By JESSICA STRACHAN
DEARBORN — University of Michigan-Dearborn Chancellor Daniel Little helped to welcome 9,200 new students onto campus this month as he enters his final year as the university’s leader.
Little shared some of his reflections on his 18-year tenure. His most prized accomplishment? Moving the student body toward a more inclusive campus and creating momentum in his vision of a university that is committed to making a metropolitan impact.
“It is a profound accomplishment for the campus,” he said. “Many universities talk a lot about diversity, but haven’t made progress to create an environment where there’s a culture of acceptance, mutual respect, and openness. This campus really has that.”
Little’s second crowning achievement has been the outreach of students and relationships that the university has created with the communities of metropolitan Detroit. He says it’s another common goal for institutions of higher education, but something that UM-D has really succeeded in.
“A lot of universities say they want to be a positive influence but we have taken the mission of being a positive force in our large metro area very serious, with concrete ways,” Little said.
He highlighted partnerships with community organizations like Southwest Solutions and ACCESS and student-led volunteer initiatives.
“We have a shared commitment to progress,” he said. “We are here for reasons that have to do with community welfare. I think our campus is widely respected for contributing to the community.”
Little said he has encouraged students, faculty and staff to have an impact on challenges our society faces, from high school graduation rates to illiteracy to health issues.
“There are so many large problems that our society faces that our students impact,” he said. “They find opportunities for service throughout the year and are part of a team doing something. Part of the progress that any city needs to make really depends on the power and energy and intellectual capacity of a university.”
A university is not where cars are made or bread is baked, Little said, but where smart, capable people are concentrated and working together to translate what they’ve learned into their professional and personal lives.
“It’s a huge asset for a metro region to have universities which explicitly says they are committed to being part of the solutions to the problems we face,” he said.
Little said the university has also helped to transform Dearborn and educate many of its residents.
“For the city of Dearborn, in particular, it’s really valuable that the campus is here and accessible, it’s affordable and it’s a high-quality University of Michigan education,” Little said.
UM-D has helped with that strong commitment to inclusion and the intercultural skills that students acquire while on campus, he said. He’s proud to be a part of that positive transformation in the community and regards his nearly two decades as chancellor at the university as the highlight of his career.
“Our region has a long history with difficult social and race relations, and the city of Dearborn has a history that we who live in Dearborn aren’t proud of,” he said. “What we want to do is move beyond that history.”
Moving forward, Little hopes to see UM-D continue to grow, specifically in enrollment, which it has done each year he has been chancellor. He believes the university will reach even more goals of excellence and impact as it increases in size.
“Without any question, being the chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn is the most satisfying and rewarding work I’ve done during my career,” he said. “The quality of impact we have in the future can be even greater than it is today. We’ve built a great foundation.”
(This story was reprinted from Metromode Media. It also is available here.)