Frequently asked questions about our Culture Journey submitted by faculty and staff, organized by theme:

Scope of the Culture Journey

Who is included in the Culture Journey?

The Culture Journey includes all U-M employees. To date, the focus has been on identifying values, clarifying statements and example behaviors. This involved broad engagement with U-M community members. Polls, focus groups, information sessions and discussion forums allowed for greater participation. In 2024 and beyond, the Culture Journey will concentrate on socializing the values and changing processes.

The Culture Journey is working to build a values-driven culture at U-M. Values inform the behaviors and norms we expect to see. They guide our choices and actions and should be reflected in everything we do. From how we hire and promote, make decisions, educate and conduct research, and treat one another. Values should reflect who we are and what we stand for.

Read more about student values included in the Statement of Student Rights and Responsibilities.

Data Collection

How did U-M arrive at its six core values?

The steps that led to the identification of the six core values are outlined on the Progress page.

How did the Culture Journey collect feedback from the community?

  • All U-M Ann Arbor and Michigan Medicine faculty and staff were included in a campus-wide email for the following milestones:
    • Poll (February 2022)
    • Community Assembly (May 2022)
    • Poll (August 2022)
    • Community Assembly (September 2022)
    • Poll (October 2022)
    • Poll (March 2023)
    • Community Forums (April 2023)
  • Targeted engagements with individuals from select groups:
    • DEI Implementation Leads
    • Human Resources Communication Group (HRCG)
    • Lead budget administrators from academic units (BAG)
    • Lead budget administrators from non-academic units/Vice President offices (VP-BAG)
    • Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI) faculty and staff
    • The Coalition
    • Voices of the Staff
    • An ad hoc advisory group
    • Faculty audiences
    • Culture Journey opt-in email group

What does the engagement of the executive officers look like? 

  • The executive officers fully support and embrace the values
  • The leadership of the university is intentional about aligning the values with strategic initiatives
  • President Ono clearly articulated his commitment to the university’s values, including this sentiment: “[The values] have to be practiced. They can’t just be on a seal or on a website. It has to be really evident in the decisions, large and small, that each of us make every day. [The values should be] front and center as our north star, practiced as much as we can.”
  • The Culture Journey is one of the five strategic priorities of the president and his leadership team

How are you evaluating the effectiveness of your initiatives?

The work to date has focused on collecting information from the community regarding our values as an institution and thoughts about our desired culture. The working group has recommended that, as the work continues, metrics be developed to evaluate the success of future work.

Who is responsible for carrying out Culture work at U-M?

Sonya Jacobs, assistant vice president for workplace culture and experience and chief organizational learning officer, also serves as special advisor to the president on culture change. Her role as special advisor is to:

  • Advise the president and executive leadership
  • Help lead the university’s efforts on cultural change and values

A planning team consisting of staff from Organizational Learning has been leading the work. They have engaged with the U-M community to identify the university’s core values and example behaviors. Members of the planning team are: Carmeda Stokes, Carol Lee, Jane Pettit, Krista Stelmaszek, Lynn Carruthers, Sara Wiener and Sonya Jacobs.

Ultimately, the work of culture change is the responsibility of every member of the university community.

Community Engagement

Who has been engaged to create the culture journey strategy?

The working group, convened in 2021, helped to inform the Culture Journey strategy’s initial phases of work. This group had representation from faculty, staff and students from across the Ann Arbor campus and Michigan Medicine. Individuals on the working group served until the work was completed in 2022.

In addition to the working group, the Culture Journey team has reached out to all members of the university community to participate in:

  • Campus-wide polls
  • Focus groups
  • Community forums
  • Community assemblies

The Culture Journey is also partnering with initiatives, offices and individuals across the university. While supporting a values-driven culture, these partnerships provide:

  • Learning opportunities
  • A way to collect best practices
  • An ability to co-create tools and interventions

The Culture Journey has involved wide and deep involvement from individuals across the university community. There will be many more opportunities for community involvement over time. Join the Culture Journey email list to receive future communications.

Developing and Integrating Values

What has happened since the values were chosen?

The values were announced by President Ono in January 2023. Since then, the Culture Journey team has engaged the university community to identify example behaviors. These behaviors help to convey to our faculty and staff what the values look like in action.

For values to guide our choices and actions, they must be more than words. They must be reflected in everything we do and reinforced by organizational processes that enable faculty and staff to live the values. Organizational Learning is working to infuse the values into each part of the employee experience. A centralized onboarding process was piloted across the university in fall 2023. It will be communicated more broadly in 2024. A suite of culture change programs and resources is available to help our faculty and staff develop skills to foster a values-driven culture.

Communications are planned in January 2024 to help support faculty and staff as they live the values. These communications will include a toolkit with:

  • Resources to support units
  • Digital assets to promote the values
  • A podcast featuring U-M voices focused on community engagement
  • Expanded educational programs

This work is not limited to one initiative alone. The Culture Journey has also worked to support and partner with initiatives, offices, departments and individuals. Learn more about our partners.

What is being done to communicate and carry out best practices for culture change across the university to break down silos and avoid reinventing the wheel?

In March 2022 and September 2023, we held culture mini summits. These included other offices engaged in culture change across the university and health system. We discussed initatives, timelines and areas for collaboration.

Collaborative communications strategy and messaging is being developed by communicators from:

  • DEI 2.0
  • Vision 2034
  • Campus Plan 2050
  • Culture Journey

Organizational Learning consultants are working closely with schools, colleges and units to support a values-driven culture. This allows for learning opportunities, sharing best practices and to co-create tools and interventions. Units include, but are not limited to:

  • Student Life
  • MHealthy
  • Rackham Graduate School

We are collecting examples of best practices to highlight culture change efforts that are underway. If you have a best practice in your area you would like to share, please contact

U-M Policy and Procedures

How does U-M strive to prevent retaliation?

The Protection from Retaliation Policy articulates that retaliation is not permitted. We are also educating the university community about the policy and the related resources.

How does U-M ensure that people feel safe reporting concerns?

Members of the university community have several options to report concerns, as spelled out in the Protection from Retaliation Policy, including anonymous and confidential options. The range of options for reporting concerns (or to explore the options for reporting concerns) enables the individual to select an option that feels safe to them.