The University of Michigan (popularly known as "Michigan" or various initialisms thereof; "U-M", "U of M" and "UMich" are the most common) is a public university that is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The University is well known for being an academically rigorous school and is often referred to as a "Public Ivy" as a result. It is considered one of the most prestigious public universities in the nation; in fact, it is said that UC Berkeley is the only thing standing in its way from the top. It also enjoys Federal, state and business research grants in a ridiculous number of academic enterprises, including sea grants, space grants, NIH grants, and just about every other enterprise you can imagine.
Historically, the University owes much of its academic prestige to its then-unique status as a major competitor to the Ivy League. In the pre-World War II and civil rights era, the Ivies were somewhat notorious for being "exclusive" in their admissions; however, the "exclusion" frequently had more to do with class, religion, and race than with merit. As the premier institutions for the upper-crust "Eastern Establishment", the Ivy League schools made an effort to keep this reputation by self-imposing harsh quotas that limited the number of non-WASP applicants they could accept every year (in practice, this mostly excluded Jewish and Catholic students in the Northeastern US). With few opportunities to study at an Ivy, many of these students then applied in large numbers to other less discriminatory colleges, one of which was Michigan. The school was thus able to establish a reputation as a friendly place towards Northeastern Jews and extended its student body far beyond the local Midwestern population. By the 1950s, it had gained the nickname "Harvard of the (Mid)West" and John F. Kennedy (a Harvard alum) once famously quipped that he had graduated from the "Michigan of the East" while campaigning in Ann Arbor during the 1960 presidential election. Although the Ivy Leagues have since decreased their discriminatory quota policies and now welcome applicants of all races and religions, Michigan has continued to remain a major attractive school for East Coast students to apply for college.
Some of the most prestigious colleges within the University are the College of Engineering, the Ross School of Business, the Law School, and the Medical School. (UM Medical School, along with its allied School of Nursing and various other allied-health programs, form the backbone of the University of Michigan Health System, home to several of the best hospitals in the country. In addition to the twin "flagship" institutions, University Hospital and C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, UMHS boasts half a dozen other facilities throughout Ann Arbor and statewide that are just as renowned.) It is also famous for its athletic teams, which are known as the "Michigan Wolverines", and compete in a variety of sports, the most famous of which is probably the football team.
The main University of Michigan is divided up into three campuses in Ann Arbor: North Campus, Central Campus, and South Campus. Additionally, the system boasts two satellite campuses in Flint, MI and Dearborn, MI (which are referred to as "UM-Flint" and "UM-Dearborn" respectively, and don't share much more than the name and a token handful of faculty with the main UM-Ann Arbor campuses).
Central Campus is far and away the most well known of the three, and likely the campus you'd be thinking of if someone asked you to picture the school in general. All the academic buildings for LS&A (the College of Literature, Science & Arts), the School of Social Work, the School of Education, SNRE (School of Natural Resources and Environment), the Dental School, the Business School and the Law School are located here. Most undergraduate residence halls are also located here. Central Campus is also home to the "Diag," which is a large, diagonally bisected courtyard at the center of campus and is central meeting place for students and faculty. In the Diag is a large bronze block "M". A persistent college superstition has it that if you step on the M, you will fail your first Blue Book Exam. Also, Central Campus is somewhat fragmented within the city of Ann Arbor, as both grew and developed at the same time. Because of this, Central Campus is located right in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor, giving students near-total access to the nightlife and culture of the city. This access has made Central Campus the preferred location for students wanting the full "campus life" experience. Hill Street, the division between Central and South Campus, is also home to "Fraternity Row," which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
Spanning the gap between Central and North Campus, crossing the Huron River, you'll find the Medical Campus. All of the UMHS hospitals and clinics and all of the academic buildings for the Medical School and School of Nursing are here, as well as the Biomedical Sciences buildings.
North Campus is home to the School of Music, Theatre, & Dance, the College of Engineering, the School of Art and Design, and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning. It is more secluded from Ann Arbor, offers its own undergrad and graduate housing development (Bursley/Baits), and is completely contiguous unlike Central Campus.
South Campus is the home of the Athletic Department and home to all of the U's major athletic venues (Michigan Stadium for football, Crisler Center for basketball, Yost Ice Arena for ice hockey, Alumni Field for baseball/softball, Canham Natatorium and Cliff Keen Gymnasium for swimming, water polo, volleyball and gymnastics, and so forth). It also houses Revelli Hall and nearby Elbel Field (the Michigan Marching Band's practice venue). Michigan Stadium has a stated capacity of 109,901 seats, which would already make it the biggest stadium in America without the common sale of standing-room-only tickets, which tend to raise ticketed game attendance well past the 115K marker. Its size has given it the nickname "The Big House", and fans are welcomed each Saturday by a thanks from the stadium announcer for being "part of the largest crowd watching a football game in America."
