Acquisition, Discovery and Application of Knowledge

Research and Creative Mission


Core Component 4a: The organization demonstrates, through the actions of its board, administrators, students, faculty, and staff, that it values a life of learning.

To show some of the ways in which the University of Michigan meets this criterion for reaccreditation, we focus this section on four types of actions that its faculty, students, staff, administrators, and Board of Regents take: through policies, the commitment of funding, the use of space and facilities, and through recognition.


The University publishes policies about both the rights and responsibilities of members of the University community with regard to our commitment to a learning environment in which inquiry is respected and people have certain articulated rights.

Fundamental Tenets Statement

In 1990 the Senate Assembly adopted a statement that articulates the fundamental tenets of the University as a community of learning—both the rights and responsibilities of its members. In view of the statement’s importance and how closely it links to this core component, we provide it here in full. Although not official policy, this statement is testimony to the University’s commitment to creating a community and environment of continuous learning. The statement also appears in the Faculty Handbook.

“The University of Michigan is a community devoted to learning. Members of our community advance, preserve, and transmit knowledge through study, teaching, artistic expression, research, and scholarship. As a public university, we have a special obligation to serve the public interest.

All who join the University community gain important rights and privileges and accept equally important responsibilities. We believe in free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, and respect for the rights and dignity of others. We respect the autonomy of each person’s conscience in matters of conviction, religious faith, and political belief. We affirm the importance of maintaining high standards of academic and professional integrity. In defining the rights we enjoy and the responsibilities we bear, we must keep those basic principles in mind.

All members of the University have civil rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Because the search for knowledge is our most fundamental purpose, the University has an especially strong commitment to preserve and protect freedom of thought and expression. Reasoned dissent plays a vital role in the search for truth; and academic freedom, including the right to express unpopular views, is a cherished tradition of universities everywhere. All members of the University have the right to express their own views and hear the views of others expressed, but they must also take responsibility for according the same rights to others. We seek a University whose members may express themselves vigorously while protecting and respecting the rights of others to learn, to do research, and to carry out the essential functions of the University free from interference or obstruction.”

Statement on Freedom of Speech and Expression

A key policy related to the topic of an open and welcoming University environment is a statement the University’s Civil Liberties Board adopted in 1988: the Statement on Freedom of Speech and Artistic Expression: The Rights and Obligations of Speakers, Performers, Audience Members, and Protesters at the University of Michigan.

This policy affirms the University community’s commitment to freedom of speech and artistic expression in support of people who represent the entire spectrum of opinion in the community and out of a desire to create a truly open forum in which diverse opinions can be expressed and heard. Through these guidelines, the University seeks to maintain an environment in which the free exchange of opinions can flourish and where the learning that such exchange makes possible can occur, with the expectation that members of the community will observe the limits of mutual tolerance that the guidelines embody.

Openness in Research Agreements

Supporting openness in research agreements, the regents adopted the Regents’ Policy Concerning Research Grants, Contracts, and Agreements (Standard Practice Guide 303.1 ) in 1987 to guide the University when considering any secrecy stipulations by a research or scholarship sponsor. This policy is another example of our commitment to a community of learning—in this case ensuring that others outside the University can, within reason, benefit from the work that University faculty, students, and staff undertake.

This regents’ policy states that the mission of the University is to generate and disseminate knowledge in the public interest, based on two fundamental principles: open scholarly exchange and academic freedom. Normally, these principles are mutually supportive. When they conflict, the University follows a balanced approach by taking into account both the University’s mission and the public interest. The University also has a longstanding tradition of conducting research aimed at enhancing human life and the human condition. Given these principles and continuing tradition, the regents’ policy governs the acceptance of research grants, contracts, or agreements by the University.

Faculty Members’ Outside Employment

As expressed in Regents’ Bylaw 5.12 Outside Employment the University encourages faculty involvement in outside activities, including consulting, when the work enhances the faculty member’s value as a teacher or scholar in ways that he or she could not accomplish inside the University, when the work is of a public nature, or when for any reason the University supports the faculty member’s involvement in outside activities. However, the work must not constitute a conflict of interest or a conflict of commitment. Bylaw 5.12 assigns responsibility for creating specific guidelines for outside employment to the governing faculties. This policy also reflects the University’s commitment to lifelong learning by encouraging the faculty to stay engaged with others outside the University, an important factor in their continuous learning and renewal.

Sabbatical Leaves

Standard Practice Guide 201.30-2 Sabbatical Leave governs such leaves for the University’s tenured faculty members. The function of sabbatical leaves is to give faculty members an opportunity for an intensive program of research and/or study, thus enhancing their effectiveness to the University as teachers and scholars. Here, too, the University’s commitment to lifelong learning for its tenured faculty is clear.

Staff Development Philosophy

Another example of the University’s commitment to lifelong learning is the Staff Development Philosophy that the University’s executive officers have adopted, which includes the text below:

“To enhance the ability of staff members to contribute to their departments and to provide career satisfaction for productive employees, we are committed to supporting ongoing staff development for any staff member. Staff development is defined as growth in an individual’s knowledge, skill, and personal effectiveness. Our goal is for all staff members to make the maximum contribution to their departments, while having opportunities to develop their talents, to acquire and use new skills, and thus to achieve greater career effectiveness and satisfaction. Career development opportunities include mentoring as well as informal and formal training.”

Standard Practice Guide 201.69 Tuition Support Program provides tangible support for this staff development philosophy. The goal of this policy is to increase the career opportunities available to staff members at the University of Michigan, to enhance the performance of staff members and their units, and to encourage professional growth. In addition to partial tuition support, the policy also encourages supervisors to make reasonable efforts to make appropriate work schedule accommodation to allow staff members to enroll in courses when the courses they need are scheduled only during regular work hours. This policy, too, demonstrates the University’s commitment to lifelong learning for its staff.

Although not governed by a specific policy, the University also supports the professional development of staff by paying for and allowing staff members to attend the rich array of workshops and presentations, including those offered by Human Resource Development, which cover a wide range of topics.

Research Funding

For faculty members to engage in a wide variety of research, scholarship, and creativity, in collaboration with students, postdoctoral fellows, research scientists and staff, they depend on one or more sources of funding, both external and internal. As indicated above, federal funds are the largest source of research funding at the University. Over 10% of this funding is from non-federal support (i.e., from industry, foundations, and the state of Michigan), and nearly 20% is from the University of Michigan. Each year, the vice president for research presents the “Annual Report on Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity” to the Board of Regents. This report details accomplishments in research, changes in research funding, potential problems, opportunities for future work, and the goals of the Office. Annual Reports dating back to 1994 are available online.

In allocating University funds for research, a major goal of the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is to support new initiatives, and to provide cost sharing and seed funding that make faculty proposals to external funding entities more competitive. OVPR also provides support to faculty who conduct work in areas not typically funded by federal agencies or other groups. In FY07, this spending totaled $4.5M, with the majority of the funds matched by the proposing faculty member’s school, college, or department.

A primary source of OVPR support is the Faculty Grants and Awards program. In addition to providing bridging funds for externally supported but lapsed projects and seed funding for junior faculty members, as well as for more senior faculty members who are changing research directions, the office also strongly supports projects in the arts. In FY07, one-third of the total funding from this program alone was directed at supporting the arts and humanities, although the total external funding brought in by these fields is less than 1% of the University’s total research volume. That year OVPR provided funds through this program to 48 humanities and arts projects, from support for the production of a publication or recording, to larger grants that allowed faculty members to put on performances, conferences, and exhibits.


Another critical aspect of creating a life of learning is to recognize the academic and professional achievements of faculty, students, and staff. In this way, the University affirms its values and spotlights people who embody them. Below are descriptions of a sample of such awards.

Faculty Recognition

Collegiate and Endowed Professorships

The ability to bestow collegiate and endowed professorships is a critical means for the schools and colleges, and the University as a whole, to recognize, recruit, and retain a world-class faculty that is the core of a vibrant academic community. To this end, the University has established guidelines for creating endowed professorships in six categories: deans, department chairs, visiting faculty, research faculty, and for faculty development and collegiate professorships. As of July 2009, there were a total of 1,104 professorships in place at the University: 743 endowed professorships and 361 collegiate professorships.

In her annual address to the Senate Assembly in 2006, President Mary Sue Coleman issued a President’s Challenge to raise funds for 20 fully endowed professorships. When a donor provided a gift of $1.5 million, the president matched it with $500,000 to reach the $2 million needed to create an endowed professorship. In May 2007, the University Record announced that nineteen of the 20 professorships had already been created.

“The new professorships are critical to the University’s ability to recruit and retain the highly accomplished scholars and teachers whose talents and creativity enable the University to fulfill its mission. Top quality faculty offer students the very best educational experience and engage in the leading edge research that opens new opportunities in every area of the human endeavor.”
Teresa A. Sullivan, Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs

Faculty Awards

To recognize and showcase the achievements of its faculty, the University has established an assortment of faculty awards. These awards are bestowed by central units that include the Office of the Provost, the Rackham Graduate School, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. The schools, colleges, and some other units also offer such awards. Information about the full range of faculty awards is available in the Faculty Handbook.

At the University-wide level, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Vice President for Research, and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies bestow several awards on faculty and staff members:

  • Considered one of the University’s highest honors for a senior member of its active faculty, the Henry Russel Lectureship is awarded annually in recognition of a scholar’s exceptional achievements in research, scholarship and/or creative endeavors, and an outstanding record of teaching, mentoring, and service.
  • The Distinguished University Professorship award recognizes exceptional scholarly and/or creative achievement, national and international reputation, and superior teaching skills. Created in 1947 by the Board of Regents, this award aims to give its recipients the opportunity to pursue scholarly or creative activities that ensure their greatest contributions to the University and the nation. In consultation with the dean, each recipient selects a special name for his or her professorship. Each professorship also provides annual salary and research supplements. Distinguished University Professors retain their titles for as long as they retain their active University appointments, and they may also retain them after they retire.
  • The University bestows the Faculty Recognition Award on faculty members who, in the early phase of their careers, have contributed significantly to the University through outstanding scholarly research and/or creative endeavors; excellent teaching, advising, and mentoring; and distinguished service. For awards that include external funding, the appropriate University-wide office undertakes a selection process to decide which proposals to put forward.
  • There are several Research Faculty Awards at the University. Collegiate Research Professorships are awarded to full research professors whose exceptional scholarly achievements have advanced the knowledge in their academic fields of study. Research Faculty Achievement Awards are bestowed on research professors and research scientists at the full or associate levels who have demonstrated outstanding scholarly achievements through significant contributions to an academic field of study over time, who have made a specific outstanding discovery, or innovative technology. Research Faculty Recognition Awards are given to research professors and research scientists at the assistant and associate levels with exceptional scholarly achievements.
  • School and College Awards. Most of the schools and colleges have established several awards to honor the many achievements of their faculties.

Student Recognition

Recognizing students’ academic achievements is important in creating an environment that celebrates excellence. Both undergraduate and graduate awards are offered by the University; examples are described below.

Undergraduate Awards and Honors

  • To be admitted to the LSA Honors Program, a student’s application must show that he or she is well suited for the program’s challenging and stimulating academic environment, and is a person who seeks out academic challenges and has a strong desire to be part of a vigorous intellectual community.
  • The University Honors designation is awarded to students who have earned, within designated criteria, a 3.5 grade point average or higher during a term. Students who achieve the University Honors designation for both winter and fall terms, and seniors who achieve University Honors designation for either of these terms are recognized at the University’s Honors Convocation held each spring.
  • Established in 1960 to promote and recognize academic excellence, the University awards the William J. Branstrom Freshman Prize to all first-term freshmen who rank in the upper five percent of their class. A notation with this honor is posted on the students’ transcripts by the Office of the Registrar.
  • To be named James B. Angell Scholars, LSA students must earn all A+, A, or A- grades for two or more consecutive terms in a calendar year, within designated criteria. Angell Scholar Honors are posted on a student’s transcript, and recipients of this honor are invited to attend the annual Honors Convocation.
  • The College of Engineering bestows several leadership awards and college honors awards and prizes on students at the annual Student Leaders and Honors Brunch. For example, the Harry Benford Award for Entrepreneurial Leadership is presented to an undergraduate or graduate student who has exhibited entrepreneurial flair and leadership ability, and who has capitalized effectively on technological and engineering resources. In addition, the Roger M. Jones Fellowship Abroad supports an outstanding graduating senior to pursue studies in literature and humanistic disciplines at a British university so as to broaden and deepen his or her undergraduate technical education.

Graduate and Professional Student Awards

  • The Rackham Graduate School provides the Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship to outstanding doctoral students who have achieved candidacy and who are actively working on their dissertation research and writing. The fellowship provides three terms of support, including a stipend, health insurance, and candidacy tuition and fees for a maximum of twelve months. During 2009-10, Rackham plans to award more than 70 of these fellowships.
  • The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award recognizes instructors who have demonstrated exceptional ability, creativity, and continuous growth as teachers who serve as outstanding mentors and advisors to their students, colleagues, and others, and who have shown growth as scholars over the course of their graduate studies.
  • The ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards recognizes exceptional and unusually interesting work produced by doctoral students in the last phase of their graduate work, as well as overall academic accomplishment. Each year, the Rackham Graduate School bestows approximately eight such awards.
  • School and College Awards for Students. All schools and colleges make special efforts to recognize the outstanding work of their students. For example, the Medical School has a rich history of honoring its students for attributes such as outstanding scholarship, achievement, or leadership. Each year at commencement, through numerous awards the school recognizes the distinguished members of the graduating class and the faculty members who have shaped their educational experience. For example, the school bestows the George R. DeMuth Medical Scientist Award for Excellence on a member of the graduating class who has demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in research and exhibited the personal and professional qualities desired in the complete physician. The Andrew J. Zweifler Award for Excellence in Clinical Skills is given to a graduating senior who has consistently demonstrated outstanding care and competence in verbal communication with patients, interviewing, counseling, and excellence in physical diagnosis.

Staff Recognition

As conveyed in the introduction to this section, staff members at the University play many important roles in the creation of a vibrant environment that promotes life-long learning. There are both central and many unit-specific awards for staff, a few examples of which are provided below.

  • There are several Staff Recognition Awards at the University. The Distinguished Service Award honors an individual University staff member who has provided distinguished service to the University and to the community. The Outstanding Leadership Award honors an individual University staff member who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, vision, and initiative. The Exemplary Team Award honors a group of University staff members who have functioned as an exemplary team, whether formally or informally designated.
  • The Distinguished Research Administrator Award is one of two awards given by the Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) to recognize exceptional and distinguished contributions or performance in the support of the research mission of the University. It honors individual staff members who have demonstrated, over a number of years, distinguished service that exemplifies the goals of professional research administration. Each winner receives an honorarium and an award plaque.
  • The Staff Recognition Award in LSA is an example of a school-based initiative to recognize the achievements of its staff. Each year, the dean’s office awards an Outstanding Individual Employee Award, the Kay Beattie Distinguished Service Award, and an Outstanding Staff Team Award.