Strategic Transformation Plan Update

Luis Martinez, Writer

As the University of Michigan-Flint enters into a new year, Chancellor Dutta and Huron Consulting firm have provided updates on the Strategic Transformation process.

On December 9, a second town hall was presented with Dutta to explain the findings of the transformation process while also providing some clarification on the process. As Dutta stated in the initial announcement, “this transformation…for all of us is stressful.” 

Much of the stress of the process has been surrounding the handling of the process and those involved. Protests from the One University Movement at the Board of Regents meeting expressed their criticism and worry for the students and the community. A town hall meeting held on November 29 hosted by University Staff United allowed for more open discussions among the workers and students. The common theme that was discussed by staff, professors and students was the lack of engagement from the university to the campus.

Dutta attempted to appease these concerns by discussing how the forum is open for engagement and stating that “no decisions have been made.” Dutta also stated that the transformation process “is now a completely Flint process.”

Out of the three main categories for the transformation process (market analysis, program analysis, and distributing funds), the market demand analysis has been completed with “community engagement” and “Program Economics Review” still in progress.

According to the findings from a survey done by Huron, many of the respondents highlighted the university and the rest of Flint, describing it as “a hidden gem.” The numbers of the market analysis presented, however, were curated around student and employer demands. The Huron findings emphasized that the university should invest in academic programs that have high demand from employers and high job openings.

The findings also showed that both employers and students want both technical skills and liberal arts skills. But, the data behind the findings were questioned during the question and answer session. Student Sammy Katob asked, “will liberal arts majors and degree programs be reinvented where they will play a side role to technology and business majors?” Dutta responded by reiterating “we haven’t made that decision because the project is incomplete.”

Professor of engineering Quamrul Mazumder provided a comment on how the trends of increasing demand for STEM jobs met up with expectations. Mazumder continued to emphasize the importance of high-tech knowledge as it relates to what international students are demanding and local employers stating “they are looking for skill beyond bachelor level.” Mazumder wanted to emphasize how this could serve both local and international students. 

Jacob Blummer, the director of the Marian E Wright Writing Center, asked how the rise of fascism affects civic engagement and protecting the institution’s morals. Dutta stated, “we might invest in areas that Huron will indicate that it is not a wise investment but that is because we are an institution. We are part of UM and there are values we want to protect”.

Professor Heather Laube asked about the list of employers and names of employees that were part of the survey, and the underlying definitions of terms being used in the survey such as community. Dutta assured her that the list of organizations is available in the appendix. 

Julie Elles asked about the Ann Arbors’ relation to the plan. Dutta stated that “as of late October it is completely UM-Flint,” but Dutta pointed out that Ann Arbor still had a connection with the process through Stephanie Alexander. Dutta ended by explaining that Ann Arbor will eventually come into the situation when it comes to the financials.

Alicia Washington made a comment about moot court and the importance of UM-Flint’s College of Arts and Sciences stating “ We ask for this body that’s making these decisions to consider the value of this. My school matters – I matter, my work matters, and when I graduate, that degree should matter too.”

Dutta also felt confident that with the extended timeline, all the findings will be complete by end of the first quarter in 2023. On the FAQS a post was made on December 14, President Ono and the Board of Regents have approved the extension of the timeline for the strategic transformation process. 

On the FAQ as of January 11th, Dutta stated that on the 16th of January, the entire synthesis analysis will be presented “with the campus community via a town hall.”