Mark S. Schlissel

To the University Community,

a portrait of Mark S. Schlissel

As we look back on the fourth year of our initiative to make the University of Michigan a more diverse, equitable and inclusive place, it’s impossible to separate what we’re doing here in Ann Arbor from the health and economic inequities laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic and the horrifying instances of prejudice that now haunt our national consciousness.

The recent killings of Black people, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others before and since by law enforcement are a terrible representation of systemic racism in our society. Too many people in our communities are marginalized and devalued because of who they are.

The challenges are ever-present, and our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion must remain strong. Ensuring that each member of our community has full opportunity to thrive is at the heart of our mission as a public university.

In this last year, we’ve continued to make progress on our campus. The Department of Organizational Learning designed educational resources for units across campus, refocusing programs in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and national social movement. A full 98% of faculty and staff campuswide completed an awareness training module on prevention of sexual and gender-based misconduct, providing a base for future efforts. Student registration in SuccessConnects, our holistic support program that connects participants to campus resources and encourages academic success, grew 11 percent. Participation is open to all students and includes first-generation students, students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and underrepresented minority students. And last fall, more than 1,600 students from low-income families received a total of $19 million in institutional and federal support to cover the entire cost of tuition and fees through the Go Blue Guarantee. These are but a few examples.

As we enter the fifth year of our current five-year strategic plan to enhance diversity, equity and inclusion, we will continue to work to recruit, retain and develop a diverse university community; create an inclusive and equitable campus; and support innovation and inclusive scholarship and teaching.

During a time when we are faced with so many challenges, three words – Black Lives Matter – serve as a passionate rallying cry against systemic racism and all the cruelty and injustice and ugliness it has engendered for centuries in our society. These three words have echoed throughout college campuses and cities all across our nation and demonstrated again how far we still need to go to reject the evils of white supremacy and live up to our university’s ideals of justice and peace.

Your advocacy and commitment are helping us to create new campus anti-racism initiatives. Led by the Provost’s Office, these initiatives will build on the ongoing efforts across campus and will push our community to think critically about our institutions, foster timely scholarship and research, and build toward a better future for our campus and greater society.

Additionally, our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative will continue for years to come – beyond the initial five-year strategic plan. It must. There is much work to do.

None of this progress would be possible without a campus community that understands that our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion is inseparable from our dedication to academic excellence for the public good. I want to especially recognize the amazing work of our unit DEI leads who have continually sought to make our university better.

I am ever so grateful to be working together with you to move our university forward to achieve our highest aspirations for excellence through diversity, equity and inclusion. Thank you for all that you do.

Mark S. Schlissel