UM-Flint Unveils The New College of Innovation and Technology


Santiago Ochoa

A robotic arm inside the CIT’s Robotics and Mechantronics lab draws a face.

Lauren Hackett, Managing Editor

Only the second free-standing college of technology in the state, UM-Flint’s new College of Innovation and Technology opened its doors in the Winter of 2021.

This addition to UM-Flint’s campus was made possible by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, whose $10 million donation helped fund the university’s expansion efforts.

Two four-year bachelor’s degree programs will be offered through the CIT in Fall 2021, including Digital Manufacturing Technology and Information Technology and Informatics, with new programs to be added in the coming years.

According to the CIT website, these paths of study will prepare forward-thinking students for careers involving artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, healthcare technologies, environmental sustainability, and more.

Christopher Pearson, Ph.D., the inaugural dean of the CIT, has been a member of the UM-Flint community since 1998. He served as Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2015 to 2020 and maintains his position as Professor of Physics.

Pearson foresees the CIT attracting a new batch of students to UM-Flint. Programs at the college will accommodate students who are “very interested in building things and doing things hands-on, but maybe not to the extent of doing the high-level math and science that would be required of a true engineering degree,” said Pearson.

The 61,000 square-foot addition to the Murchie building will feature four floors, sporting rooms and labs dedicated to fields of study like solid mechanics, fluid dynamics and robotics, among others.

Common areas for students to study and socialize are also sparse throughout the building, many of them featuring modular seating arrangements and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the UM-Flint campus.

Experiential learning will be a central component of courses offered at the CIT, as opposed to learning that is strictly theory-based.

“It won’t be ‘go to a class, learn the theory, and then learn how to apply the theory,’” Pearson explained, “It’ll be ‘go to the class the very first day, start playing with the equipment and tools, and then, by doing that, learn about the theory.’”

Pearson believes the interdisciplinary nature of the CIT will equip students with the field experience and problem-solving skills they need to excel in whatever industry they choose.

“We don’t want to just train [students] for a specific job because then, in five years, when that job goes away, what happens? We want to have them have a true UM education so that they’re ready and able to move from one job to the next, as the industry progresses,” said Pearson.

In a press conference delivered by Chancellor Deba Dutta on Sep. 17, Dutta discussed consulting with leading engineers at Ford, GM, Leer, and other companies when planning for the CIT. Employers in the industry “have a pool of engineers to draw upon,” said Dutta, many of whom graduated from engineering colleges. Graduates of a less common college of technology bring a different set of skills and experiences to the workforce and will stand out to prospective employers as a result.

Dutta anticipates the CIT benefitting not only UM-Flint, but the City of Flint in coming years. “[The CIT], I would argue, will get the attention of businesses who might be looking to relocate to new areas,” said Dutta, “When they look at Flint, they will see the workforce pipeline that has bachelors of engineering as well as bachelors of technology. That makes it attractive for them to consider setting up shop in Flint.”