As Michigan provost, Hanlon has tackled budget issues, continued teaching

by Ashley Ulrich | 12/2/12 5:00pm

Since becoming a faculty member at the University of Michigan in 1986, President-Elect Philip Hanlon '77, who was announced as the next College president on Thursday, has impressed students and colleagues with his dedication to balancing teaching and administrative duties. Hanlon, currently the provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Michigan, will take over for interim President Carol Folt on July 1, becoming the 18th member of the Wheelock Succession.

Hanlon began teaching mathematics at Michigan as an associate professor in 1986. He achieved full professor status in 1990 and was named the D.J. Lewis Professor of Mathematics in 2001.Hanlon took on his first administrative post at Michigan in 2001, when he became the associate dean for planning and finance for the College of Literature, Science and Arts, an entity that includes Michigan's mathematics department. He was also the founder and director of a summer mathematics program for high school students hosted at the university, according to his biography on the University of Michigan website. He was named associate provost for academic and budgetary affairs in 2004 and vice provost in 2007. He assumed his current positions in 2010.

The provost at Michigan is the chief academic officer for the university and is responsible for overseeing the university's academic and budgetary affairs.The deans of Michigan's 19 schools and colleges all report to the provost.


In his time as provost, Hanlon has been a proponent of interdisciplinary education, not only between departments but also among the various schools and colleges at Michigan, according to Michigan Vice Provost for Academic and Budgetary Affairs Martha Pollack '79, another Dartmouth graduate.

"[Hanlon] is very interested in giving students opportunities to engage in big interdisciplinary problems," she said. "He wants graduating students to be ready to engage in the difficult problems of the 21st century."

Working with President Mary Sue Coleman, Hanlon developed the Third Century Initiative, a $50-million, five-year initiative to develop innovative, multidisciplinary approaches to learning at Michigan, according to the provost's website. Hanlon also prioritized building projects for facilities that would have an interdisciplinary focus and encouraged hiring new faculty members for multiple departments, Pollack said.

As part of the Third Century Initiative, Hanlon helped the engineering school launch a two-year M-Cubed program, which awards faculty members $20,000 to collaborate on a project with colleagues from different schools or colleges, according to Michigan College of Engineering Dean David Munson.

Munson said that he and his colleagues approached Hanlon with the idea last winter and worked on designing a website that would allow faculty to share ideas for projects over the spring and summer. Funding began for the first 50 projects at the end of November and an additional 170 projects are currently in the works, according to Munson.

"This really is an enormous project, and I think it's going to be quite a success," Munson said. "The fact that it launched is partly testament to Hanlon. No other university has a program like this, and it sounds quite risky because there isn't a formal peer review process and not all the projects are going to turn out."

Many of the projects will incorporate PhD, graduate and undergraduate students and may also fund research projects or dissertation topics proposed by students, Munson said.

Even informally, Michigan Law School Dean Evan Caminker said that Hanlon was very adept at partnering administrators with colleagues interested in similar projects or who could benefit from working together.

In 2011, Hanlon also led an initiative to change the tenure process at Michigan, increasing the number of required teaching years to be considered for tenure from eight years to 10. A number of faculty members objected to this change, but Michigan's Board of Regents eventually accepted the increase.


Hanlon has worked extensively with Michigan's budget in his time as provost, according to Pollack. Over the past eight years, Michigan has a seen a dramatic decrease in its state appropriations, amounting to about half the funding per student in inflation adjusted dollars, she said. In 2011, state appropriations fell by $47.5 million, and over the last 11 years, state appropriations have decreased by a total of $178 million in inflation adjusted dollars.

In the early 1990s, state appropriations and tuition made up equal proportions of the university's total budget, while today tuition makes up 70 percent of Michigan's budget and state funds account for just 17 percent, according to Ann Arbor News.

Hanlon has worked hard to help the university thrive despite these cuts, Pollack said.