One of the University's more successful athletic programs is the football team. The program claims 11 national championships with the most recent one coming in 1997 when the Wolverines beat the Washington State Cougars. The program also claims 42 Big Ten championships, 3 Heisman Trophy winners, and 78 All-Americans. The football program is currently the most successful in college football in terms of wins and winning percentage with 895 wins and a .736 winning percentage (edging out Texas with 858 wins and Notre Dame with a winning percentage of .731). The Michigan Football team has four rivalries with other schools. They play Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug Trophy and Michigan holds a 67-22-3 record against them. They also play their in-state rivals, Michigan State for the Paul Bunyan Trophy and Michigan holds a 67-32-5 record in the rivalry. Another rivalry is against Notre Dame, in which Michigan holds a 24-18-1 record; it was a near-annual affair from 1979 to 2014. The significance of 2014: Notre Dame joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2013, committing to play five ACC schools each season,note while the Big Ten announced in that year it would move to a nine-game conference schedule in 2016. The Wolverines and Irish resumed their rivalry with a home-and-home; Notre Dame won in South Bend in 2018 and the teams will meet in The Big House in 2019. Michigan's biggest rivalry is held on the last Saturday in the Big Ten season against Ohio State. This rivalry, often reputed to stem from the border dispute over the Toledo Strip which dates back to Michigan's initial bid for statehood, has been ranked the greatest rivalry in sports by ESPN and is simply referred to as "The Game". Michigan holds a 58-50-6 record against Ohio Stateand that's after the Buckeyes have won the last seven games.
Michigan holds two major rivalries with other colleges, one in-state (against Michigan State University) and one out of state (against The Ohio State University). Referencing one school positively to a devotee of an opposing school is Serious Business and is apt to earn you a verbal if not physical smackdown. Do note, however, that actual alumni of these universities are generally more likely to behave in Gentleman and a Scholar or Worthy Opponent manner toward each other, as they've likely had to interact professionally with colleagues from an "opposing" school at some point. The truly malignant "fans" - the people you're apt to see rioting on TV after a game - frequently never attended any of the schools involved. These individuals are colloquially known as "ScUM" and "Walmart Wolverines" at U of M, "Sparty Slappies" and "Couch Burners" at MSU, and "Suckeyes" at OSU. Also of note: the rivalry against Michigan State is overruled by the rivalry against Ohio State because the latter stems from the border dispute over the ownership of the Toledo Strip. For that reason, residents of that part of Ohio often support Michigan over Ohio State, as they're geographically closer to Ann Arbor than they are to Columbus. For this reason, if the Spartans are playing against the Buckeyes, U of M fans will root for Michigan State as the Wolverines consider themselves to have a birthright to beat the Spartans. The U of M vs MSU game is known as match for the Paul Bunyan Trophy, whether or not said physical trophy actually exists. Interestingly there is a town in Michigan precisely half-way betwixt Ann Arbor and East Lansing, known as Fowlerville, which has a lot of local gift shops selling merchandise in a combination of U of M's maize and blue and MSU's green and white school colors, useful for the handful of Michiganders who prefer not to take sides (though they just usually root for other schools, mostly Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, or one of the three Upper Peninsula schools, Michigan Tech in Houghton, Northern Michigan in Marquette, or Lake Superior State in Sault Ste. Marie) or come from mixed families (usually humorously called "a house divided").
The University of Michigan is significant as the only civilian university that can claim an entire Apollo mission. Apollo 15, widely considered to be the most successful Apollo mission of them all, was manned by three Michigan alumni: Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden and Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin had both earned their Master's degrees from Michigan, while Mission Commander David Scott had attended Michigan as an undergraduate before transferring to the US Military Academy at West Point. Michigan gave Scott an honorary Master's for his trouble, allowing them to claim to have two graduates to walk on the Moon.
The University also operates the most popular Public Radio broadcaster in the state, Michigan Radio, transmitting from WUOM (91.7 MHz FM) in Ann Arbor/Southeast Michigan, WFUM (91.1 MHz) in Flint, and WVGR (104.1 MHz) in Grand Rapids/West Michigan. WVGR is one of the few collegiate broadcasters in the nation to broadcast on a frequency outside the non-commercial band (i.e. occupying the bottom end of the FM dial). In this regard, their nearest competition is Wayne State's WDET (101.9 MHz FM) in Detroit.
Other famous Alumni of the University of Michigan include Raoul Wallenberg (diplomat and humanitarian), Clarence Darrow (high-profile attorney), James Earl Jones, Lucy Liu, Darren Criss, Larry Page (co-founder of Google), Charles Walgreen (founder of the Walgreens pharmacy chain), Madonna, Gerald Ford (38th President of the United States), Tom Brady (quarterback of the New England Patriots), Jim Harbaugh (former quarterback for the Wolverines and now their head coach), Desmond Howard (cohost of the football version of College GameDay), Richard Gephardt (congressman and presidential candidate), Dhani Jones (Travel Channel), Ann Coulter (firebrand conservative pundit), Arthur Miller, David Alan Grier (actor and comedian), and Clarence Leonard "Kelly" Johnson (designer of the twin-prop P-38 Lightning WW2 fighter, the P-80; America's first fighter-jet in operation, the mach 2 F-104 Starfighter, the notorious U-2 spyplane, and the record-holding fastest airplane ever built, the Mach 3 SR-71 Blackbird).
The immediate past President of the University of Michigan is a former biochemist by the name of Mary Sue Coleman.note For illustration, here's a list of her accolades and accomplishments.