UM Board of Regents to hold first-ever Upper Peninsula meeting Thursday

Christian Peck-Dimit
The Detroit News

The University of Michigan Board of Regents will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Upper Peninsula for the first time ever for Paul Brown’s first meeting as the chairman of the board.

The meeting will be held in Little Bear Ice Arena in St. Ignace, Brown’s ancestral home. It will feature speakers from several of the university’s departments.

The University of Michigan's Board of Regents will have its first-ever Upper Peninsula meeting on Thursday. Paul Brown, the new chairman of the regents, is from the UP.

“We have everyone from admissions to financial aid, to Michigan Medicine, making presentations and being accessible to speak on how to apply, who should apply, how to get financial aid, and about our ever-expanding health system,” Brown said.

The regents will be focused on listening to the needs and wants of the Michigan community, especially those from northern Michigan.

“It’s not just educating their students, their children, it’s health care, it’s economic development and everything in between,” Brown said.

For Brown, bringing the eight annual board meetings to new locations throughout the state is an important objective. He also said that a meeting on the west side of the state and one in Detroit are also being planned.

“The University of Michigan has been supported by the taxpayers of the entire state, whether it’s Marquette to Monroe, for its 200-year existence, and we owe a great debt to all the citizens of the state because of that,” Brown said. 

“I think we repay that debt by serving the public good, and this meeting is going to hopefully demonstrate, through a lot of interesting presentations, the value that we return to all areas of the state, and since we’re in northern Michigan, especially that area in particular.”

Previously, six of the eight meetings took place on the University's Ann Arbor campus, along with one at its Flint and Dearborn campuses. Brown said that the meetings in new locations will likely mean a few less in Ann Arbor every year, but that ensuring at least one annually at Flint and Dearborn remains a priority.

For the last 10 years, between 16,000 and 17,000 of the roughly 30,000 undergraduate students at the University hailed originally from the state of Michigan. The large majority of those students, however, came originally from the Lower Peninsula, with more than 4,000 coming from Oakland county alone in the fall semester of 2021. 

Of the 14 counties in the Upper Peninsula, no single one sent more than 100 students to the university in that same semester; 1,155 students from the UP are set to attend the University this coming fall. 

The University’s admissions, health care and financial aid staff have been meeting with the staff and counselors of Upper Peninsula schools in the days leading up to the meeting to help them assist students in applying to UM.

A reception will follow the meeting itself, where the public will be able to have informal meetings with the regents.

For Brown, the meeting will be a homecoming to a place he said is very meaningful to him, the county where his family spent four generations as the prosecuting attorney. Brown's grandfather, Prentiss M. Brown, was the only U.S. senator from the UP in the state’s history.

“I grew up in northern Michigan, I went K-12 in Marquette in Petoskey, and luckily my family had a connection to U of M, so I had some awareness, which made me hope and believe and think that I could go to Michigan, but I want every student to have that,” Brown said.