Last Friday, after the press conference, the handshakes, and the hugs, Mark S. Schlissel ’79, the newly appointed president of the University of Michigan, received something akin to a key to the campus: an invitation to spin “the Cube,” a Tony Rosenthal sculpture and central-campus landmark.
Surrounded by students, Schlissel had a moment of hesitation, as he later told The Michigan Daily. “[A]lthough I had seen the Cube before, I didn’t appreciate the fact that it really did spin,” he said. “In the back of my mind, I was worried I was being set up. … I had this fear that I would start pushing it and nothing would happen and it was all a big joke. But it was really great fun when I was able to spin it around. And the students were all very happy and laughing and it just felt very welcoming.”
Schlissel, a biologist and provost at Brown University, will formally begin his work in Ann Arbor in July, taking the helm of a flagship research institution that enrolls more than 43,000 students. Prior to his time at Brown, Schlissel was the Dean of Biological Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He studied biochemical sciences as a Princeton undergraduate, graduating summa cum laude, and received his Ph.D. and M.D. from Johns Hopkins University, where he also taught from 1991 to 1999.
In his first remarks to the Michigan community, Schlissel spoke of the “synergy between research and teaching that makes a university great,” recalling his time as a student. “My own life and career were forever altered by the opportunity to do biology lab research as an undergraduate at Princeton, and the relationship I developed with my faculty mentor,” he said. “I will work hard to find ways to learn how students feel about their Michigan education and to involve them in key decisions that affect their experience here.”
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