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Letter from the Dean: Sustainability and Michigan Ross

Dear alumni,

Sustainability is a topic that is receiving a lot of attention these days. At the University of Michigan and the Ross School of Business, we have been leaders in research and education on this topic for many years. I am pleased to introduce you to this special edition of Dividend that showcases some of the important work that is under way at Michigan Ross in this vital domain by our faculty, staff, current students, and, of course, our alums.

Rising to the top of these activities at Ross are the excellent student programming and experiences and the thought leadership provided by the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise — a partnership between Ross and the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability — which uses research, teaching, and business engagement in service of its mission “to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world through the power of business.” We are proud that this institute was established long before sustainability became a household word — to wit, it is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year! 

In my role as Interim Dean, my thinking about this topic these days also is rooted in President Schlissel's announcement earlier this year that U-M will achieve carbon neutrality by 2025 for some, and by 2040 for other, emissions. This comprehensive commitment spans the university’s $1.62 billion research enterprise; our 40 million square feet of buildings; our three campuses (Ann Arbor, Dearborn, and Flint), as well as athletics; and also Michigan Medicine, which serves the public with 2.3 million patient visits, 60,000 surgeries, and 5,000 births annually. In his statement, President Schlissel encourages all members of the university to integrate social, economic, and environmental perspectives, with a particular emphasis on environmental justice, as we engage in this work.

I am pleased that Michigan Ross is uniquely situated to bring expertise in these domains to this work on campus — and to the work of other organizations in our community and far beyond. We have a long and storied history of advancing sustainability, through faculty research as well as our centers, institutes, and initiatives, and various projects throughout the school, including:

  • Our faculty members conduct important research and act as thought leaders on sustainability topics. This issue of Dividend includes interviews with three of them: Tom Lyon, Dana Muir, and Andy Hoffman.
  • As a school, we continually renew our commitment to the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion — a critical component of  the social pillar of sustainability. Most recently, we instituted the Michigan Ross DEI Research and Teaching Awards to recognize our faculty’s outstanding work on these important topics.  
  • The Business+Impact initiative at Michigan Ross provides a central hub for resources, co-curricular experiences, action-based courses, events, and networking that make a positive impact globally and locally.
  • The William Davidson Institute, which was founded in 1992 on the principle that businesses are the driving force for economic development and improved social welfare in low- and middle-income countries. Housed at Michigan Ross, the institute realizes that vision through consulting on business practices, training leaders, conducting research, and sponsoring hands-on projects in a number of different countries, as well as publishing case studies to better disseminate the knowledge gained to business students around the world. 
  • For nearly 20 years, the Center for Positive Organizations has done groundbreaking work to identify and share what makes an organization thrive. 
  • Our own construction projects in recent years have incorporated a number of sustainable features. The main Ross building, Blau Hall, and Kresge Hall are all LEED certified as “green” buildings. In addition, our volunteer Ross Green Team offers events and education aimed at improving sustainability on our campus.

Perhaps most importantly, once they establish themselves in their new careers outside the walls of Ross, our students go on to do amazing things to advance sustainability — in corporate environments, as entrepreneurs, and in nonprofit organizations. In this special issue of Dividend, we share more details on the sustainability stories of three of our alumni, and we hear from several others about how they are advancing the cause through their work.

So welcome to our sustainability-themed special issue of Dividend. I hope you will find the stories shared here informative, thought-provoking, and most of all, inspiring. 

Remember: Think green, and Go Blue!

Francine Lafontaine
Interim Dean
William Davidson Professor of Business Administration
Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy

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Email: visb@umich.edu

Featured Faculty

Francine Lafontaine
  • Interim Dean
  • William Davidson Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy
  • Professor of Economics, LSA