CMU trustees approve new physics doctoral degree

Innovation and excellence fund highlights FY20 operating budget

| Author: Heather Smith

The Central Michigan University Board of Trustees today voted to enhance the university's physics footprint by approving a new doctoral degree.

Graduate students in the physics program will be trained to become independent researchers capable of performing high-quality, original research. They also will be prepared for high-level careers across government, industry and higher education.

The research-intensive program is designed to equip students with professional scientific training in specific subfields, including condensed matter physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics. It complements Central's Master of Science in Physics and Science of Advanced Materials Ph.D. programs.

Focus on innovation and excellence

In other action, the board approved a nearly $462 million 2019-2020 operating budget, which reflects a projected decline in revenues of 3.8%.

The budget also includes reallocation of funds into several new initiatives, including those to increase efforts to recruit and retain students as well as efforts to advance academic innovation and excellence. Among the most notable is creation of the President's and Provost's Fund for Innovation and Excellence. This fund will allow academic units to develop, expand or evolve innovative programs to address relevant issues in the Great Lakes Bay Region and beyond.

The fund was initiated by President Bob Davies, Provost Mike Gealt and incoming Provost Mary Schutten. It will emphasize interdisciplinary programs that combine critical learning areas such as the liberal arts and sciences.

"The Fund for Innovation and Excellence will be used to spur areas of inquiry that will advance our reputation in providing our students rigorous, relevant and excellent programs that will prepare them for our dynamic world," Davies said.

Departments and academic colleges will have the opportunity to put forward proposals this fall to compete for funding.


Other initiatives to receive funding are academic advising, marketing, recruitment, and opening and operating expenses for the Center for Integrated Health Studies, which is nearing construction completion and will open for classes in January.

In other action, the board approved:

  • Establishment of a long-term affiliation and medical education agreement with Covenant HealthCare.
  • Emeritus rank for seven CMU faculty and staff members.
  • 10 new endowments totaling $714,000.

Trustees also approved an agreement extending the university's relationship with and support of the CMU Research Corp., which began in 2004. The CMU Research Corp. is a professional coworking space with accelerator programs that focus on product and strategic development. CMURC serves entrepreneurs working to positively impact the economy in the Great Lakes Bay Region. The new agreement reauthorizes a $500,000 annual subsidy through 2024.

In the last five years, CMURC expanded its programs and co-work spaces beyond the Mount Pleasant SmartZone and opened offices in Bay City and Saginaw.

"The ongoing relationship between Central and CMURC has grown the entrepreneurial community throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region and provided collaboration opportunities for CMU faculty, staff, students and alumni," said President Davies, who also chairs the CMURC board.

Advancing Central's strategic plan

In his opening report to the board, President Davies addressed the need to build on the foundation of the current Academic Excellence strategic plan and extend the university's view and planning efforts to 2030.

Davies noted four evolving areas that will be considered in the development of the 2030 strategic plan: Technology and communication; biomedicine and health science; the globalization of society; and sustainability.

"We have a tremendous opportunity to look forward a decade with an eye on the rigor, relevance and excellence that mark the highest-quality, most successful and most revered universities," Davies said. "In fact, I'd say it's imperative that we assess our university and thoughtfully, boldly, plan its future."

He noted that he and the cabinet this summer will finalize the process for moving forward on the new plan, which will involve the entire campus community and external stakeholders.


Also in his opening remarks, Davies welcomed CMU's newest trustee, Isaiah Oliver, and Schutten, who starts Monday as provost and executive vice president.

"Dr. Schutten's leadership of Central Michigan University will be pivotal as we take actions in the coming months and years to shape our future," Davies said.

Davies also recognized three campus leaders completing their time of service to CMU this week:

  • Michael Gealt is stepping down after six years as provost.
  • Steven Johnson leaves CMU after seven years as vice president of enrollment and student services.
  • Sherry Knight is stepping down from seven years as associate vice president of university communications.

Additional recognitions from Davies include:

  • Head baseball coach Jordan Bischel, who led his team to Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament titles as well as its first NCAA Tournament berth since 1995.
  • Robert Bienkowski, director of CMU's Office of Research Compliance, who was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Service Award from Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research.
  • Peter Ross, Jeremy Bond and Phil Coffman from the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Support, and Barb Klocko, a faculty member from the Department of Educational Leadership, who were recognized by the American Association of University Administrators for the process they created to develop CMU's online courses and programs.
  • Central's University Communications team for receiving two international Circle of Excellence Awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. One was for its crisis communications during a deadly March 2, 2018, domestic violence incident on campus. The other was for an innovative T-shirt swap that advanced the university's brand and honored the late CMU alumnus and sportscaster, Dick Enberg.
View latest news