MSU Dubai: Our Vision and Our Progress

08-24-2009

One year ago today, MSU Dubai officially opened its doors. As we approach the beginning of its second year of operation, it is important to review our progress there and to remind ourselves of the great opportunities that our presence in that region provides.

The economic challenges we face both here in Michigan and in Dubai are significant and should not be underestimated, but they should not be allowed to overshadow our long-term goals in either location. Indeed, adherence to our fundamental values and goals is, perhaps, more important in this economic environment than in other, more resource-rich times. It is good to reflect upon how MSU Dubai fits into those values and goals.

At MSU, we embrace our land-grant traditions and values by accepting the challenge of keeping those values relevant to society’s changing needs. The original concept of the land-grant university truly was tied to the land, with communities largely defined by the geographic space they occupied. But definitions of community have changed dramatically, and the 21st century has brought with it a new degree of global connectivity. We can understand modern society’s most critical challenges only by adopting a perspective that includes local, national, and international voices and communities.

Our institutional purpose has not changed. We still seek to create opportunities for development and prosperity—broadly defined—for our community. It is the scope of our community that has changed. Now we must bring the best of Michigan to the world, and we must also bring the best of the world to Michigan.

Consistent with that evolution, MSU Dubai provides an opportunity for us to expand our community of knowledge and discovery in a meaningful way into a region of undeniable economic, social, and political importance. Our efforts in Dubai mesh well with the goals espoused in the strategic plans of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, which emphasize economic, community, and social development to enhance productivity and innovation. These plans also place a high priority on educational achievement and cultural enrichment, and they address environmental sustainability and the appropriate use of natural resources.

It is clear that we can bring to the region a great deal of expertise on strategically important issues. It also is clear that in the process of exploring those issues in a new context, we have a great opportunity to learn in and from the region.

The regional partnerships created by our presence in Dubai will be extensive and productive, but our impact need not be confined to the region. We have an opportunity at MSU Dubai to create a cosmopolitan environment for learning and discovery—one characterized by our traditional academic values and enriched by a diverse set of cultural values as represented by a truly international group of students. We share with our Emirati partners a vision of MSU Dubai as an educational destination of choice—not solely for the region but for scholars from all parts of the globe.

Visions are never realized without a great deal of energy, focus, and determination. Concrete action must be taken and tangible movement toward objectives must be made. The hard work of many, both in Dubai and in East Lansing, culminated in the successful launch of MSU Dubai last year. Now we must continue the transition from start-up project to fully operational organization—one that both achieves its own worldwide recognition and also is recognized as a fully integrated major academic unit of MSU.

Toward that end, we have identified specific steps that can be taken to increase operational efficiency and ensure that we are moving toward our goals. Some of these steps already are being implemented. For example, the administrative staff in Dubai has been reorganized for efficiency and effectiveness; the recruitment and student services functions have been strengthened; and the library space is being reconfigured to create a more suitable scholarly environment. Various work teams are or will be reviewing and addressing the remainder of the action items.

We are making great strides—in admissions, in student and faculty support, in facilities and logistics, and in creating seamless communications between East Lansing and Dubai—and I believe we have a workable plan for continued progress.

Provost Wilcox and I appreciate the efforts of the many individuals whose work made this opportunity a reality. Students, faculty, and staff in Dubai; faculty and staff in East Lansing; our business and governmental partners in Dubai; and our own Board of Trustees all have demonstrated commitment to the vision of what MSU Dubai can and will become.

I encourage all faculty, staff, and students to think about what MSU Dubai can mean to their efforts to bring their knowledge, passion, and talents to the world. Opportunities for teaching, research, and outreach abound and will lead to the discoveries that continue to transform lives around the world.

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