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October 2021 Director Update

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

In his 2021 leadership address delivered last week from the Ross School of Business and broadcast to Wolverines across campus and around the world, President Schlissel encouraged our university community to embrace this period of change, “Higher education is trending toward a blended future, where the boundaries between residential and online education are blurred.” 

U-M is prepared to lead in a blended future and in a world of continuous education and connection. We are driving into our blended future fueled by a unique combination of strengths — scale, disciplinary breadth of excellence, and an unwavering commitment to public purpose. CAI builds on these institutional strengths and explores new modalities of learning and leverages the power of novel educational technology and translational research — all in service of strengthening the quality of a Michigan education and enhancing our impact on society. It is an exciting time to focus on innovation in education to create a more healthy and just world. 

At CAI we see U-M’s commitments to DEI, carbon neutrality, and academic innovation as inextricably linked. Progress toward each of these priorities reinforces the others, and collectively accelerates our momentum in the pursuit of excellence. We approach innovation not as an outcome or a goal, but as a set of repeatable processes designed to discover what works, and then to scale those changes across the institution and across higher education. During President Schlissel’s administration, our community has rallied around DEI, carbon neutrality, and academic innovation — we have an amazing opportunity to further combine these efforts in the years ahead. 

Highlighting the work of the Center in extending U-M’s mission, President Schlissel provided a glimpse of our blended future, “We are envisioning opportunities in lifelong education that are interdisciplinary, interprofessional and intergenerational — with more pathways for diverse learners in a more inclusive environment. And these opportunities will be bolstered by key U-M strengths in curricular innovation, data and research, and educational technology – as we move toward a global virtual campus that will stand alongside the world-class residential experience we will always offer on our campus.”

As we look ahead toward our blended future, a global virtual campus, and world-class residential learning experiences, we see an opportunity to: 

  • Leverage our core disciplinary structure and current models for education to provide more flexible and personalized learning experiences that cross disciplinary boundaries. 
  • Dismantle structural inequalities and lower barriers to entry and success for learners that reflect the world around us.
  • Provide more pathways that span interdisciplinary boundaries to give learners the skills and habits of mind they need to address complex societal challenges.
  • Create an increasingly comprehensive and relevant  range of lifelong learning opportunities to support learners at all levels.
  • Extend the relationship with graduates by providing ongoing learning opportunities that will help them remain leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future — and to engage with U-M as perpetual learners. 
  • Help learners, organizations, and communities embrace the notion that learning is constant. 

We invite you to join us in shaping our blended future as part of an innovation community committed to discover, scale, and share effective educational innovation.

Go Blue!

James DeVaney
Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation
Founding Executive Director of the Center for Academic Innovation