Faculty News

Connecting U-M faculty to Michigan: 2019 Road Scholars participant Line Van Nieuwstadt

By Terry Kosdrosky

Public Engagement & Impact


The Michigan Road Scholars Tour — an annual five-day traveling seminar that takes U-M faculty through the state — increases mutual knowledge and understanding between the university and the people of Michigan.

Now in its 20th running, the tour connects U-M faculty to Michigan’s communities, culture, economy, politics, history, educational systems, social issues, and geography. The Road Scholars Tour also encourages public service and outreach, revealing ways faculty can address important state issues through research, teaching, and creative activity.

You can keep up with the happenings on the tour May 6–10 by following #MIRoadScholars on Twitter.


One of this year’s Road Scholars is Line van Nieuwstadt, professor of engineering practice at UM-Dearborn’s College of Engineering and Computer Science. She has done extensive work with NASA, including on the Sojourner Mars Rover, and is helping to develop the best methods for teaching the next generation of engineers.


What interested you about the Road Scholar tour?


Van Nieuwstadt: I envision the Road Scholar tour will show me parts of Michigan still unknown to me. I would like to meet Michiganders from all walks of life, learn about their daily ecosystem, about their stressors and successes. I am also looking forward to learn about my fellow Road Scholars to exchange ideas and experiences with them.


Why do you think it’s important for faculty and staff to connect with communities in the state?


Van Nieuwstadt: Working for a NASA center and two Michigan universities gave me an understanding that a large public university such as U-M does not operate in isolation. UM-Dearborn’s mission and success are intimately connected to the state of Michigan’s prosperity. We in academia have the tendency to live in a bubble we call the classrooms. If we are to educate future healers, policymakers, and builders we must learn about the world that shapes our students’ character and capacity.


What are you hoping to learn?


Van Nieuwstadt: I am hoping to learn about the history of the various businesses I hope to visit during the tour. I would like to learn how businesses evolve over time and how they adapt to changing needs and available resources. I would like to learn how the different types of industries and businesses have come and gone, taking turns to be the driving economic engines for the state of Michigan. Perhaps then we can minimize the inventing-the-wheel phase of the next adaptation/evolution of technology.


We are arguably in the beginning phase of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. In the meantime, higher education is facing a crisis of purpose, outcome, and cost. I am hoping to learn more of the innate characters of Michiganders, so to better shape UM-Dearborn’s educational mission.


How do you envision incorporating what you see and learn on this tour into your teaching and/or research?


Van Nieuwstadt: In the engineering colleges, experiential learning is coming back to core curriculum to balance the decades-long shift to engineering theory/science. The College of Engineering and Computer Science at UM-Dearborn launched the Experiential Honors Program last fall, to inspire “the intellectual and leadership growth of students beyond academics.”


As we inherit environmental ill effects that we can only mitigate at this point, we have the opportunity to prevent future negative impacts to Earth. I want to be able to connect and address local community needs with possible engineering solutions. Can we perhaps join forces with a technology startup and local communities to explore student projects that can help with environmental monitoring? Or possibly with school districts to address a need in K-12 education? Additionally, what engineering solutions can be applied toward carbon neutrality for specific communities?