President’s State of the University Address 2013

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon delivered her annual State of the University address on February 12, 2013 during the MSU Awards Convocation.

Summary Briefing

Today is Founders’ Day. It’s a day to celebrate the powerful vision represented by the Morrill Act—a mandate to transform the work of higher education on the campus and the impact of our work beyond the boundaries of the campus.

Our centennial in 1955 was heralded as the mandate to expand the intellectual, demographic, and geographic reach of Michigan State University on the bedrock of our land-grant heritage.

On the occasion of our sesquicentennial in 2005, I heralded the accomplishments of Michigan State and our responsibility to be one of the great universities for the 21st century, built on a passion for excellence and the extension of our land-grant legacy into a dynamic, global, world-grant destiny:

  • a destiny that recognizes the gale force winds buffeting higher education;
  • a destiny that demands passion, determination, and innovation;
  • a destiny that keeps Michigan State among the top universities in the world;
  • a destiny that requires the courage to be at the forefront of the next transformation of higher education.

This strategic vision and our fundamental values were framed in 2005 in Boldness by Design, which organized our collective work toward five imperatives:

  • Enhance the student experience.
  • Enrich community, economic, and family life.
  • Expand our international reach.
  • Increase research opportunities.
  • Strengthen stewardship.

The real work was the implementation plans identified through extensive dialogue with the university and through the usual planning processes. Metrics were identified to measure our progress. Accomplishments were celebrated.

In 2007, as the financial circumstances of the state worsened and the recession hit, we took the basic aspirations, framework, and values of Boldness by Design and overlaid the need to address a large loss in our purchasing power and major state cuts to AgBioResearch and Extension.

Under the rubric of Shaping the Future, the university stepped up to the challenges of pushing big ideas like:

  • the campus “neighborhood” concept,
  • the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams,
  • the Broad Art Museum,
  • campus and community sustainability.

Additionally, we enhanced the value of our work by building quality, increasing productivity through innovation and classic cost containment, and making tough decisions to eliminate programs and activities that were important to many stakeholders.

With the leadership and the active engagement of Team MSU, we have not simply weathered the perfect storm, we have made progress in many, many areas.

As we have emerged from the worst sustained economic challenge in our history, we find that the winds continue to blow. More important, we find the landscape fundamentally changed—many write about aspects of the new reality facing global higher education.

We must approach this morphed landscape with the same big vision, values, passion, creativity, and determination that have marked our founding, our centennial, and our sesquicentennial. Therefore, we have spent the last few months in a variety of conversations about how to refresh our strategic vision, values, and framework.

The conversations reinforced that we must be BOLDER. We must build on the strategic vision, values, and framework that were the foundation for Boldness by Design and Shaping the Future. We must keep the five imperatives as a framework for university-wide and unit-based ideas and implementation plans. We must continue to use metrics and evidence-based approaches.

We heard the need to more explicitly strengthen the aspects of the MSU culture that facilitate our successes and our global distinctions and distinctiveness, and that enhance big ideas and prudent risk taking.

Therefore, we will add a sixth imperative:

  • Advance our culture of high performance.

We want to explore what it takes to be a model high-performance institution, one that makes magic because we have the discipline to do what it takes to offer high-impact and high-value results, experiences, and services.

“Bolder” leverages our capacity to navigate the new landscape, enhancing our position among the world’s top 100 universities.

We heard that we need to find ways to communicate not simply metrics or accomplishments but how individual actions connect to overarching goals within and across imperatives. We need to be guided by audacious, long-range goals that require persistent steps as well as a few big leaps.

Therefore, we have included the concept of headlines to help communicate these big ideas. Over the rest of the semester, we will be continuing the dialogues with various groups and through the usual planning processes to further delineate the university- and unit-level goals and implementation strategies under each imperative.

To dispel the belief that this is simply business as usual or incrementalism without urgency, let me share with you some of the headlines that will guide our work together.

IMAGINE: Closing the gaps in our students’ experience

  • Make the neighborhood concept the national model student experience that addresses with greatest success the challenges of persistence, retention, and graduation rates.
  • Develop innovative curriculum, pathways, and policies that cut barriers and time to degree and leverage precollege programs and student analytics to identify success and risk predictors for students, providing this information to the people who can use it to foster and ensure student success.
  • Become a recognized center for interdisciplinary, experiential learning and research engagement that differentiates our undergraduate and graduate student academic experience from all other universities as giving our students an education that’s relevant for tomorrow as well as today.
  • Ensure every undergraduate’s learning experience will incorporate at least two significant experiential opportunities.
  • Lead the nation in graduate education, doubling the number of underrepresented graduate students over the next three years, expanding grad school partnerships with programs and colleges, and maximizing “parallel mentoring” by faculty to maximize students’ academic and career development.
  • Become recognized masters of learning technology, with a strong campuswide strategy for teaching and learning supported by ongoing testing and improvement of instructional models and a focused, mission-driven, and sustainable strategic plan for massive open online course offerings, or MOOCs.
  • Lead the nation in our reputation for graduating experientially trained, multidimensional people—T-shaped people whose frame of reference and skills are a combination of broad and deep and who are work ready and highly sought after in the new global, intensively technological, data- and innovation-driven workplace.

