ANN ARBOR, Mich.—With a designated location and the appointment of its founding director, the University of Michigan's Center for Educational Outreach and Academic Success is beginning its work.
An outcome of the Diversity Blueprints Task Force report of 2007, the center is charged with promoting and coordinating educational and community outreach and engagement activities, and strengthening partnerships between the University and K-12 school systems and communities in the State of Michigan.
"Following passage of Proposal 2, I asked the entire University community to work together to develop ways to maintain and expand diversity on campus," said President Mary Sue Coleman. "We know from our peer institutions that community outreach and K-12 pipeline programs are paramount in states where affirmative action in college admissions is no longer an option. The center is a uniquely Michigan approach to this challenge and will strengthen our partnerships with a broad range of constituents."
In its report, the Blueprints Task Force called for the University to develop fully coordinated academic and community outreach programming to expand educational outreach and partnerships, especially ways to develop stronger relationships with K-12 education. The center has the opportunity to serve as a coordinating hub, which can move that work forward.
"The University of Michigan is a staunchly decentralized environment, and our strength lies in this environment," said Lester Monts, senior vice provost for academic affairs, senior counselor to the president, and Arthur F. Thurnau professor of Music. "We have an abundance of K-12 and community outreach programming at the University, which resides throughout our many academic and administrative units—from the Medical School to the Ginsberg Center. The new center will help move these important efforts forward by providing a central repository and coordinating base for this work. Under the direction of Dr. William Collins, it will facilitate existing activities and help to develop new ones, as well."
Collins took the reins as founding director of the center on May 1, leaving his long-term post as director of the University's Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP).
Collins completed both his undergraduate and graduate work at U-M, culminating in a doctorate in psychology, followed by positions at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point and Cornell University before assuming directorship of CSP in 1992. Since then, he also has served as an adjunct associate professor of psychology.
The new center is essential for encouraging and developing the talents of all the students within the state of Michigan, Collins said.
"We will work on additional strategies to help Michigan youth understand their hopes and aspirations can be realized through higher education. We want them to envision themselves as college students, and to help Michigan parents guide their children toward this possibility," Collins said. "Learning should be rewarding in and of itself, but we have to recognize that some communities need help developing and fostering a culture of learning. We will work to promote academic achievement, to continue to identify, recruit, and enroll a diverse student population at U-M and elsewhere in the state."
The Center for Educational Outreach and Academic Success will work with school districts and leaders, community agencies, parents, and students statewide to accomplish its goals. These include:
- Create effective, comprehensive long-term partnerships with underserved schools to improve educational opportunities.
- Facilitate and administer centralized outreach programs that enhance and support the efforts of schools and colleges.
- Cultivate and support existing outreach efforts at the University, and coordinate constructive collaborations.
- Continue to identify, enroll and recruit a diverse student body.
The center will build on an established history of school- and community-based partnerships. One example is its work with the Southfield Public Schools in suburban Detroit. "There has been a longtime disconnect between K-12 and higher education," said Wanda Cook-Robinson, Southfield superintendent. "We have been collaborating intensely with U-M to bridge that gap. As a result, we have made changes in our curriculum, and several of our students have attended summer science and math camps, theatre performances, and literary discussions on campus.
"The University of Michigan is an outstanding partner. We learn from them and they learn from us. This center will increase these sorts of efforts, which can only be for the good of the children of Michigan," Cook-Robinson said.
One of the key tasks of the founding director will be to develop a visionary roadmap for the new center. Collins is beginning to draw his earliest sketchings of that map and to shape the center's first steps.
"Whether preparing for the University of Michigan or other forms of secondary education, we want to get students and parents better acquainted with requirements, standards, and procedures at the college level. The center's work will involve promoting these standards," Collins said.
During the course of the summer, he will assemble the center's staff, launch its Web site, and move into its new home at 1327 Geddes. "We'll be running full steam ahead by the first of September," he said.