A Case Study
in University Transformation

Positioning the University of Michigan for the New Millennium

James J. Duderstadt
President Emeritus
University Professor of Science and Engineering

Version 6.3
June, 1999

This book is dedicated to
the faculty, staff, and students
whose dreams, talents, and loyalty
have made the University of Michigan
such a remarkable institution.
They are truly the leaders and best!


Shortly after announcing my intention to leave academic administration and return to the faculty, after a decade of leading the University of Michigan as provost, acting president, and president, one of my colleagues slipped me a scrap of paper with the following quote:

There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful of success, than to step up as a leader in the introduction of change. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm support in those who might be better off under the new.

Niccolo Machiavelli

To this, I could only respond "Amen!" Leading in the introduction of change can be both a challenging and risky proposition. The resistance can be intense, and the political backlash threatening. As one who has attempted to illuminate the handwriting on the wall and to lead an institution in transformation, I can attest to the lonely, hazardous, and usually frustrating life led by an agent of change.

Yet the times clearly call for such leadership. Our world is once again entering a period of dramatic social change, perhaps as profound as earlier periods such as the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolutionexcept, while those earlier transformations took decades, if not centuries, today's often take only a few years. We live in an era of breathtaking and accelerating change. If education was once simpler, our world was simpler too.

The most predictable feature of modern society is its unpredictability. We no longer believe that tomorrow will look much like today. Universities must find ways to sustain the most cherished aspects of their core values, while at the same time finding new ways to respond vigorously to the opportunities of a rapidly evolving world.

Universities have long defended the thorough but slow academic decision-making process which enables controlled change. "New" programs have been built up over the past two centuries over "old" ones in almost archaeological layers. But we can no longer afford the luxury of uncritical preservation. Obsolescence lies in store for those who cannot, in some manner, adapt to the new reality of our world.

In today's world, the fundamental purposes of the universityas a creator of knowledge, a trainer of young minds, a transmitter of cultureremain unchanged and undiminished in their importance. Yet, history suggests that the university must change and adapt if it is to preserve these traditional roles.

In spite of the growing awareness of these social forces, many within the academy still believe that change should occur only at the margins of higher education. They stress the role of the university in stabilizing society during a period of change rather than leading those changes. This too shall pass, they proclaim, and the university should hold fast to its traditional roles and character.

Others, both within and outside the academy, believe that significant change must occur not simply in the higher education enterprise but in each and every one of our institutions. Most of these see change as an evolutionary, incremental, long-term process, compatible with the values, cultures, and structure of the contemporary university.

There are a few voices espousing the belief that the dramatic nature and the compressed time scale characterizing the changes of our time will drive not evolution but revolution. These "dissenters," who are primarily outside the academy, express serious doubts about whether the challenges of our time will allow gradual change and adaptation. They point out that there are, in fact, no precedents we can follow. Some even suggest that long before reform of the educational system comes to any conclusion, the system itself may collapse.

It was our belief in the University of Michigan administration that the forces driving change in higher education, both from within and without, were far more powerful than most realized. The pace and nature of change affecting the higher education enterprise both in America and worldwide would be considerably beyond that which could be accommodated by business-as-usual evolution. As one of my colleagues put it, while there is certainly a good deal of exaggeration and hype about the changes in higher education over the short termmeaning a decade or lessit is difficult to stress too strongly the profound nature of the changes likely to occur in most of our institutions and in our enterprise over the longer term.

Part of the challenge we face in higher education stems from our very success. Americans have built the finest system of higher education in the world. The problem is that we have built universities for the 20th Century, and that century has come to an end. The universities that we have built, the paradigms in which we have so excelled, may no longer be relevant in the world before us.

Change has always characterized the university, as it has sought to preserve and propagate the intellectual achievements of our civilization. The university has endured as an important social institution for a millennium, in part because it has evolved in profound ways to serve a modernizing world. Higher education in America has adapted to embrace the concept of a secular liberal education, to weave scholarship into its educational mission, and to broaden its activities to provide public service and research in response to societal needs.

The past decade has witnessed significant development in higher education, as our institutions have attempted to adapt to the changing nature of resources and to respond to public concerns. The changes in the university that have resulted have been important, but they have been largely reactive rather than strategic. For the most part, our institutions still have not grappled with the extraordinary implications of the age of knowledge and culture of learning that will likely be our future. While most of our colleges and universities are changing to adapt to a changing world, they are not yet transforming themselves into educational institutions suitable for our future.

This is the principal challenge to higher education as we approach a new century. It represented our top priority at the University of Michigan during my presidency. We sought to integrate the principle and practice of change into the day-to-day life of the institution, even as we held to the fundamental values that give us direction in a shifting world. Beyond simply adapting to a time of change, we also sought to influence the nature of our changing world. Instead of simply following society, we tried to be leaders in the journey.

As will be described in Part IV of this book, the University of Michigan launched a program intended to guide it into the next century. The University leadership, working closely with faculty groups and academic units, sought to develop and then articulate a compelling vision of the University and its role and mission for the twenty-first century. This effort was augmented by the development and implementation of a flexible and adaptive planning process. Key was the recognition that in a rapidly evolving environment, it was important to implement a process that was not only capable of adapting to fluctuating conditions, but also capable of modifying the environment itself in the decades ahead.

The first phase of this effort was essentially a positioning strategy. A plan known as Vision 2000 was set in motion to position the University of Michigan for a leadership role in higher education during the next century. By establishing a series of specific goals and associated initiatives, the University became stronger, more diverse, and more exciting. This strategy fell short, however, because it achieved leadership only within the current paradigm of the research university in 20th Century America. It became increasingly clear that this paradigm would no longer be adequate to respond to the great changes occurring in our society and our world.

Hence, in the early 1990s, the University turned toward a bolder vision aimed at providing leadership during a period of global transformation. This objective, termed Vision 2017 in reference to the date of the two-hundredth anniversary of the University's founding, was designed to provide Michigan with the capacity to re-invent the very nature of the university, to transform itself into an institution better capable of serving a new world in a new century. This transformation strategy contrasted sharply with the earlier positioning strategy that guided us during the 1980s. It sought to build the capacity, the energy, the excitement, and the commitment necessary for the University to explore entirely new paradigms of teaching, research, and service. It sought to remove the constraints that would prevent the University from responding to the needs of a rapidly changing society: to remove unnecessary processes and administrative structures; to question existing premises and arrangements; and to challenge, excite, and embolden the members of the University community to embark on a great adventure.

The task of developing a vision for institutional transformation is daunting when the future is so dimly understood, when both our challenges and our opportunities appear so numerous, diverse, and complex. With each step we took to position the University of Michigan during the 1990s, we became more convinced that the changes that would likely occur in higher education were far more profound and would occur far more rapidly than we had first surmised. We concluded that the most appropriate strategy for the near term would be one of experimentationof building and examining an array of new educational and research paradigms. While such an exploratory vision was disconcerting to some members of the community, and frustrating to others, there were many on our campus and beyond who viewed this phase as an exciting adventure.

This book is intended to describe our experience in developing and then executing these successive strategies of positioning and transformation. While intended primarily for members of the University of Michigan community, it also serves as a case study that might benefit other institutions. While the size and complexity of the University of Michigan may be unusual, the challenges and opportunities it has faced, the experiences it has had, and the lessons it has learned are similar to those characterizing many other academic institutions.

At Michigan we learned that the capacity for intellectual change and renewal has become increasingly important to us as individuals and to our institutions. The challenge for us, as academic institutions, as faculty, and as administrators, is to work together to provide an environment in which such change is regarded not as a threat but rather as an exhilarating opportunity to engage in the primary activity of a university: learning, in all its many forms, as a means to better serve our society and our world.

There should be little doubt that higher education will flourish in the decades ahead. In a knowledge-intensive society, the need for advanced education will become ever more pressing, both for individuals and for society more broadly. It is also likely that the university as we know it todayor rather, the current constellation of diverse institutions comprising the higher education enterprisewill transform in exciting and probably unforeseen ways.

Change will not only be the challenge to the American university, it will be the watchword for the years ahead. With change will come unprecedented opportunities for those universities with the talent and the will to respond. We must work hard to develop university communities into arenas where uncertainty is an exhilarating opportunity for learning. The future belongs to those who face it squarely, to those who have the courage to transform themselves to serve a new society.

The future is not yet written, but we should not wish it any other way. The excitement that comes with uncertainty and discovery draws us inexorably into tomorrow.


Ann Arbor


The strategic effort described in this book succeeded only because of the wisdom, skill, and labor of many committed members of the University community. During the decade covered by this book, the University of Michigan was particularly fortunate to have a truly remarkable executive officer team, many of whom continued on to other significant leadership roles in higher education, all of whom had extensive experience with higher education, and all of whom are owed a deep debt of gratitude.

