In this section, we will describe several of the ways in which the University creates rich learning environments for its students and faculty, with a focus on learning communities, technology enhanced learning, unique academic programs and offerings, and academic student services that enhance the learning environment.
Michigan Learning Communities
Many students choose the University precisely because of its size, a population of more than 40,000 students, and its breadth--on many dimensions. Many other students, however, prefer by nature or choice to study and learn in a more intimate setting. To meet this need, the University has developed thirteen learning academic communities (called Michigan Learning Communities or MLCs) that combine the personal attention of a small college environment with easy access to the unparalleled resources of a large research university. LSA, in collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs, administers the majority of these learning communities and provides faculty directors and instructors for the programs. Students in these communities, ten of which include the opportunity for students to live together in a residence hall setting, are each part of a friendly, supportive, and intellectually stimulating community that also gives them access to everything else the larger University has to offer. Students and faculty members, often from diverse backgrounds, choose to be part of these communities because of their common goals and intellectual interests. Those interests range from community service to cutting-edge research, and with regard to discipline from mathematics to communication arts. Descriptions of a sample of these communities are provided below.
Founded in 1967 within LSA, the Residential College (RC) is a four-year interdisciplinary liberal arts program that is one of the longest running living-learning programs in the U.S. The RC’s interdisciplinary curriculum engages students in creative exploration of the humanities, the social and natural sciences, intensive foreign language study, and the visual and performing arts. The college seeks to foster in its students a genuine appreciation and lifelong passion for learning--not just an individual quest for knowledge but preparing students to engage effectively and responsibly in the real world. By combining typical residence hall facilities (residence hall rooms, lounges, dining halls, etc.) with the academic and artistic resources required for a liberal arts education (classrooms, creative arts studios, faculty offices, performance and exhibit spaces, and student support services) the RC is a small college fully integrated into a major public research university.
Women in Science and Engineering Residence Program
A joint program of LSA and the College of Engineering, the mission of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Residence Program, is to recruit, support, and retain a diverse group of students in the science, mathematics, engineering, and technology fields; to link students with resources and opportunities that support their academic and personal pursuits; and to allow students with similar interests to develop relationships and build a diverse community based on mutual respect. Made up of approximately 100 first-year students, 50 returning students who serve as Peer Mentors and Program Board Members, and four upperclass students who are Resident Advisors, the WISE Residence Program provides students with an abundance of academic and social opportunities to expand their horizons and help them to transition successfully into the University environment.
Comprehensive Studies Program
The Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) is a non-residential Michigan Learning Community within LSA whose mission is to support, academically enrich, and retain its students within and beyond the college. To achieve its mission, the program offers a variety of academic support services, including the Summer Bridge Program, academic year course instruction, academic advising and peer advising, tutoring, and freshmen interest groups. Through a comprehensive approach, CSP works to develop self-directed, successful students through course instruction, academic advising, mentoring, and other services. CSP collaborates with a wide variety of academic departments, offices, and programs throughout the University, including offices in the various schools and colleges, the Undergraduate Admissions Office, the Office of Financial Aid, and the Division of Student Affairs.
University Housing Theme Communities
University Housing offers a variety of Theme Communities that provide residents with customized resources for connecting with peers, mentors and campus resources. While there are no academic requirements, these Theme Communities allow residents to explore and experience the University with other students who share their interests. Theme Communities are available for first year students, sophomore students, female students interested in leadership in a global society, and students interested in international issues.
Faculty and staff at the University use technology to expand the learning environment in several key ways, some of which we will describe below in the section on how the University uses information technology to enrich the education it provides to students. Therefore, in this section we will focus on distance or web-based learning, some of which requires students to spend time on campus. Web-based learning is used in two ways: to increase the flexibility for regular students to enroll in courses and to provide professional and continuing education. More details can be found at the Distance Learning Programs at the University of Michigan website.
School of Nursing
The School of Nursing offers several Master’s degree programs that include a great deal of web based learning. For example, in 2000 the school converted its graduate education program in Nurse-Midwifery (NMW), which was created ten year earlier, to a web-based format. The programs in Business and Health Systems and in Gerontological Nursing also include web-based learning. Among the school’s graduate courses, more than 25 are web-based.
School of Public Health
The School of Public Health (SPH) offers several distance learning opportunities. The Executive Master’s Program in Health Management and Policy is a non-residential program that combines 13 intensive four-day weekend class sessions in Ann Arbor with online instruction and interaction to facilitate the completion of readings, exercises, and projects during the periods between class sessions on campus. Students can complete the Master of Health Services Administration or the Master of Public Health degree in 24 months. The Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis Master of Science program in the Department of Biostatistics is also a non-residential program in which participants meet at the SPH for a four-day weekend once every four to five weeks, for thirty hours of class time. Between weekends on campus, participants complete course assignments and work on projects while remaining on their jobs. This Master of Science degree program lasts eighteen weekends spread over eighteen to twenty months. In addition to these degree granting programs, the School of Public Health also offers the 16-hour interdepartmental Certificate in the Foundations of Public Health, which includes coursework in each of the five major disciplines of public health for students wishing to earn graduate credit. Courses are taught by SPH faculty using distance learning technology, and certificate coursework may be transferable to an SPH degree program.
