Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Michigration Returns?

I admit that upon viewing the title of this column, "Engage students to stop Michigan's brain drain," I was prepared to get on my soapbox. I've already taken Michigan to task for mistakenly trying to fix the out-migration problem known as "Michigration." To his credit, Gary Russi (president of Oakland University and Detroit Renaissance board member) doesn't follow the traditional line of hype:

The notion of community engagement is re-energizing our way of educating students, and schools must take an active role in providing students with the means to be involved with their region. Oakland University's economic impact alone brings in $500 million annually, and of our 78,000 alumni, 80 percent are living and working in Michigan.

The future of education lies in demonstrating to the public how we can take learning and discovery off campus and apply it to help the community grow and solve problems. When we do this, the people and the Legislature will see tangible benefits from their financial support of our education beyond the valuable education.

With 80% of Oakland graduates remaining in Michigan, I don't think Mr. Russi is using the term "brain drain" in the way most people understand it. In fact, I suspect he is merely paying lip service to the misplaced anxiety about out-migration. But I'll have to listen to the full interview in order to be sure.

Regardless, I appreciate Mr. Russi's aim to extend the university into the surrounding community. Integrating knowledge centers with their host cities is vital to an entrepreneurial economy and job creation. Furthermore, regions should make the most of the human capital in residence before the students graduate. And connecting students to Greater Detroit will pay significant dividends down the road.

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