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A Powerful Guiding Vision at Michigan

With a sometimes stormy history of race relations, the University of Michigan has emerged over the past few years as a university with one of the most comprehensive plans for addressing diversity in the nation. When outgoing president James Duderstadt took office in 1987 he introduced the Michigan Mandate, a campuswide plan to create a truly multicultural university. Focusing at first on the recruitment and retention of a more diverse faculty and student body, Michigan also developed numerous other programs designed to foster an inclusive campus community.

"The Michigan Mandate initiated a transformation to ensure that all racial and ethnic groups would be full participants in the life of the university." The most public expression of the university's commitment to diversity, the Mandate recognizes "the necessary linkage between racial and ethnic diversity and excellence in teaching and research." Students are made aware of Michigan's commitment to diversity in admissions literature, summer orientation programs, and course guides indicating the centrality of the diversity requirement in students' education. The Mandate publicly "presents a vision, a strategy, and a series of concrete actions designed to build a multicultural academic community."

As part of the Mandate, Michigan has given much attention to the curriculum and to pedagogical transformations needed to adequately serve a diverse student body.

Since 1991, all students have been required to take one course that addresses issues arising from racial and ethnic intolerance. These courses must provide discussions of: (1) the meaning of race, ethnicity, and racism; (2) racial and ethnic intolerance and resulting inequality as it occurs in the United States or elsewhere; and (3) comparisons of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, social class, or gender.

"At Michigan, we do not conceive of multiculturalism as the transference of a rigid, 'politically correct' system of values into university life. We are making a concerted effort to link social diversity with academic excellence."

Lester Monts
Vice Provost for Academic and Multicultural Affairs

While opting for a requirement that can be satisfied by a wide array of courses, Michigan has also devoted resources to the creation of a flagship course on "Race, Racism, and Ethnicity" that focuses on cultural pluralism in the U.S. This course has served as a catalyst for college-wide curricular transformation, instructional innovation, and faculty development in the area of diversity. In connection to this course, Michigan also created a faculty board to support and strengthen teaching about racism across the college curriculum.

In addition to these efforts, Michigan has also implemented a Multicultural Teaching and Learning Services component within its Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. Guided by a staff coordinator and three faculty associates, the component focuses on two main objectives: classroom equity and the infusion of diversity into curricula.

Finally, the Program on Intergroup Relations and Conflict, administered as part of the Division of Student Affairs, is also an effort to educate students and members of the community about intergroup relations and conflict among social groups. It links academic course work to the living and social experiences of students.

For more information:
http://www.umich.edu/ or contact Lester Monts, Vice Provost for Academic and Multicultural Affairs, OVPAMA@umich.edu

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