition to the Status Quo (LOSQ), a nonprofit launched to address disparities between African-Americans and Caucasians.
University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Sept. 16, 2010): This month’s public meeting of the regents lasted just over an hour and included some unusual elements, along with the usual fare.
Board chair Julia Darlow read a brief statement near the start of the meeting, stating support for anyone in the university community who comes under attack for their identity – an oblique reference to what’s been characterized as the cyber-bullying of Chris Armstrong, the Michigan Student Assembly president. Armstrong, who is gay, is the target of the “Chris Armstrong Watch” blog, maintained by Andrew Shirvell, a state assistant attorney general.
Later in the meeting during his regular report on MSA activities, Armstrong criticized the Ann Arbor city council for its recent proposal to ban porch couches, noting that although he planned to meet with some councilmembers later that day, they had not consulted students before taking action on the issue. At their Sept. 20 meeting, council is expected to vote on an ordinance amendment to ban upholstered furniture on porches.
Also during Thursday’s meeting, regents approved renovations and upgrades for several facilities on campus. The vote for a high-profile project to add permanent night lighting at Michigan Stadium passed without comment, while a seemingly innocuous elevator replacement at South Quad yielded an uncharacteristic, albeit relatively brief, discussion about long-term planning for the renovation of that dorm.
Regents heard a presentation about the research work being done at UM’s Institute for Social Research, given by ISR’s director, James Jackson. They also heard from Stephen Forrest, UM’s vice president for research, that the university had for a second year passed the $1 billion mark in research expenditures for fiscal 2009-10, increasing 12% over the previous year.
Not faring as well are donations to the university. Jerry May, vice president for development, reported that contributions dropped 4% to $254 million during 2009-10, which ended June. 30. However, there was an uptick in the last half of that fiscal year and the first two months of this year, which May described as “very healthy.”
The meeting concluded with one speaker during public commentary. Douglas Smith criticized regents Andrew Richner and Andrea Fischer Newman for, among other things, failing to deliver on a campaign promise to hold tuition increases to the rate of inflation. Noting that the two Republicans were running for re-election, he urged the public to vote against them in November. After his remarks, three of the Democrats on the board came to the two Republicans’ defense.
University of Michigan Board of Regents meeting (Jan. 21, 2010): At their first board meeting of the year, UM regents approved a raft of athletics-related projects, got an update on the university’s research efforts and applauded UM provost Terry Sullivan, who was recently named as the first female president of the University of Virginia.
The relatively short meeting also included a report on the university’s contribution to earthquake relief efforts in Haiti.
Two people spoke during public commentary. A local Sierra Club board member, James D’Amour, told regents that the group opposed the Fuller Road Station, a joint UM/city of Ann Arbor project being built on city-owned parkland. He urged them to “take no part in this unethical act.” They later approved the project.
And UM student Alex O’Dell described his vision for TEDxUofM, an April 9 event on campus being modeled after the influential TED Talks, where speakers get 18 minutes to share “ideas worth spreading.”
University of Michigan engineering professor Ann Marie Sastry – CEO and co-founder of a hot, new automotive battery development company – sits shivering in her overcoat in the cold Cobo basement at the Detroit auto show.
But Sastry and her company, Ann Arbor-based Sakti3, is far from “out in the cold.” They are in the auto business for the long haul and do not plan on being relegated to a basement booth forever. Eventually, if all goes well, her company’s battery technology will be powering the cars upstairs on the main show floor’s Electric Avenue.
What is it about the “Eureka moment” in her UM lab that prompted her to help found a company two years ago? What is it that turned the heads and opened the wallets of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and cleantech venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, who chipped in $2 million out the gate? What exactly is her company’s battery technology?
University of Michigan Board of Regents (Sept. 17, 2009): UM regents heard two presentations at their Thursday board meeting that closely linked the university and the community of Ann Arbor. Jim Kosteva, UM director of community relations, gave an update on the ways that the university is involved with the city, including payments as well as partnerships. And Matt Schroeder, president of the Ann Arbor firefighters Local 693, spoke during public comment on the possibility of additional layoffs among city firefighters and the potential impact it would have on the university.
Regents also heard several other reports and updates: from the director of the Life Sciences Institute; an architect working on the new basketball practice facility at Crisler Arena; and two alumni who hope to get the university more involved in an effort called Patriot Week.
And during her report on the board’s personnel, compensation and governance committee, regent Andrea Fischer Newman said that UM president Mary Sue Coleman had requested – and the committee agreed – not to raise Coleman’s salary this year.
We’ll begin with the issues most directly related to the Ann Arbor community: Kosteva’s report, and Schroeder’s public commentary.
Jim Woolliscroft was Harlan Hatcher’s personal physician, and near the end of the former University of Michigan president’s life, Woolliscroft made house calls to check in on him. That gave them time to talk. And one of the things they talked about was UM’s purchase of the property that became North Campus.
Hatcher told Woolliscroft that when UM leaders decided to buy the 800 acres of farmland north of Ann Arbor, they didn’t know exactly how they’d use it – but they knew it would transform the university.
Woolliscroft, dean of the UM Medical School, told that anecdote Tuesday afternoon to the 100 or so people gathered at a forum on the future of the Pfizer research campus, which UM is in the process of acquiring. This purchase isn’t quite as bold as the one made in the early 1950s, Woolliscroft said, but its potential to transform in unimaginable ways is great: “That opportunity is phenomenal.”
The forum was one of three held this year for faculty to talk about how the university will use the former Pfizer facility. Tuesday’s hour-long session focused on process, with administrators outlining just how they’ll go about deciding what academic research or other activities are located at the site.