Dr. Michael D. Fetters, the co-founder of the University of Michigan Mixed Methods Program, passed away on July 16, 2023. Upon the news of Dr. Fetters’ passing, so many people from across the globe sent heartfelt messages of condolence and expressed gratitude for him. His expansive energy reached so many corners of the world. Dr. Fetters co-founded the Mixed Methods Program with a vision of creating a space for scholars and students to gather, learn and collaborate in mixed methods research.
Dr. John Creswell, his long-time friend and program co-founder, suggests that as the child of an accountant and an artist, Dr. Fetters was easily drawn to Mixed Methods. He led efforts to bring talented mixed methodologists and proponents to the University of Michigan. He truly believed that collaboration led to innovation, as his extensive list of publications and co-authors shows. In addition to being a compassionate family medicine clinician, he was deeply passionate about advancing mixed methods research methodologically and pedagogically.
From a methodological standpoint, in the words of MMP Associate Director Dr. Tim Guetterman, “his major contribution was in identifying how to design and conduct mixed methods research in a systematic and rigorous manner.” Dr. Fetters’ conceptualized the equation of “1+1 = 3” or “meta inferences” as a way to capture the deeper, more holistic insight that arises when both qualitative and quantitative data are integrated fully. He elucidated key integration strategies in a manner that showed “the importance Mike always placed on taking steps to advance the field while providing methodological resources for other researchers,” in the words of collaborator and mentee Dr. Sergi Fàbregues. He adds that Dr. Fetters, with his collaborators Drs. Creswell and Guetterman, continually provided “researchers with tools to make the integration process more accessible and transparent.” His influence was “not limited to the purely methodological realm of the mixed methods field,” as his integration work is now cited in multiple different disciplines.
Dr. Fetters’ creativity and generosity was manifest in how he taught and mentored. Through years of teaching the fundamentals of Mixed Methods at Michigan and around the world, he broke down and enumerated each step in the process of designing mixed methods studies in the workbook he published. Dr. Justine Wu, MMP Co-Director, recalls how when she attended her first Mixed Methods workshop as a new medical faculty member at Michigan she felt “the distinct feeling of absolute excitement, energy, and inspiration generated by being in the room” with Dr. Fetters and others. But in particular she appreciated how much he emphasized applying the methodological tools being taught: “Mike’s vision of a workshop being a place where you truly “worked” was a key part of that experience for me and continues to ring true for the many people who have come through the MMP training workshops since then.” His strong support for applied Mixed Methods and experience conducting mixed methods studies across disciplines was equally apparent in how he mentored younger scholars. His mentee Dr. Fàbregues says that Dr. Fetters led him “to incorporate a more practical perspective into my mixed methods thinking and to achieve a better balance between the theoretical, philosophical, and practical elements of mixed methods. Secondly, Mike taught me how to overcome fears about actively contributing to the field of mixed methods in my methodological work.” MMP Co-Director Dr. Melissa DeJonckheere was also mentored by Dr. Fetters and states, “I could always count on Mike for encouragement, advice, edits, and ideas to help push me and my work forward.”
As a person whom Dr. Guetterman says “constantly reached across boundaries and had a unique ability to connect with and work with people across disciplines,” Dr. Fetters embodied the synthesizing spirit of mixed methods in many ways.
To make a gift to the Michael D. Fetters and John W. Creswell Mixed Methods Innovation Fund, please visit the following link.
Further links and citations:
Kudo Memorial Board for Dr. Fetters
Memorial editorial in the Journal of Mixed Methods Research
Fetters, M. D. (2018). Six Equations to Help Conceptualize the Field of Mixed Methods. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 12(3), 262-267. https://doi.org/10.1177/1558689818779433