I am writing as Dean of the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) at University of Michigan. Over the last 6 years, LSA has sponsored NextProf Science, and it has been a terrific experience for all involved. Unfortunately, we cannot hold the event this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on travel and gatherings.
NextProf Science is a highly anticipated event for our faculty and students in the natural sciences, and we are all disappointed that we are not able to meet you in person this year. That said, I sincerely hope that we are still able to get to know you as a scholar, maintain contact with you as your academic career progresses, and in one way or another partner with you in advancing STEM research in the years to come.
Academia is a very high calling. As the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic, it is abundantly clear how rigorous academic research can and will impact the lives of countless people and communities for years to come. Your decision to join the academy cannot have come at a more important time. Based on my 22 years as a faculty member (in my case, in English and Linguistics), I can assure you that life in the academy is both fulfilling and rewarding. This career allows you to expand the world’s base of knowledge, pursue real-time interventions that can create positive change in both local and global communities, excite undergraduate students about fields that may be entirely new to them, and train the next generation of scholars in your field.
I am thrilled at the prospect that emerging scholars like you will soon join our profession and succeed at the highest level. I will be even more thrilled to see you join our profession here at U-M, especially at LSA. LSA is the oldest and largest college at U-M. We have over 17,000 undergraduate students, 2,500 graduate students, and 1,300 full time faculty. We have 47 top 10 departments and programs. In particular, we have renowned programs and incredible resources within the natural sciences that are allowing long-established and emerging scholars like you to thrive in the academy.
For example, last year we celebrated the official opening of the Biological Science Building, a $261 million, 312,000 square feet structure containing state-of-the-art laboratories and educational spaces. The building was specifically designed to create new collaborations among natural scientists with different disciplinary backgrounds, and we hear from faculty in the building that they have engaged in more cross-unit conversations in the past year than they had in the past decade. It is exciting to witness.
The building also houses the U-M Museum of Natural History, which can partner with you to bring your science into action, help you translate your research to a larger community, and work with you to develop the all-important broader impacts section of grant applications. U-M is a place that “walks the walk” in terms of interdisciplinarity and is committed to public intellectual work in addition to specialized research. As a scientist at U-M, you will find exciting opportunities for collaborative work across disciplines, and get expert and comprehensive support in creating broad impact for your work.
Another example of exciting innovation in science at U-M is the Biological Science initiative, an initiative to make U-M a global leader in high-impact life science research for the benefit of society. This initiative includes a $150 million investment and 30 new faculty positions, and it has already funded many projects here in LSA in areas such as global change biology, RNA biomedicine, natural products drug discovery, and many more. As a scientist at U-M, you can pursue big ideas and provide solutions to the most critical and urgent scientific questions of our time.
In LSA, we have also been investing in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) with financial resources and our best thinking. We are entering year five of a 5-year DEI strategic plan, and we are already planning for the next chapter, learning from and building on initiatives over the past few years. Infusing DEI into our research, teaching, service, and outreach is one of my top priorities. I am committed to recruiting, retaining, and supporting scholars who, like you, excel in your research and demonstrate a track record of promoting DEI in your disciplines. I am also committed to fostering a community where all can thrive, with a focus on purposeful inclusion, integrity and respect, and well-being. Scholars like you will help lead the way to an ever more inclusive campus climate, a critical foundation and catalyst for scholarly excellence and impact. As a scientist at U-M, your contributions to DEI will be recognized as an essential element of excellence in scientific research and education.
I understand that our scientific work has been severely disrupted during the last few weeks. As we closed down much of our campus and ramped down research laboratories, I have been inspired by the resilience, generosity, and compassion of LSA’s faculty, students, and staff, and their commitment to advance our research and educational mission despite these disruptions. I have every hope that next year, we will have the opportunity to gather through the NextProf Science program, discuss our research, exchange best practices for career development, and build a strong community of emerging researchers and leaders in STEM.
I hope that you are staying safe and healthy.
With best wishes from Ann Arbor,
Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English Language and Literature, Linguistics, and Education
Arthur F. Thurnau Professor
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts | University of Michigan
500 South State Street | LSA 2205 | Ann Arbor, MI | 48109-1382
Phone: 734.764.0322 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org