This is part of an ongoing series of student-led candid conversations with members of leadership at University of Michigan.
In this campus conversation, University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel joined #UMSocial intern and Michigan Ross graduate student Josh Nichols to discuss what it’s like being a university president during a pandemic, the most rewarding parts of his job, and words of wisdom he has for U-M students as this difficult year comes to a close.
President Schlissel says that witnessing the success of those around him is one of the things he values most in his role as president.He also emphasizes how proud he is of the Go Blue Guarantee, the financial aid program for in-state students that guarantees four years of free tuition if their family is at or below the median income in the state.
“[The Go Blue Guarantee] opens up the ability to attend a great university, regardless of what a student’s family background is. I think that’s a fantastic thing for a public university,” Schlissel says.
President Schlissel reflects on the myriad changes the COVID-19 pandemic has caused and the impact it has had on campus life, and shares what he misses most: people.
“It’s tougher…because you find out that you miss the human social interactions that are part of a normal day,” he says. “There are no accidental interactions that sometimes lead to interesting things. So, the biggest challenge is missing the humanity of sitting around in person and talking about things that aren’t directly related to work or the topic of the meeting.”
As the conversation comes to a close, Nichols asks President Schlissel what parting wisdom he can share with U-M students who are experiencing their academic journey in this unique situation.
“My heart goes out to all of our students for the bad fortune of having your education overlap with a historic event. There hasn’t been a global pandemic of this nature since the flu epidemic in 1918,” he says, adding that he feels particularly badly for first-year students who had their senior year in high school disrupted and an unusual start to being a Wolverine, and for U-M seniors who have had a challenging final year.
“The advice I’d offer people is ‘This, too, shall pass.’ There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” he says. “You just have to take a deep breath, and soldier on. Don’t let it interfere with your progression toward your Michigan degree and preparing yourself for a world that’s going to need educated people more than ever after the pandemic.”