A glance back, and looking ahead

12-30-2009

The closing days of the final year of a decade of extraordinary challenge are enough to compel anyone to look back on their struggles and triumphs and see a sort of seamless storyline that might seem to have come to define them.

As I close out five years as president of Michigan State University, that temptation is particularly strong. I know I certainly didn’t expect in 2005 that Michigan’s by-then wearisome economic doldrums would continue to shadow Michigan State University––indeed the entire state, and now the nation––so doggedly.

But if that must be the backdrop for the drama of our times, it certainly needn’t be the script for us or for this grand institution.

It’s a fitting time to look at ourselves in the mirror and make our resolutions for the coming year, but we also can look over our shoulders at a year of rare accomplishment. No sooner did we celebrate winning the $550 million federal Facility for Rare Isotope Beams a year ago than we sealed new partnerships with companies such as Coca-Cola and IBM. Our men’s basketball team’s inspiring run at the national title in March and April was capped in December with Michigan State being named the best college hoops school of the decade in Sports Illustrated.

We deepened our green credentials on campus by opening a new recycling center and starting a wide-ranging green certification program, and our researchers advanced the technology of biofuel production and the science of plant growth. Off campus, our faculty work worldwide to promote sustainable agriculture and energy.

We deepened our relationship, too, with communities closer to home with new facilities in Detroit, growing medical operations in Grand Rapids, and economic development and work force development programs in mid-Michigan.

On campus, our faculty claims more than its share of Fulbright U.S. Scholars, with seven faculty teaching in places such as Malawi, Hungary, and Taiwan under the government’s flagship international exchange program. Our student body includes a new Marshall Scholar and a new Truman Scholar. Students demonstrated a deeper engagement with their world by delivering health services and school supplies to needy area children, working abroad during alternative spring break and by many other means.

These are the kinds of accomplishments, making a real and positive difference in people’s lives, which compose the real narrative of Team MSU, year in and year out. Behind us we leave a legacy of scholarship, service, and goodwill, and before us we carry a bright beacon of hope, striding confidently into a new year, a new decade, and a still-young century.

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