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Under Chancellor Daniel Little, UM-Dearborn has become “a genuinely inclusive, positive, respectful learning environment” for a diverse student body David Guralnick, The Detroit News

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When a cheerful, student flash-mob invaded Chancellor Daniel Little's retirement party at the University of Michigan-Dearborn weeks ago, Shirley Stancato found herself unexpectedly moved.

"They were Middle Eastern, African-American and white," said the New Detroit president and CEO who sits on the university's Citizens Advisory Committee.

"You can see what's changed at UMD," she said. "It's visual." 

Statistics tell the story.

Over Little's 18 years as chancellor, African-American enrollment jumped 27 percent and Latino enrollment 164 percent. 

Ask Little what he's proudest of, and he'll cite that diversity, pointing out that 26 percent of all students come from under-represented groups — a category that doesn't even include the school's sizable Arab-American population. 

"But we haven't become Balkanized," he added, "where Muslims only talk to Muslims, or black students only with blacks. Our students actively care about learning from one another." 

He also touts UMD's efforts to engage with the wider community surrounding it, a commitment that won recognition from the Carnegie Foundation.

"We made a collective choice to declare ourselves a 'metropolitan university,'" Little said, "and to be an excellent partner to the metro region we live in." 

That's reflected in his own choices.

Little's served on the boards of New Detroit, City Year Detroit, the Urban League of Detroit, the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition and Detroit Public TV.

"Particularly in a time like this," said N. Charles Anderson, president at the Urban League, "it's refreshing to have an academic leader like Dan who's genuine about bridging the divide and promoting good race relations. This is something Dan has worked very hard on." 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, who's a friend, called Little "diligent, engaged, and a problem solver."

A Harvard-trained philosopher, Little previously served as associate dean of faculty at Colgate University and vice-president for academic affairs at Bucknell University.

Little officially steps down as chancellor July 31, at which point he will rejoin the faculty, teaching at both the Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses. 

As much as he's looking forward to that, Little said, "I have enjoyed the past 18 years, without question the most satisfying of my career." 

Daniel Little 

Occupation: Chancellor, University of Michigan-Dearborn 

Education: Bachelor's of Arts and Science, University of Illinois; Ph.D., Harvard University

Family: Wife, Bernadette Lintz; two adult children 

Why honored: For his commitment to an inclusive, diverse academic campus actively engaged with the broader community.

2018 Michiganians of the Year:Cindy Garcia | Remonia Chapman | Rachael Denhollander | Solomon Kinloch Jr. | Candice Miller | John Rakolta Jr. | Mike Duggan | Bryant George | Doug Stanton | Aretha Franklin

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