The Team:

Provost: Chuck Vest, Gil Whitaker, Bernie Machen

VP-Chief Financial Officer: Farris Womack

VP-Research: Linda Wilson, Bill Kelly, Homer Neal

Graduate Dean: John D'Arms, Bob Weisbuch

VP-Student Affairs: Henry Johnson, Mary Ann Swain, Maureen Hartford

VP-University Affairs: Walt Harrison

VP-Development: Jon Cosovich, Joe Roberson, Tom Kinnear

Secretary: Dick Kennedy, Roberta Palmer

Assoc VPs: Doug Van Houweling, George Zuidema, Chuck Moody, Lester Monts, Rhetaugh Dumas, Harold Jacobson, John Jackson, Lisa Baker

Chancellors: Blenda Wilson, Clint Jones, Jim Renick, Charlie Nelms

Athletics Directors: Bo Schembechler, Jack Weidenbach, Joe Roberson

Assistants: Robin Jacoby, Shirley Clarkson, Connie Cook, Ejner Jensen

Susan Lipschutz

During this period, Michigan was clearly a "deans' university," providing deans with unusual authority and opportunity, depending heavily upon their leadership, and attracting some truly remarkable academic leaders. And, of course, the progress achieved by a university of the size and complexity of the University of Michigan depends on the efforts of talented and committed faculty, staff, and student leaders. Hence, in a very real sense, this document should be regarded as a summary and a tribute to all of their extraordinary achievements.

It is important to acknowledge the work of all of those who have worked with me over the years in drafting the array of speeches, reports, policy documents, memoranda, and other materials that are so clearly linked with this effort: Shirley Clarkson, Robin Jacoby, Connie Cook, Ejner Jensen, Aaron Schutz, Mary Jo Frank, Carole LaMantia, and Liene Karels. Thanks are due as well to Julie Steiff and Elise Frasier for their editing efforts. And, or course, neither the president nor the University could long function without the talents and effort of Nona Mustard, Secretary to the President.

Finally, it is essential to recognize the extraordinary impact that the other half of my presidential team and first lady of the University, Anne Duderstadt, had during this decade. Only those who serve in a major university presidency understand the critical role played by the president's spouse. Such presidencies are a team endeavor. They could never be done, or at least done well, by a president alone, particularly in a university the size, scope, and complexity of the University of Michigan. Most presidents' spouses, and certainly Anne Duderstadt, work just as hard, and frequently have just as much impact, as the president. The only difference is that they rarely receive the recognition, the respect, the understanding, and the support that their critical role would merit in other circumstances.

Anne Duderstadt's role was far-reaching, with an array of formal activities related to institutional advancement (e.g., fund-raising, politics, entertaining VIPs) and innumerable managerial duties. Yet, probably even more significant during this period was the role she played in several key University efforts: launching the University History and Tradition's Committee and its many activities, stimulating the Michigan Agenda for Women, and, in many ways, setting the standards for excellence in University activities. She was not only a critical member of the University leadership. She was probably the best appointment I made during my administration!

Table of Contents


Part I: The Challenge of Change

Chapter 1 Introduction 3

Chapter 2 The University of Michigan, circa 1990 27

Chapter 3 A Time of Challenge, Opportunity, and Responsibility 41

Part II: Strategic Planning at Michigan

Chapter 4 Strategic Planning at Michigan 81

Chapter 5 The Planning Environment 103

Chapter 6 Early Planning Activities 129

Part III: Planning Issues and Early Actions

Chapter 7 Undergraduate Education 193

Chapter 8 Graduate and Professional Education 223

Chapter 9 Research and Scholarship 243

Chapter 10 Public Service 273

Chapter 11 Academic Medicine and Health Care 287

Chapter 12 Financing the University 297

Chapter 13 The Cost, Price, and Value of a College Education 327

Chapter 14 External Relations 355

Chapter 15 Preparing for the Digital Age 377

Part IV: Vision 2000: Positioning

Chapter 16 Vision 2000 401

Chapter 17 The Business Plan 421

Chapter 18 Private Fund Raising 445

Chapter 19 Diversity 461

Chapter 20 Rebuilding the Campus 507

Chapter 21 The Michigan Metrics 543

Part V: Vision 2017: Transformation

Chapter 22 Paradigms 583

Chapter 23 The Challenge of Transformation 621

Chapter 24 Michigan's Transformation Strategy 659

Chapter 25 The New University 687

Part VI: A Roadmap for the Future

Chapter 26 Remaining Challenges 711

Chapter 27 Concluding Remarks 729