The Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science is funded through a generous $7.7 million gift from Marshall M. Weinberg (’50).
The institute houses the existing undergraduate major in Cognitive Science (which began in January 2014), The Marshall M. Weinberg Cognitive Science Symposium (begun in 2009), and will house an anticipated Graduate Certificate Program in Cognitive Science (beginning 2015).
The interdisciplinary nature of cognitive science fosters students' exploration of complex issues concerning how the brain and mind work. Faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students all interact in unique interdisciplinary collaborations, inside and out of the classroom. Graduate students from the supporting disciplines work with undergraduates in teaching and laboratory settings.
The institute supports teaching innovations—including interdisciplinary team teaching—visiting faculty, and innovations in cognitive science, as well as additional research and faculty initiatives.
Courses within the 4-track undergraduate major, beyond the required gateway course, CogSci 200: Introduction to Cognitive Science, are offered through the departments of Linguistics, Philosophy, Psychology, Statistics, Economics, Electrical Engineering, Political Science, and Computer Science. In addition, the Weinberg Institute offers a Certificate in Cognitive Science for students completing required interdisciplinary coursework and research experiences at the graduate level.
"Over the years in talking to students and faculty, I have realized that interdisciplinary learning has the most meaningful impact," Weinberg said. "As a result, I created the Weinberg Cognitive Science Symposium, which has explored a variety of cognitive issues. That success led to the formation of the institute. It is my hope that Michigan students will continue to unlock secrets of the brain.
"The Weinberg Symposia have examined significant and timely issues, such as bilingual brain research, the rationality of thought, and the use of neuroscience data in legal judgments of guilt and innocence. The creation of the institute enables faculty and students to examine more of these important and provocative questions."
After graduating from Michigan in 1950, Weinberg spent a year in the graduate program in Philosophy at Harvard University. He later transferred to the Columbia Graduate School of Business and was then employed at the New York investment firm Herzfeld & Stern, where he spent his professional career.
Weinberg's philanthropy encompasses higher education, reproductive rights—through the Center for Reproductive Rights and Law—and issues in international justice.
At Michigan, Weinberg supports Judaic Studies, the Population Studies Center, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Department of Philosophy, in addition to the Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science.
He appreciates the importance of graduate education in the humanities and with this institute addresses a number of specific programmatic needs.
"Marshall Weinberg's vision and exceptional generosity will create unprecedented opportunities for students and faculty to examine the human mind from an interdisciplinary perspective," said Susan Gelman, the Heinz Werner Distinguished University Professor of Psychology.
Sam Epstein, the director of the Weinberg Institute, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, and a professor of linguistics, praised Weinberg's vision for “recognizing not only the deep intellectual challenge of and inherent human fascination with cognitive science, but the importance of developing a scientific understanding of who we are as thinking, feeling, and conscious creatures.”
In 2008, Mr. Weinberg received the David B. Hermelin Award for Fundraising Volunteer Leadership, the university's most prestigious award for volunteers. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree at Spring Commencement at Michigan Stadium on May 3, 2014.
(Excerpts from The University Record: Maryann George’s story; June 24, 2014 and Philosophy Department Website)