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Detroit — Asked to describe Detroit in one word Tuesday, the president of Wayne State University said, “Gritty.” A second later he added, “in a good way,” drawing laughter from the audience at Cobo Center for a Detroit Economic Club luncheon.

That same grit applies to the university's students, who deserve to be heard, said M. Roy Wilson, who discussed a wide range of topics as WSU celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

“I think we need to do a better job of responding to what students want, and what businesses want, as opposed to saying we know best and sticking to what you’re used to doing,” he told The Detroit News. “We have to adjust.”

He also touched on the nation's intense, widening political divide: “Students need to feel safe expressing themselves, whatever their opinions.”

Wilson became the 12th president of Wayne State University on Aug. 1, 2013.

He proudly discussed improvements around the campus, including the new Mike Ilitch School of Business on Woodward near the Little Caesar's Arena, made possible by a $40 million investment from Mike and Marian Ilitch.  

“The building itself is beautiful, but one of the most exciting aspects was the ability to build a curriculum around what businesses were looking for,” he said. “Our sports and entertainment curriculum feeds into that response.”

Wilson also talked about the downward trend in public support for higher education.

“For higher education in general, I looked at some data today showing that support of higher education has been declining, and part of that is because we sit on pedestals and are not responding to what the community and students are asking for," he said. "Students want a good job."

He added, "We should give faculty the ability to create their curriculum and get input from businesses in terms of what they're looking for. We don't want to decrease academics, but at the same time, should respond to what both businesses and students want." 

slewis@detroitnews.com

 
 

 

 

 

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