October 2020 Newsletter

Dear Center for Academic Innovation Community,

With a historic election just two weeks away, and with disinfecting sunlight shining brightly on systemic inequities, our growing Center for Academic Innovation community is thinking about the importance of empowered individuals and communities and our interconnected health. We are pointing our design and problem-solving capabilities toward individual safety, physical and mental health; population health; healthy democracies; and the factors that lead us toward a healthy and just world. 

Thinking about the many layers of our interconnected health raises many questions:

  • Where does expertise come from? Who has it? 
  • Are we limiting our potential if we don’t expose ourselves to the right mix of perspectives or fail to share our own? 
  • What tools do we need to see the world from different angles? 
  • How might individuals better reflect on their own beliefs and the information they choose to engage with every day? 
  • How might we ensure the solutions we create are designed for all without adding disproportionately to the burdens and workloads already carried by individuals from marginalized or underrepresented communities? 

Our interconnected health is shaped by our ability to point the best combination of expertise toward a particular problem.

A foundational belief at the Center for Academic Innovation is that expertise exists everywhere. To see this principle in action, look no further than our approach to public engagement, where our efforts to guide a campuswide strategic initiative is designed to foster recognition of and experimentation with all forms of public engagement. We launched the first cohort of the Public Engagement Faculty Fellowship with partners across campus during a pandemic. The many obstacles visible in 2020 have only bolstered our commitment to this program as the painful issues rippling throughout our society provide  further evidence of the need to empower individuals and communities in the design of sustainable solutions. I invite you to learn more about the experience of our first cohort of Public Engagement Faculty Fellows. We’re excited to announce a call for applications for the second cohort of the program, which supports faculty across schools and colleges on the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor campus. The program allows faculty to strengthen their public engagement skills, connect with a community of faculty and public engagement professionals at U-M, and launch innovative projects with funding and in-kind support. 

Our interconnected health is also shaped by the relative strength of our democracy.

We continue to create opportunities for our global learning community to engage in informed dialogue with peers and seek new perspectives to understand the world better. Whether you are engaging in the election process in the United States or engaging in critical conversations about societal issues anywhere around the world, I encourage you to explore Michigan Online to expand your worldview and share your perspectives with others. This month, I suggest joining our Discussing Politics and Debates Teach-Out to learn how you can talk about politics and other polarizing issues with friends, family, and co-workers; joining our Disinformation, Misinformation, and Fake News Teach-Out to learn how to navigate the digital information landscape, identify fake news, and gain critical skills in media and information literacy; and joining our open course on Securing Digital Democracy to learn about future methods of voting as well as the security risks with future election technologies from the lens of computer security, social factors, public policy, and more. I also highly encourage you to explore our Teach-Out archive to explore Teach-Outs covering a range of issues relative to our current election cycle and to explore Teach-Outs such as Finding Common Ground that will help us learn together to overcome divisiveness, get beyond division, and work together to create a healthy and just world. 

At the beginning of the academic year, we launched Michigan Online Collections. You can now explore content and engage with learners around the world to discuss and understand the impact and implications of the coronavirus pandemic with The World & Covid-19; understand how American democracy is furthered by debating and exploring current issues in Democracy and Debate; and learn how how humans communicate across different venues, relationships, and circumstances with the Art of Effective Communication

Our interconnected health is shaped by access to learning and learning experiences designed with diverse communities of learners in mind.

We are actively looking to create new opportunities for scholars, practitioners, and learners to engage with each other to better understand the world around us. We received several exciting proposals from U-M faculty in response to our recent call for proposals conducted in partnership with FutureLearn. We launched a second call for proposals with our XR Initiative to explore the role XR technologies play in achieving learning objectives and transforming pedagogies. We are also extending our call for proposals for online and hybrid programs (OHP) to identify opportunities where new degree programs can be combined with open content to create a variety of pathways for learners to engage as part of the Michigan community. Recent successful OHP proposals from the School of Information, School of Public Health, School of Social Work, School for Environment and Sustainability, College of Engineering, School of Education, and Michigan Medicine have provided excellent examples for future OHP partnerships. 

Our interconnected health is improved by ending educational privilege.

As we explore all forms of public engagement, expand our open learning portfolio to learners around the world, and create new opportunities to see and understand the problems most important to society, we recognize the importance of representation and creating a space where ideas can be strengthened and challenged respectfully. We aim to ensure that the community of scholars, practitioners, and learners who shape our culture of innovation in learning are representative of the expertise we know exists everywhere, and that our innovator community is uncompromising around values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. To join us on this journey, we are excited to welcome returning and new faculty collaborators to the Academic Innovation Advisory Committee. This incredible group helps the Center for Academic Innovation think critically about these issues and how to best fulfill our mission to extend academic excellence, expand public purpose, and end educational privilege

As we approach the historic 2020 election together, we hope you will look to the Center for Academic Innovation — and each other — to engage in constructive dialogue and move past divisiveness to shape and realize a healthy and just world. A global compassionate public square is within reach. Let’s continue building it together. 

James DeVaney

Associate Vice Provost for Academic Innovation

Founding Executive Director of the Center for Academic Innovation