IMAGINE: Advancing sustainable well-being and prosperity for underserved populations, urban and rural, in Michigan and beyond

  • Sustain our position as a world leader in engaged scholarship, advancing our reputation for leveraging expert knowledge in addressing societal and economic issues and for continually contributing to developing that knowledge into a body of lessons learned for sharing and speeding solutions to vexing, constantly changing problems.
  • Align and focus our activities intellectually and geographically to increase energy and impact in given activities and regions.
  • Create the model 21st-century Extension, focused on transforming urban and rural communities to better promote their own prosperity through partnerships targeted on addressing community-defined challenges at home and globally.
  • Incorporate community service or civic engagement learning experience for at least 70 percent of our undergraduate students, preparing them to make service and engagement part of their heritage as Spartans.
  • Continue to build an ecosystem that supports innovative economic strategies in distressed regions throughout Michigan, while working with our local partners to make the greater Lansing area a dynamic, world-class community—a place where people come to work, live, and prosper.
  • Lead in transforming pre-K–12 and all forms of postsecondary education, focusing on creating strong foundations for the workforce of the future for all students—pre-K–12 through associate-degree, baccalaureate-degree, and graduate-degree students—as we model that workforce for them every day.

IMAGINE: Becoming the leading networker of the most significant learning, research, and service networks around the globe

  • Redefine study abroad and enrich it through research, internships, and community engagement with every student having at least one international experience.
  • Continue to share the advantages developed for our state and nation through realizing land-grant ideals by pursuing determinedly the extension of these advantages to disadvantaged communities throughout the world, realizing land-grant ideals anew as world-grant ideals.
  • Develop the model network of international research networks, strengthening collaborations and lowering transaction costs to heighten the success of MSU faculty engaged in international research.

IMAGINE: Increasing research funding by 50 percent to $750 million annually by leveraging our institutional and interdisciplinary assets

  • Lead the nation in advancing the frontiers not only of nuclear science and plant science but brain science.
  • Maintain our distinctive competencies in nuclear science, food safety and security, water quantity and quality, plant science, and bioeconomy-related products and processes.
  • Continue to expand our funding and outcomes in other signature areas within agriculture, engineering, natural sciences, education, business, social sciences, health sciences, education, and liberal arts and humanities.
  • Capitalize on winning and building the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams to attract outstanding researchers; additional related funding from state, national, and international sources; and entrepreneurial talent capable of commercializing its scientific and engineering breakthroughs.
  • Seize the new opportunities inherent in bioinformatics and big data.
  • Recruit new talent aggressively to strengthen all of our leadership and competency positions and also to launch strong initiatives in emerging areas.
  • Grow our pipeline of intellectual property and relations with investors to nurture a regional entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • Align our strengths to launch and lead major research initiatives with support provided for the interdisciplinary teams needed to do this.

IMAGINE: Meeting and exceeding our goals for institutional resource development, management, and sustainability

  • Maintain and elevate our position, participation, and broad recognition as one of the top 100 research universities in the world.
  • Develop world-class operating support systems, getting data to the people who need it and giving them state-of-the-art skills and knowledge to succeed in a culture of high performance while still containing costs.
  • Lead our nation’s institutions of higher education in sustainability theory and practice, broadening the scope of our environmental stewardship to address our grand challenges with a model that doesn’t shift costs to students.
  • Expand our courage and capacity for risk taking and innovation, both internally and externally, for the purpose of making us—and life for those we serve—increasingly better.
  • Convert 100 percent to renewable energy sources by 2030.
  • Meet and exceed our capital campaign goal of $1.5 billion to ensure our financial sustainability, to elevate us among our peers in external support, and to close our gaps in support for scholarships and endowments.
  • Attract funding and asset donations to the Broad Art Museum, building it into one of the leading contemporary art museums in the nation.
  • Achieve the highest levels of productivity through innovation in our management practices, risk management, classic cost containment, and adoption of current, proven best practices in all areas.
  • Continue to measure and communicate both internally and externally our progress throughout all units to demonstrate our dedication, achievements, and continuous drive to be better.
  • Develop the recognized healthiest university community in the nation for faculty, staff, and students, addressing such issues as obesity, nutrition, and lifestyle choices regarding alcohol, drug use, smoking, and fitness.

IMAGINE: Elevating performance in every area of Michigan State University to become the nation’s model university workforce of the future

  • Streamline our daily operations in every area, while at the same time transferring our financial and human capital savings to adding value for teaching and learning, research and scholarship, and outreach and engagement imperatives.
  • Advance the frontiers of our own institutional behavior, developing in each individual and each unit the habits, practices, and discipline required to succeed at delivering high-impact, high-value results, experiences, and services in every area of our enterprise.
  • Aspire to make “magic” in how we interact with one another, among units, and with all of our stakeholders and partners by tearing down barriers, establishing predictability, encouraging clear communication, and focusing on delighting all we serve with our cutting-edge knowledge, genuine respect, trustworthiness, and efficiency.
  • Develop a habit of accountability and a communications initiative that demonstrate evidence of progress not only through metrics but also through examples of teamwork and individual actions that advance our overarching goals, both within and across our imperatives.