2021 Rackham Report: A Year of Challenge, Opportunity, and Resilience

From the Desk of the Dean

Dear Rackham Alumni and Friends,

I am delighted to share with you the 2021 Rackham Report, a look at the milestones and accomplishments the U-M graduate community has achieved together over the last year. At the beginning of 2021, I described the coming winter term as a time of challenge and opportunity. As Rackham students faced another year of tremendous adversity and fluidity, our work to provide necessary resources and aid was made that much more pressing. Thanks to the gifts of generous donors and friends, we continued our work toward innovation and discovery while supporting and encouraging the scholars who drive that progress.

When we think about what graduate training can and should look like, we envision accessible opportunities and a supportive environment where students can holistically thrive. This year, that included expanding emergency fund criteria, providing necessary resources for extended time to degree completion, and implementing evidence-based practices that promote equity in the admissions process. In an effort to mitigate barriers of all kinds, it also meant addressing students’ ongoing needs around disability accommodations and implementing recommendations from Rackham’s Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force.

When you share your time, talents, and resources to benefit those we serve, you have an immense impact on making these critical initiatives possible. Thank you for standing side by side with Rackham in 2021 and for creating a robust community of support for these rising scholars. Your partnership plays an invaluable role in our continued pursuit of excellence.

With gratitude,

Mike Solomon
Dean, Rackham Graduate School

Who Are Rackham Students?

During their time on campus, Rackham graduate students serve as instructors, researchers, co-authors, and collaborators. Their expertise and hunger for knowledge are a large part of what makes the University of Michigan an excellent place to teach and be taught.

9,488 Graduate Students

3,718 international students
from 114 Countries

Read these students’ stories to see how their critical work impacts our world.

What Language Says About Race

Whether it’s housing access, media portrayals, or in the professional sphere, people of color often face discrimination around the language they use. Linguistics Ph.D. candidate Kelly Wright is listening to their side of the story.

Rackham Student Helps Rewrite Michigan History

Anthropology Ph.D. candidate Brendan Nash helped identify a 13,000-year-old Paleoindian camp in St. Joseph County, now thought to be the earliest archaeological site in Michigan.

Why Did the Bumblebee Cross the Road?

Bees and other insects are crucial for the reproduction of many plant species, but roads often impose obstacles to this vital function. Rackham students Gordon Fitch and Chatura Vaidya studied this problem and proposed some solutions.

Rackham Student Mobilized Hundreds to Care for Detroiters During COVID-19

Social work and sociology Ph.D. candidate Charles Williams II used his scholarly training, civil rights experience, and position as a Baptist pastor to connect the city’s most vulnerable to the care they needed.

How Rackham Helps

Extended Time to Degree

Rackham introduced adjusted grading policies and extended deadlines for candidacy, dissertation, and graduation requirements.

Emergency Funding

In the 2020-21 academic year, Rackham awarded 426 emergency fund grants totaling $622,497 in support for students in their times of need.

Conference and Travel Grants

Rackham awarded 326 conference and travel grants in 2020-21, totaling just over $105,000.

Mental Health Support

Rackham has moved forward with the formation of a Standing Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being.

Finding a Resolution

The Graduate Student and Program Consultation Service office advocates for a fair process for students when they are experiencing conflict.

Researching Rackham

Rackham’s Office of Institutional Research collects and interprets data that guides improvements to the graduate experience at Michigan.

DEI Progress

2021 was a year of tremendous growth for our diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism efforts at the Rackham Graduate School.

A Year of Change

Assistant Dean Ethriam Brammer reflects on Rackham’s growth in DEI over the past year.

Inclusive Spaces

Making the Rackham Building more accessible through welcoming and inclusive physical spaces.

New Certificate

The Alumni M-Pact Certificate Program engages U-M alumni through guided and supported DEI projects.

Internships And Field Experience

A Decade Of Public Scholarship

In 2021, the Rackham Program in Public Scholarship (RPPS) celebrated its 10th anniversary. Its projects have spanned disciplines and borders—focusing on global issues like access to accurate healthcare information, the needs and rights of migrant workers, and the need for community building and violence prevention. The program’s goal is for graduate students to develop the skills necessary to bring their research and knowledge to challenging questions of social importance for the public good.

Donor Impact And The Future Of Internships In Graduate Education

Jack (Ph.D. 1976) and Jeannie Thompson established the Jack and Jeannie Thompson Humanities Internship in 2017 to help further advance this mission, with the idea of diverse career trajectories in mind.

2021 Honor Roll Of Donors

Donor contributions to Rackham in 2021 played a critical role in providing the support graduate students needed during a challenging time. Your impact will be felt for years to come across the wide breadth of academic fields at the University of Michigan. The Honor Roll recognizes the generosity of Rackham alumni and friends who donated in 2021, and each name represents a commitment to excellence in graduate education and a show of support as we continue our efforts as a global leader in research and scholarly training.

A Collective Impact

$4.3 million

Nearly 1,700 Rackham donors committed more than $4.3 million to graduate education at the University of Michigan in 2021.


384 donors made 455 gifts to diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts totaling $66,542.31.


1,570 donors supported Rackham’s DEI, Emergency, Student Support, and Impact Funds with more than a half million dollars, including 149 first-time donors who joined the Rackham family of supporters in 2021.

A Legacy of Humanity

New York artist Dr. John Hunter (Ph.D. 1983) has included Rackham in his legacy plans, directing funds to endow the John Hunter Graduate Student Award Fund. The fund will support students who have received their undergraduate degrees at institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, and are pursuing research in the fields of the humanities, performing and visual arts, and art history at the University of Michigan.

 A Culture of Philanthropy Since 1935

Horace Rackham was a Detroit lawyer, original shareholder of the Ford Motor Company, and noted philanthropist in the city and surrounding areas. Two years after his death in 1933, in accordance with his will, his wife of 47 years, Mary Rackham (née Horton), committed $2.5 million to build the Rackham Building, and an additional $4 million to establish the endowment. At the time, it was the largest philanthropic gift ever given in support of graduate education.

Scroll to Top