"He's been at the forefront of getting us to have a culture of fiscal discipline," she said. "He's really focused on new initiatives to cut costs from building maintenance and operations, not academic programming."

In one instance, Hanlon asked that deans from Michigan's schools pool their maintenance budgets to allow for a major renovation of $90 million for one school's building every two years instead, Pollack said. Hanlon has also looked for ways to streamline the university's procurement process by standardizing purchases across campus as a way to bring down costs.

Since 2004, the office has eliminated $235 million in recurring costs and is on track to save another $120 million by 2017 through changes to its retiree health benefits, reduction in its energy consumption and consolidations to its central IT units, according to the provost office's website. These cost-saving measures have allowed Michigan to continue hiring and pursuing new programs at a time when many other state universities have not been able to, Whitman said.

Hanlon has also encouraged deans to prioritize their resources and phase out or remodel older programs, according to Caminker.

"There are a number of ways that universities can reduce costs without changing the quality of the service that they're providing," Caminker said. "[Hanlon] has been very good about finding ways to help encourage deans and other leaders to be vigilant and do a good job of planning with their resources."

According to Dean of Libraries Paul Courant, who hired Hanlon to become vice provost for academic and budget affairs in 2004, Hanlon is very adept at making clear to other administrators and to the Board of Regents, who must vote to approve the budget, where the various costs from the budget come from.

"Budgets are not just about money they're about how you bring resources to the things you want to do," Courant said. "He was a very good teacher, good at simplifying complicated budgets and how they add up."


In cutting the budget, Hanlon worked hard to keep students' tuition costs from rising, Pollack said. For the 2012-2013 school year, in-state tuition for undergraduate students rose 2.8 percent, and out-of-state tuition rose 3.5 percent. This was the second-smallest tuition increase for undergraduates at Michigan in the last 26 years, according to the university's website.

Hanlon has also worked hard to increase the diversity of out-of-state attendees at the university by making sure that financial aid is available to all students, according to Pollack. University-backed financial aid is at an historic high of $144.8 million for this year, according to the university's website.

Hanlon's dedication to making the university affordable was a priority during his time as vice provost, Courant said. The accessibility of the institution is "an extremely important part" of the university's overall mission, he said.

"We have a policy at Michigan that has been effective for quite some time to keep financial aid held harmless against tuition increases," Courant said. "[Hanlon] has been extremely active in implementing that policy."


Hanlon has tried to maintain transparency in the budgeting process and has been successful at considering the views of faculty, administrators and students in the provost office's work, according to Pollack.

As vice provost, Hanlon organized a student budget committee to meet once a month with the vice provost and provost to discuss the office's work, Pollack said. The committee includes 12 representatives from Michigan's various schools and a member of the student government, Pollack said.

"We talk about what we are doing for cost maintenance, merit salary programs and tuition," Pollack said. "This was [Hanlon's] idea to get student feedback and to have them give us advice about whatever is on their minds."

The committee became a springboard for the special topics class on college affordability that she teaches with Hanlon this fall, Pollack said. The class focuses on issues in higher education as a whole and relied on the work that the provost's office has done as a case study, she said.

Hanlon has also planned town halls meetings specifically geared for students, Pollack said. In his time as provost, he organized about six of these meetings per year, she said.

Michigan senior and student government president Manish Parikh said that these meetings are an effective way to reach out to students, and he called Hanlon "precise and sharp."

"[Hanlon] is perhaps among the most admired, respected and loved administrators on campus," Parikh said.

Omar Hashwi, a senior at Michigan and the student body vice president, said that students have approved of Hanlon's budgetary adjustments aimed at compensating for the decrease in state appropriations.

"On several occasions, he came to speak with the student government about the work he was doing in the provost's office on the budget," Hashwi said. "We've had tough economic times, and we really give him credit for what he's done to push us through that."

Hashwi also served on the student budget committee during the 2011-2012 school year and found Hanlon to be very engaged at the meetings.

