Chancellor Susan Borrego delivered her second State of the University Address on Wednesday, Feb. 3 in the Michigan Rooms to a crowd of 273 students, faculty and community members.
Borrego opened the address by discussing the Flint water crisis, stating that while the university is in the heart of the city, the water on campus is safe for drinking, has been tested and filtered for over a year and that the university is open for business. Borrego noted that when she originally imagined the State of the University Address, she predicted she would be speaking on new steps towards achieving campus excellence and ways to contribute to student success, but did not foresee the campus being in the middle of an environmental crisis.
“The public health crisis is a gut-kick to a community that’s working to create a positive future. I see countless acts of humanity in the midst of crisis and it makes me proud of be in Flint,” Borrego said.
So far, the University has handed out 3,000 water filters and the nursing department has partnered with the Genesee County Health Department to provided blood testing for the children of Flint.
Chancellor Borrego moved into praising the university for its diversity. Borrego said that many universities around the country send their students off to other communities to receive experiences in urban settings, but at UM-Flint, students arrive with those diverse experiences that help support them in receiving a well-rounded education. Borrego said she wants the University to work closer with students to help foster development of more inclusive classrooms.
Along with ongoing topics like the water crisis and the diversity UM-Flint has to offer, Chancellor Borrego also discussed the University’s budget and upcoming changes. The budget for the next year will be tight, according to Borrego, but the University has a small amount of debt and is in good fiscal shape. The University increased financial aid by 16 percent this year and has increased its number of merit scholarships.
“I think they need to work in their best regards in creating more scholarships,” Adedotum Ojelabi, a senior majoring in computer science, said.
Ojelabi said he wanted there to be a further discussion on making tuition more affordable for students.
“Currently we don’t have tuition waivers for research assistants, and that’s a huge, huge encouragement for students to go to college,” Ojelabi said.
In addition to the University’s budget, the new additions to the campus were also discussed. The GIS center received $100,000 from the C.S. Mott Foundation to support a community-mapping project. The Riverfront Banquet Center was donated to the University from Uptown Reinvestment Corporation this past December, and later this month, the University will close the $6 million deal on the First Merit tower. These two buildings will add 500,000 square-feet to the campus and increase the university’s overall size by more than 25 percent.
These new extensions will help the University provide superior degrees as an urban regional comprehensive university, Borrego said, allowing UM-Flint to continue being the epicenter of growth for the city of Flint and provide new learning spaces for future students.