What is Pillars?

Short Answer:

Pillars is the name of the University of Michigan-Flint’s first webzine (web magazine).

Long Answer:

Pillars is a response to the reality that the question “what makes UM-Flint a world-class institution?” cannot be answered with a sound bite, bullet point, or blurb. Rather, the real answer is revealed through the world-class individuals who make up this university and the exceptional work they do everyday. It is unfair and ultimately inaccurate to minimize the complexity of their lives, the problems they endeavor to solve, the solutions they enact, the bonds they forge with each other, and the impact they make on each other’s lives every step of the way.

I am UM-Flint 2.0

From a content perspective, perhaps the most noticeable change to occur as part of the recent redesign of the UM-Flint website is the retirement of the “I am UM-Flint” testimonials from the homepage. Those testimonials were intended to highlight individuals on campus, showcase their achievements, demonstrate institutional pride, and help tell the UM-Flint story through the actual words of actual people. In a lot of ways, the campaign was very successful in reaching these goals. However, the format did not allow for the depth and detail required to fully explain, flesh out, and back up the points of pride individuals mentioned in the brief time and small space afforded them by the “I am UM-Flint” structure.

A student would make a positive statement like, “One of the best experiences I’ve had at UM-Flint has been the opportunity to conduct hands-on research as an undergraduate student.” Without a doubt, undergraduate research is a great experience and one of UM-Flint’s most distinguishing attributes. However, it is far more meaningful to internal and external audiences alike to know specifics about the nature of the research, what it aimed to discover, what the unique challenges were, how they were overcome, and how the entirety of the experience affected the academic, social, and personal growth of all involved.

It is this shift from summarizing from afar to illuminating up-close that will be the chief aim of Pillars.

What Makes a Good Pillars Story?

There are no hard and fast criteria for what embodies an ideal Pillars story. However, if there is one overarching idea about the University of Michigan-Flint Pillars will strive to convey, it is “academics in action.” Not only do verbs make for more interesting and engaging reading, they make for more interesting and engaging higher educational experiences.

Applying classroom and laboratory knowledge and skills towards solving real problems, fostering deeper, richer understanding, and giving our students opportunities to work with professors, peers, professionals, and the public in more intimate and authentic settings is one of UM-Flint’s most distinctive, respected, and valued qualities. Beyond the academic benefit of “learning by doing,” action-oriented academic initiatives help students learn how to work in cooperation with others, how to overcome unforeseen obstacles, and cultivate confidence in their own ability to get things done. These are not only the practical experiences today’s employers seek, they are the foundation for success in any pursuit.

How You Can Help

One of the main goals for Pillars is for every member of the UM-Flint family to feel they have an ownership stake in it. That is why we are encouraging participation at every level: from the identification and development of individual stories, to the gathering of written and visual content, to input on its overall direction.

Here are some concrete ways you can help make Pillars better right away:

  • Suggest a Story: People who do truly amazing work are often truly bashful about it. That kind of modesty is especially prevalent on the UM-Flint campus. If you know somebody (or some thing) deserving of greater recognition, please let us know!

  • Write a Story: Until now, there has not really been a venue to showcase the exceptional writing talent found on the University of Michigan-Flint campus. We want Pillars to be that venue for faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community members. No subject or style is off-limits. Short fiction, essays, research findings, one-act plays, poetry, and more will have a place in Pillars.

  • Share Images/Illustrations/Videos: Great design and powerful visuals are as important to successful storytelling and the overall quality of a publication as its writing—maybe more important. With media and content-gathering technology at everyone’s fingertips, everyone has the ability to be a photojournalist, videographer, or even an animator. Share your stuff with us!

  • Discuss/Engage: We want Pillars to serve as a catalyst for conversations about the critical issues facing our campus, our city, and our world. There will be features to allow comment on specific stories, but there will also be opportunity to give input in other, more creative, ways. What ideas do you have about the type of creative, illuminating content the webzine format affords?

Great Expectations

These are exciting times for our campus. We all feel it. There is a real sense that anything—and everything—is possible, and for good reason. In recent years, we have seen bold visions become well-executed realities. The vision for transforming this longtime commuter campus into a residential one was achieved. The once lofty strategic goal of reaching 8,000 enrolled students was surpassed. Along the way, UM-Flint became the fastest-growing public university in the state of Michigan. Even the desire to reshape our university’s online presence and personality has made major progress. We know there are many more examples of inspired ideas being realized all over campus, at all levels. We hope you will help us give each of them the attention they deserve.


Pillars strives to be a catalyst for conversation and creativity. To help grease those wheels, we will be encouraging the entire campus community to participate in various collaborative projects—or assignments—around specific themes.

Fear not. We know how busy everyone is with "real" assignments, so we will endeavor to make these Pillars projects fun and simple, yet still poignant and illuminating (we hope).

Your current assignment is...

“Poetry & Place”

College can get pretty crazy, especially during midterms or finals. At those times, many of us simply want to go somewhere where we feel comfortable. It may not necessarily be your "quiet place"—maybe you feel most at-ease in large, noisy crowds. Still, it's your place, where you relax, reflect, and reenergize.

We certainly don't want to ruin the sanctity of your private sanctuary. But sometimes sharing those secret spaces with others can give them even more power and meaning. Well, there's only one way to test such a hypothesis—an experiment!

  1. Step 1

    Take a black and white photo of your favorite place on campus.

  2. Step 2

    Write a haiku poem (5-7-5 syllable format) about why that place is so meaningful to you.

  3. Step 3

    Email your picture and poem.

We will publish the best submissions in a future Pillars feature.

Here’s an example: