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By Alex Piazza
A new program at the University of Michigan aims to gather and mobilize groups of faculty across all three campuses so they can work together to solve complex challenges and develop innovative curricula.
Mcubed Communities is an online tool that encourages faculty to create or join groups around a common purpose, ranging from shared expertise and academic goals to research and scholarship themes.
The program can strengthen institutional strategy, coordination and readiness by surfacing expertise across the Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Flint campuses, while also increasing faculty competitiveness for external funding opportunities.
“This new program promises to further open the door for faculty team formation across units, and allows them to build collaborative momentum,” said Mark Burns, T.C. Chang Professor of Engineering, and executive director of Mcubed and Research Innovation.
The program leverages the success of Mcubed, which brings together faculty trios, or “cubes,” from at least two separate units so they can request seed funding to advance their idea right away.
Mcubed Communities is less constrained, with no participation fees, interdisciplinary requirements or group size limits. The online system allows faculty to search for groups based on their interests and priorities, and they can participate in up to five of them.
As the result of collaboration between the Office of the Vice President for Research, Office of the Provost and College of Engineering, the online tool will generate webpages for each Mcubed Community so faculty can share updates about their research, scholarship, creative work and curricular innovation. Mcubed Communities also will provide data on the emerging teams, which could inform decisions about new course creation and initiative development.
“The University of Michigan is a large, complex research ecosystem, and so this online tool will make it easier for faculty to collaborate, find and form new teams, and address emerging areas of research,” said Rebecca Cunningham, interim vice president for research.
Last year, the College of Engineering piloted the program, and more than 400 faculty from 17 schools, colleges and units across campus helped launch 40 new communities.
One of those communities brought together faculty in engineering, art, African studies, public policy, sustainability and social sciences to explore the effects of climate change due to carbon emissions. A separate community involves faculty in physics and engineering, who are working together to advance a new concept that aims to realize a paradigm shift for future electronic, photonic and clean energy industries.
“Often the problems we face today are so complex that solving them requires bringing together teams from across disciplines,” said Alec Gallimore, the Robert J. Vlasic Dean of Engineering, Richard F. and Eleanor A. Towner Professor of Engineering, and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of Aerospace Engineering. “This is an excellent tool for helping that to happen, and it will function even more powerfully now that it has expanded across all three of our campuses.”