A look at how we’re doing; collective reflection on where we’re going


Earlier this month I delivered my annual State of the University remarks, which in most years coincides with and accompanies the annual Awards Convocation. It’s an appropriate venue, as we are very proud of this year’s awardees. They are exceptional scholars, researchers, and teachers who embody the spirit of “Spartans Will.”

We’re also proud of the record for Michigan State University revealed in this year’s full State of the University report—the first of its kind in which we give an overview of  metrics and key topics that matter. I could provide only a glimpse of these in my remarks at the convocation, so I encourage you to go to the full online report.  What the report’s numbers show, in a nutshell, is our continued forward progress in the face of long-running financial headwinds, thanks to the dedication, talent, and energy of Team MSU.

Boldness by Design, an initiative I set in motion in 2005, has helped develop our capacity to add value to our work and to handle the budget difficulties of recent years. More recently another initiative, Shaping the Future, helped us anticipate and manage our response to the 15 percent cut in state funding last year. Shaping the Future helped us plan and organize for the new financial reality, but it’s time to move beyond that.

This year, as we observe the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Morrill Act, which made possible the establishment of land-grant institutions, I’m asking faculty and staff to take advantage of our momentum and rededicate ourselves to forging anew the way in which we fulfill our land-grant mission in the bright light of a new century. This is a broad-ranging conversation that started last semester and focuses on how we can accomplish that goal in ways that might not only move us further ahead, but also change the game itself.

We need to improve our ability to attract support for our knowledge creation and discovery enterprise—our research—to improve our standing among our peers and our impact in the world. We need to improve technology transfer and promote enterprise among both faculty and students.

We need to continue to push the frontiers of collaboration and connectivity locally and globally, in academe and beyond, in ways that could be the key to addressing the most intractable problems facing this planet and its people.

We need to persistently enhance our value equation, including our cost effectiveness. It’s made that much more difficult because we’re starting from an already cost-effective position, in comparison with our peers as noted in the State of the University report.

We need to continue to improve our outcomes, student success chief among them. We are working earnestly to help students reduce the time it takes to earn a degree by doing everything possible to recognize credits earned elsewhere while protecting the integrity and value of an MSU degree.

We need to work to assure adequate public support in the form of state appropriations while redoubling efforts to seek private support from alumni and others who understand the transformational potential of the support they provide.

It is traditional in the State of the University address to salute our founders who, through their own boldness, forged a new higher education prototype in the mid-19th century. We draw inspiration as we continue our modern-day transformation, honoring the game-changers of the past while developing the opportunity to write a new playbook for the 21st century.

Our definition of “place” has shifted and expanded through the years, radiating outward like ripples on water. The globe is our pond, yet Michigan is always at the center as we seek new ways to help create sustainable prosperity for the common good.

We’ve done it before—bringing scientific agriculture to the communities of Michigan in the 19th century and then reaching out into the world as a prototype international university in the 20th century. Michigan State accepts the mantle of leadership in renewing the public trust as we work to redefine the role of land-grant universities to lead the nation and the world to a better tomorrow. 


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