Dear Friends of the University of Michigan:
The U-M community recently paid tribute to the graduating Class of 2020 with a virtual celebration, featuring special content from alumni, friends, dignitaries, and more on our Spring Celebration site. The heartfelt messages highlighted the resilience of our students, faculty, staff, and community members who are adapting to a changing world. The Class of 2020 will be forever affected by this experience, and I am confident they will go on to shape a better future for all of us. They are, after all, the Leaders and Best.
We too must forge ahead in a changing world. U-M experts are pioneering solutions and advising decision-makers across the country on the societal, economic and public health impacts of the coronavirus. Our health professionals are saving lives on the front lines of the pandemic in U-M hospitals and clinics. As an immunologist and educator, I am working with the governor’s Michigan Economic Recovery Council to re-engage sectors of the Michigan economy. Experts from U-M’s top-ranked School of Public Health are advising the governor as well.
U-M is preparing to resume some of our campus activities when it’s safe to do so, including the crucial lab and studio-based research that we’ve had to ramp down in recent weeks. Work across our campuses will likely look very different in the months ahead, but we will continue to focus on our mission and rely on the best guidance possible for the health and safety of our community.
Our preparations also include planning for our fall semester. I remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to deliver a public health-informed fall semester on our three campuses with as much in-person instruction as possible. Our professors and staff are developing various models to deliver education that upholds U-M quality, no matter what the immediate future may hold. U-M has long been a leader in innovative teaching, and that is to our students’ advantage as we draw on the expertise of our educators.
We’re considering a multitude of factors, including office, lab, residential and classroom density; personal protective equipment needs and availability; and testing capacity. All of this will require a significant investment by the university, during a time of financial uncertainty. But it also will set us up for long-term health, safety and Michigan excellence — a worthy investment for all. Until we have more information, we won’t know exactly how this will look, but we do know it won’t be “business as usual” for a while.
This is a challenging time, with severely limited resources, to execute a bold vision of academic excellence. It is also the ideal time to pursue a new path. It will require creativity and innovation, relentless planning and execution, substantial investment, and remarkable flexibility. It won’t be easy, but I believe the Michigan community is up to this challenge.
We are one strong, compassionate and deeply committed Michigan Family. I wish you and your family good health as we all work to overcome the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mark S. Schlissel, M.D., Ph.D.