Michigan Interdisciplinary and Professional Engineering
Drawing on the expertise of College of Engineering faculty and affiliates, the college’s Program in Interdisciplinary and Professional Engineering (InterPro) offers continuing education programs, including online engineering programs, that range from interdisciplinary graduate degrees to professional development short courses. Some of these programs have an online delivery option. For example, the Six Sigma Certification program offers classes through streaming video so that students can take classes whenever and wherever they choose. In addition, direct email communication with faculty members makes it easy for students to stay connected. More than 8,500 students have been certified through this program.
Executive Master’s in Business Administration
The Executive MBA Program at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business uses a variety of distance learning technologies to connect students and faculty from around the world. The twenty-month curriculum combines the intensity of on-campus classes with the convenience of distance-learning at home. Between residencies, teams engage in interactive web-based learning and team collaboration. Laptop computers and handhelds keep participants connected to the program. Lectures are provided as video podcasts, providing excellent portability. Program and course websites inform students about schedules and deliverables, and an enterprise-level collaboration suite helps teams and individuals stay connected.
Distinctive Academic Programs and Opportunities
The University also enhances the learning environment for students through a variety of distinctive academic programs, three of which are highlighted below.
First-Year Seminar Program
The First-Year Seminar Program in LSA offers entering students the chance to enroll in small classes, many of which are taught by senior faculty members. The seminars expose first-year students to intellectually-challenging topics and the sense of intellectual and social community that often develops in small classes. They also help students make the transition from high school to a large research university, and let them explore subjects of particular interest with a faculty member. All seminars remain closed until first-year students begin to preregister either during summer orientation for fall terms or the early registration period for winter terms.
The Honors Program
The four-year Honors Program in LSA provides a rich and challenging set of academic offerings to talented and highly motivated students. Honors Program students enroll in special courses, engage in early research with faculty members, and are part of a vigorous intellectual community that includes Honors faculty fellows. Through these activities and others, the Honors Program lets students identify and deeply pursue their intellectual interests. The Program’s curriculum offers a wide range of challenging courses in almost every department and in Honors Program concentrations in every field of the college. Students may enroll in special seminars and courses, and work directly with faculty members right from the start of their University experience. Students must elect half their course work in Honors; many enroll in even more. Many students also participate in research during their first two years, and almost all Honors seniors pursue their own independent research projects under the guidance of a faculty mentor, leading to an Honors Program senior thesis.
The University offers dozens of service-learning courses enabling students to provide direct service to local schools, non-profit organizations, and government agencies. In almost every department at the University, students can enroll in service-learning courses or earn independent study credit with the support of a faculty sponsor. Academic units that offer a cluster of service-learning courses include, in LSA, the Program in American Culture, Department of English Language and Literature, Department of Psychology, Residential College, and the Women’s Studies Department, as well as in the School of Art & Design. In addition, there are two large servicelearning courses, Project Community and Project Outreach, for which trained undergraduate students facilitate weekly seminars and serve as liaisons for service sites. Plus, a social justice course fair takes place each semester, where different programs recruit students for the upcoming semester.
More information about service and engagement opportunities for our students is covered in the section on Engagement.
Academic Services for Learning
Another important aspect of creating effective learning environments is to provide services to students that enhance their ability to take advantage of the University’s wealth of academic resources. These services fall on a continuum that begin with orientation and lead to a range of career services. Below is a description of key points along that continuum of services and support.
Ongoing academic advising is a critical aspect of the support the University provides to our students as they progress through their academic programs. Over the course of their undergraduate careers, students will have contact with general academic advisors, concentration advisors, pre-professional study advisors, and peer advisors. Through a variety of academic programs, individual advising appointments, and workshops, these advisors provide support to students as they navigate the range of resources and variety of programs available to them. Typical advising conversations will address academic aspirations, curricular planning and progress to degree, internship opportunities, study abroad, and career exploration. Declaring an academic concentration or major is a pivotal decision point for undergraduate students in their education at the University. Undergraduate students usually declare a concentration by the end of their sophomore year or very early in their junior year. Since the great majority of first-year students at the University are admitted to LSA or the College of Engineering, descriptions of the academic advising services in these units are offered as examples below. In the other schools and colleges, academic advising is provided by faculty and administrative staff in the department or academic unit, with a variety of structures in place, some more formal than others, for providing students with ongoing advising.
Since many undergraduate students seek a capstone experience or must complete such an experience as part of their program requirements, the concept of a capstone experience is well worth including in this description of marker points along the continuum of a University education. Some departments have specific structures in place for an undergraduate senior capstone experience, which can be a designated course, a thesis, a research experience, or another type of faculty-supervised activity. In addition to the Honors Program thesis, which was mentioned above, two more examples are given below.
The last category of academic services we describe in this section is connected to the final phase of a University undergraduate education: students’ plans for their lives after graduation. As with so many other types of services, the University provides career related services to its students in both centralized and decentralized ways.
Centralized career services
The descriptions below reflect only two examples of centralized career services.
Unit career services
All of the schools and colleges at the University of Michigan provide career services to their students and alumni, including those on the hotlinked list below: