U-M regents meet in GR on Thursday

April 11, 2010
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The University of Michigan’s regents are bringing their monthly meeting to Grand Rapids Thursday, another sign of an effort to highlight maize-and-blue ties to West Michigan.

The university also launched a new Web site that does just that at www.vpcomm.umich.edu/issues/westmichigan.html

The regents last met in Grand Rapids in 1998.

West Michigan donors and alumni have been urging University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman to strengthen connections to the area. She has responded with several personal appearances, including serving as keynote speaker at the Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women event in March and at Grand Valley State University’s December commencement exercise.

Also, the university has several programs locally, including a study of wind energy in conjunction with Grand Valley State University, the Business Engagement Center to connect small businesses to U-M resources and a cancer treatment joint venture with Metro Health. Former University of Michigan Hospitals CEO Bob Kelch joined Metro Health’s board of directors late last year, hospital spokeswoman Ellen Bristol said.

“I’ve always believed the university could be more active over here,” said Greg Meyer, a Michigan alumnus and the last American to win the Boston Marathon. Now an associate vice president in the development office of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, he previously worked in development at U-M. “I think West Michigan holds a lot of opportunity for the University of Michigan.”

U-M counts 1,120 current students from Kent County, the highest enrollment from outside of southeastern Michigan. Ottawa County has 403 students there. Some 7,576 alumni live in Kent and 2,516 in Ottawa counties, the university said.

The regents, U-M’s elected governing board, plan to meet at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the Gerald R. and Betty Ford Ballroom of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. They will take public comment.

While the agenda is expected to be released Monday, U-M News Service Director Laura Lessnau said at least two presentations are expected about local programs.

One is the Elementary Math Lab program, led by School of Education Dean Deborah Ball. This summer and for the next two, Ball will convene 27 incoming fifth-graders plus more than 50 teachers, student teachers, researchers and mathematicians at the Steelcase Inc. headquarters on 44th Street. The professionals will have the chance to observe and brainstorm about better teaching techniques while the students get extra help with math, including one-on-one sessions with student teachers.

A second program expected to be spotlighted at the meeting is a five-day bike camp for children with Down syndrome or autism. Underwritten by the Steelcase Foundation and a National Institutes of Health grant, the program is led by U-M Kinesiology Professor Dale Ulrich. The children are taught how to ride a two-wheel bike. With support from the Down Syndrome Association of Western Michigan, this year’s bike camp will be at Ada Christian School.

Usually the regents meet at one of U-M’s campuses in Ann Arbor, Dearborn or Flint.

U-M’s new West Michigan Web site details dozens of connections, from S2 in Holland that licenses technology developed by a U-M professor, to dental students who provide services at Cherry Street Health Clinic and research collaborations with the Van Andel Institute.

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