Woolliscroft & Hanlon on Collegiality, Diversity & Vision at UM

Originally posted at the THL Blog: http://thlibrary.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/woolliscroft-hanlon-on-collegiality-diversity-vision-at-um/

The library was privileged Monday to be present at the orientation for new faculty in the School of Medicine. During the lunch, there were several speakers, of which the two most notable were James Woolliscroft and Phil Hanlon. Both focused on the human aspect of professional life at the University of Michigan.

James Wooliscroft

Dr. Woolliscroft spoke at length about collegiality, but it sounded to me like the focus was on collaboration. There was an emphasis on joining the wonderful clinicians and researchers here at the University, but also on professionalism and working together, learning from each other, and partnering on new discoveries and innovations.

Phil Hanlon

Dr. Hanlon extended this concept. It was interesting that, even in the bio read as his introduction, it was clear that Phil Hanlon has served as a very model of a boundary spanner, someone who started with a foundation skill that he parlayed into partnerships and explorations across a broad range of disciplines and domains, addressing fascinating questions of all sorts.

Dr. Hanlon described how, in his current position as Provost, one of his favorite responsibilities is to read all the promotion and tenure dossiers across the University, over 200 in the past year. These illustrate the intellectual breadth of the University of Michigan, providing examples that are inspiring, innovative, and dedicated. He mentioned several specific examples — solar micro sensors to fractured memories, biofilms to stereotypes — before closing with a healthcare example of a specialist in acute lung injury. He said he could go on all day, and I bet that was, if anything, an underestimate.

For Hanlon, that overview of the range of intellectual activities at UM was an introduction to the absolutely critical nature of diversity in academic inquiry, especially here. He explained that diversity here is not a single, simple definition, but embraced in all its many forms and meanings — intellectual diversity, race, gender, nation of origin, disability status, and more. Why? To advance the frontiers of knowledge. Because no single perspective can address all problems. For our students, who increasingly are moving to work in global communities and environments, and who NEED the skills to be able to cope with diversity within those environments. Diversity.

Hanlon used the story of Hussein Hamid as an example of the power of diversity and community in scholarship.

Hussein grew up in Dearborn, where the issues of health disparities were made well apparent to him, motivating him and shaping his goals in life. He was awarded one of the Brehm scholarships, majoring in neuroscience & Near East studies. As a freshman, he made a “cold call” to faculty member Eva Feldman, asking to work in her lab, and it worked. He also volunteered in the hospital, working with post-op patients. This Fall, he’ll become a med student.

From Hussein’s story, Hanlon offered the following lessons for new faculty:
– Embrace the diversity
– Leave your labs, sometimes
– Find out what your colleagues are doing
– Allow yourself to be surprised

Powerful ideas, for all of us.


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