Forward, ever forward

December 8, 2022

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I provided the community an update on my initial goals and priorities. To recap just briefly, we are fully committed to:

  • Strengthening our culture of excellence
  • Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion
  • Restoring trust and integrity
  • Investing in our people

We have also embarked on a strategic visioning process, one that will build on critical work already underway, and will fully unleash our power and potential as a great public university.

I anticipate that we’ll have that strategic vision in place by 2024.

It will not be about me, but rather about what we can do, and what we aspire to do, together.

Celebrating our community

In the house

One of the more urgent needs that many of you have brought to my attention is for housing – specifically, housing for our incoming first-year students.

Since 2004, our undergraduate enrollment has grown by more than 8,000 students, yet on-campus housing has simply not kept pace. And today, the overwhelming majority of our first-year students must secure off-campus housing for their sophomore year within just months of starting at the University.

Your first year as a student is such a vulnerable time. As our first-year students take their initial steps, it’s critical that they feel connected to our campus and community. So today I’m pleased to announce that we’re responding.

We will initiate the process of hiring an architect to design the first housing that we’ve built specifically for first-year students since 1968.

If you build it…

1936 Fingerle Lumber store at Fifth/John in Ann Arbor

Founded in 1931, Fingerle Lumber opened this story at Fifth Avenue and John Street in 1936. The company sold its property to U-M and exited Ann Arbor in 2019. (Ann Arbor News archives courtesy of

Our needs have changed over the past half-century.

So as we work with the design firm, we’ll also be engaging with students for their input, even as we continue to be open to your recommendations.

The residence hall, which we anticipate will house some 2,300 students, will be sited in Elbel Field. That’s where our marching band now practices. So the band, in turn, will be moving to a new facility on the grounds of the former Fingerle Lumber Company, which we purchased a few years ago.

I should add that the marching band is fully on board with this move, and is as excited about it as we are.

And given our deep commitment to reducing universitywide greenhouse gas emissions and achieving carbon neutrality, the residence hall will be built to, and operate at, the highest levels of LEED certification.

Lasting response to a longstanding concern

This new construction will not, by itself, solve all of our housing concerns.

But it is an essential next step.

And in the future, we’ll continue to address our need for a total of 5,000 new beds.

More details about our new residence hall will be announced at the Board of Regents meeting in February.

I’m so excited about this effort.

It’s a lasting response to a longstanding concern. It will strengthen us as a university. And it will bring thousands of first-year students closer to us as a campus … and to us as a community.

Congratulations to the graduates who will be celebrating Winter Commencement in Crisler Arena.

And for our football fans, I’m hoping to see many of you in Phoenix!

But wherever your road takes you, I wish all of you a joyous and memorable holiday season.

Santa J. Ono, PhD

(Culled from remarks prepared for delivery to the Board of Regents on Dec. 8, 2022. The lead image comes from the Sara Gladys Weir photograph album at U-M’s Bentley Historical Library. Pictured are the first residents of Martha Cook in front of the dormitory in December 1915.)

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