"To my knowledge, he was at all of the student budget committee meetings," Hashwi said. "He always asked for our opinions."

Caminker said that Hanlon meets with the deans from Michigan's 19 schools and colleges at least once a month, and often much more frequently for private meetings.

"In all our dealings, he listened very carefully and gave me a fair opportunity to make my views known," Caminker said. "That manner of professional style is critically important for an effective administrator in higher education, where you power comes from your colleagues' trust for your judgment."


Even while he took on increasingly higher administrative roles at Michigan, Hanlon continued to teach undergraduates throughout his tenure. Since 2001, he has taught classes in the mathematics department and advised graduate students completing dissertations in his research area. This fall, he is teaching two classes introductory calculus for freshmen and a class on college affordability.

Sarah Rundell, a former PhD student whom Hanlon advised, recalled Hanlon's dedication to all aspects of the university in her five years studying with him.

"At the time, he was already associate provost, but he was still interested in taking on students," Rundell said. "I'm so grateful for that because he was really a phenomenal advisor."

According to Pollack, Hanlon has always been very committed to his students in the classroom. Pollack has worked closely with Hanlon for over a decade and is teaching the course on college affordability with Hanlon this fall.

"[Hanlon] loves teaching as a way to stay connected with students," Pollack said. "He's very committed to academic excellence and undergraduate education."

Notably, Hanlon has helped the Michigan School of Education gain the funding it needed to overhaul its curriculum, partnering with local elementary and high schools to give novice teachers a setting to gain experience teaching minority and low-income children, according to Education School Dean Deborah Ball.

"He's used the provost's role at this university to focus on preparing undergraduate and graduate students to go out and solve the world's most pressing problems whether that's K-12 education, sustainability or issues in medical training," Ball said.

Hanlon has said he would like to continue to teach at Dartmouth as president, citing former College President John Kemeny as an inspiration.


Although Hanlon was not directly involved with student life, including Greek life integration, student health and safety or diversity initiatives at the college areas covered by the Student Affairs Office he is committed to diversity and student welfare, Pollack said.

"[Hanlon] is really concerned with the importance of diverse experiences for students," Pollack said. "He is a remarkably thoughtful person and cares deeply about the students and faculty that he works with."

Michigan Dean of Students Laura Jones said that Hanlon has been very supportive of the Student Affairs Office's work in his time as provost.

"He demonstrated to me a strong understanding of complex student life issues that we are grappling with and how we have to address them in a comprehensive approach," Jones said.

Jones said that Hanlon had been instrumental in helping her office receive funding to expand its mental health services for students, which has allowed it to provide more comprehensive services and decrease wait times for students to see counselors.

Michigan, a school with nearly 28,000 undergraduates and a total of over 40,000 students, is considerably larger than the College, which has approximately 4,200 undergraduates and a total of about 6,100 students. Dartmouth presidents, including Jim Yong Kim and James Wright, have been historically closely tied to issues relating to student life Kim, for example, established the Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault, while Wright was the driving force behind the Student Life Initiative, a proposed series of reforms that would have significantly altered the College's Greek system.


The role of College president will force Hanlon to become more involved in external affairs of university operations such as fundraising, and to concentrate less on internal workings like academic programming and budgeting, a change he has already acknowledged in accepting the position at Dartmouth.

Hanlon's expertise in academic programming and budgeting make him a particularly good choice for president, because "his eye is entirely on the ball for what goes into academic excellence and research," according to Courant.

Ball said that Hanlon's long engagement with undergraduate teaching made him a strong choice as well.

"You guys really lucked out," Ball said. "We're all very sad that he's leaving."

In his time at the university, Hanlon has also been an ardent fan of the Michigan Wolverines, Pollack said. To the best of her knowledge, he attends every Michigan football game to cheer for the maize and blue, she said.

"It's going to be a different experience for him, leaving the biggest football stadium in the country," Pollack said. "But I don't think he'll have too much trouble switching back to his Dartmouth green."