Stateside: U of M President Mary Sue Coleman to visit Brazil

Sep 20, 2012

University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and several researchers will travel to Brazil this coming Saturday for a very busy week of meetings and working sessions.

The U-M group hopes the visit will strengthen relationships with several leading universities and foundations. Coleman previously led U-M faculty to China, Ghana and South Africa.

Coleman said this trip presents a wonderful opportunity to listen to colleagues in Brazil. She hopes to provide new opportunities for collaboration and attract more Brazilian students to the University of Michigan.

“In a rapidly developing economy like Brazil, I think students bring us perspective that is quite interesting,” said Coleman. According to Coleman, providing these global opportunities for U-M students is part of what makes the University of Michigan so special.

The timing of the Brazil trip is also unique. Coleman has served as the university's 13th president since Aug. 2002 and her contract is set to expire in July 2014.

Just a few years into Coleman’s tenure, the state was slammed by the Great Recession. Cyndy wondered how President Coleman and her team did in navigating some very choppy waters.

Coleman told Cyndy she’s very proud of what the U-M team has accomplished during this very difficult time.  

“When I look at the types of financial aid that we're able to offer today - that we couldn’t even dreamed about ten years ago - I’m just really proud our donors have stepped up. You know all parts of this puzzle have to work together to do what we’ve done at the university, so I’m very proud of my colleagues.”

However, the outlook for jobs isn't promising, and today's graduates now have to manage a lot of debt while looking for full-time work. Does this raise a question, Cyndy asked, about the value of a university degree?

Coleman said that she encourages young people who are interested in a college education to continue to pursue a degree. It's an aspiration that she hopes we can keep alive in the United States.

"I believe in this day and age we all need to work hard to keep the debt burden manageable, and that's certainly something we're going to do at the University of Michigan," Coleman said.

"But for me, a college education was so intrinsically valuable to me because it opened up my mind to a world that I wouldn't have known existed if it weren't for that discipline of mind."

After about a decade of service, Coleman has arguably made an impact during her tenure. Time Magazine declared her to be one of the ten best college presidents in the nation, and President Obama turned to her for advice on boosting America’s manufacturing capability.

Though Coleman's contract is up in 2014, her tenure is not over yet. When asked about what she would like to accomplish before she decides to retire, Coleman spoke about her colleagues.

"People see the facilities, but you know the facilities are just facilities. It’s the people inside that make all the difference. And so,  I want – I hope that I can look back on my own tenure and say, you know, the University of Michigan has become more prominent, more relevant, more critical to the success of this state than when I came," Coleman said.

"And I really feel that so passionately and I have so much work to get done in the next 2 years that it's going to be a marathon. But I'm really excited about it."

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