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Posted on Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 10:02 a.m.

University of Michigan promises $50M toward increased focus on global challenges and communities

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman announced a new $50 million initiative to widen university teaching and hands-on projects dealing with global challenges and communities.

The Third Century Initiative will be used to fund projects dealing with climate change, poverty, malnutrition, energy storage and social justice challenges throughout the world. Coleman added that the initiative will expand the university’s “action-based immersive learning” and give students the “skills and experiences the need to be leaders.”


Angela Cesere |

At a speech given Wednesday morning at the Ross School of Business in Ann Arbor, Coleman said the university already has received several pitches from faculty and staff on ways to use the money.

Projects, she said, could range from creating solar powered energy in a developing African nation to researching affordable health care.

“We want to stimulate innovation and support the most promising ideas,” she said. “We believe the teaching, research and service that grow out of the initiative will propel the university into its next 100 years with enormous momentum and secure Michigan’s future position as the world’s leading public research university.”

The money, Coleman said, will come from already existing funds from many of the university's 19 colleges.

“This money comes from our ability to be efficient,” Coleman said. “We don’t have any big infusion of new money.”

Coleman acknowledged the $50 million sum was large.

“Even though it’s a lot of money, big problems require a lot of money,” Coleman said. “This may end up being a seed for much larger gifts that happen. I hope so.”

U-M Provost Philip Hanlon said U-M is still determining how to allocate the funds.

“With this amount of money there’s going to be multiple mechanisms for allocating funds,” he said. “We have to figure out how to get funds to the best ideas.”

Coleman also announced a new funding endeavor for U-M startups.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.



Thu, Oct 6, 2011 : 12:43 p.m.

$50 million is more than $1,000 for each UM student. It is more than the cut in State appropriations that the Administration and Regents cried about this summer. It sounds like the Regents should have voted against the tuition increase. How about electing Regents who will actually do that at our next election and not those who will let President Coleman do whatever she likes.

say it plain

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

Folks complaining that this money should be spent at home instead are missing what I think is the point of these funds--they will be used on programs aimed at working on 'global market opportunities', see?! I mean, there is money to be made potentially in knowing how to sell solar panels in Africa, and there are educational opportunities (and money to be made!) in figuring out how to break through the 'barriers' to engaging currently poor nations in the global economy. Globalization isn't going away, and the 'smart' universities will figure out how to work it. We can sit around while China tries to buy up mining rights everywhere, or we can both further US interests and maybe actually *help* rather than lay further waste to some of the third-world nations. I wouldn't worry that this is 'merely' philanthropy, is my point... Because if the U cared in some purely philanthropic way about 'communities' they'd act a little differently in their own perhaps...

Top Cat

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 5:50 p.m.

"a new $50 million initiative to widen university teaching and hands-on projects dealing with global communities and challenges." If there was an audio accompanying this, it would be the sound of a toilet flushing.

Roy Munson

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

"This money comes from our ability to be efficient," Coleman said. LOL If they are so efficient over there, why is tuition going up year after year at a rate far greater than inflation? A tuition cut would be great news to those who will be in debt for many more years than a solar panel might be standing in a village in Africa.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:59 p.m.

See, the problem is that they couldn't raise the money in the manner that they do if they were not the U of M, the public school that was chartered way back when by the State of Michigan. They get what they get because they are what they are. Funding local start ups is one thing, but sending money out of the state when there are so many people who go to bed hungry and without a roof over their head in this state is just down right arrogant.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:32 p.m.

The impression I get is that the funding is from that provided by the State of Michigan and not the University's endowment. If that is the case the state needs to tell the university that if they can spend government money on this the state will cut their funding by 250 million. It's not like they need the money.


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 4:02 p.m.

Defund the U of M Now! We are giving them our tax dollars so they can spend them in 3rd world nation?


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

Mary spew has declared war on Michigan She promised the most diverse university in America. Now Ann Arbor looks like the frickin united nations. I for one am sick of of what has happened in Ann Arbor over the past years. The town I grew up in does not exist.

say it plain

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

This is great, but without the UM being willing to work out some PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) program with their *very own community*, it seems more a 'global' VC-type allocation of funds than reflective of their concerns for 'communities'...


Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

@ Ron, I agree %100

Ron Granger

Wed, Oct 5, 2011 : 3:01 p.m.

It's unfortunate that they don't do more in their own local community, their own backyard. Instead, they ignore our laws, ignore our community standards, and ignore our zoning.