5 Q&As with the new chancellor of University of Michigan-Dearborn

Though he began his duties as Chancellor of University of Michigan-Dearborn in August 2018, Domenico Grasso will officially be recognized as the university’s sixth chancellor with an installation ceremony on Friday, April 12.

An east coast native, Grasso first came to Michigan for his Ph.D. work at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He met his wife there, eventually becoming even more familiar with the region by way of his Michigander bride.

Grasso most recently served as Provost for the University of Delaware. Coming back to Michigan, he says he’s especially looking forward to working for the University of Michigan-Dearborn student body.

"It’s a great opportunity because of the population that the school serves. There are a lot of first-generation college students here and I’m a first-generation college graduate, too," Grasso says. "I used education to create a new life for myself. I know how important education can be."

Q: What is the legacy of the University of Michigan-Dearborn?

A: The legacy here is very interesting. The school started as a partnership with the Ford Motor Company to provide the region with engineers. I myself went to school for engineering. That’s the thing about engineering, it attracts a lot of first-generation college students. You look at the demographics here and it makes it an attractive place to do meaningful and consequential work.

Q: How do you plan to enact your goals as Chancellor?

A: Having been in higher education for a long time, I’m keenly aware that I can’t do it by myself. I want to engage the faculty with where we want to go as a school. College is changing rapidly. Society is changing rapidly with smart cities. We have to move forward from the twentieth century.

Q: What are your objectives for the future?

A: We’re in the middle of a strategic planning effort and we’ve identified five groups to target. Number one is student experience and student success. Two is scholar-teachers. A third is staff development. Number four is the different models of how we organize and deliver education. And fifth is how we engage with our community partners. We’ll be bringing in thought leaders from around the country to share ideas of how we can achieve our goals.

Q: What is the university’s relationship to Dearborn?

A: The university has a good relationship with the community, and not just Dearborn but all of southeastern Michigan. And then there is a really strong and healthy relationship with Ford Motor Company, our neighbor. Not to mention our cousin campus in Ann Arbor.

Q: Now that you’re spending a lot more time in Dearborn, what are your impressions of the community?

A: Well, I love Middle Eastern food, which is outstanding here. And I love the diversity of cultures here. I really think Dearborn can serve as a model for how different communities and cultures can come together in the United States.

The city is going through a renaissance with a very nice downtown. I like going on bike rides through Hines Park. But what I really love most about Dearborn is the people. They are friendly and generous of spirit. Everyone has lived up to that Michigan sense of hospitality.

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.