Letter to the MSU campus community

To the MSU campus community:

The start of a new academic year and a flurry of notable events have made campus an especially busy place since I last wrote.  

We celebrated the largest single gift from a donor in Michigan State’s history last Thursday: a $30 million contribution by Edward J. Minskoff, MSU alumnus and renowned real estate developer, toward the completion of what will now be known as the Edward J. Minskoff Business Pavilion. In addition to his support of the Broad College of Business, Edward is a longtime friend of our university and a noted contemporary art collector. He lent his expertise to the building of the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, supported it financially and donated artwork. We are grateful for his confidence, his continued engagement with MSU and his impressive support for the development of tomorrow’s business leaders. 

Earlier in the week I had a chance to join my fellow University Research Corridor presidents in discussing the economic impact of our three universities—MSU, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University—in front of the Detroit Economic Club. We talked about the new research report detailing our collective contributions to the state’s economy, totaling $18.7 billion annually, and the need for making support for higher education a higher priority for the state of Michigan. MSU’s own economic contribution, felt in every corner of the state through our educational programs, medical schools, MSU Extension and other operations, is estimated to be $5.8 billion annually. 

We had great turnout Aug. 31 when we broke ground for the visionary $97.5 million STEM Teaching and Learning Facility on campus. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics classes are increasingly popular and sought by our students, as employers nationwide seek graduates with these skills. Our career services office reports brisk hiring and excellent starting salaries for our STEM graduates in particular.  

The innovative building design will incorporate and recycle the former Shaw Lane Power Plant adjacent to Spartan Stadium and will include project laboratories and spaces for biological science, chemistry, computer science, physics and engineering gateway courses. The renovated power plant space will host a student commons and gallery, the Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology and other offices. It will be ready for occupancy in September 2020.

Earlier that day, the Board of Trustees in its first meeting of the school year approved creation of a new organization that encompasses MSU’s colleges of Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine and Nursing to be the multi-specialty group practice of the university. MSU Health Care will nurture a culture of safety, foster a more comprehensive and cost-efficient clinical practice and increase research opportunities. It will operate as a non-profit corporation with the university as the sole corporate member. The new structure, which replaces the former MSU HealthTeam organization, will allow greater coordination, simplify administration and provide the authority to enter into joint ventures with strategic partners. MSU Health Care will include 260 providers from 14 clinical departments at MSU, including doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, therapists and nutritionists.

The board recently took a big step toward the selection of our next president when it named the 19 members of its presidential search committee. It’s a diverse group that will help select the presidential search firm, participate in campus listening sessions, prioritize the characteristics and qualities desired in MSU’s next president and then develop the position description. The committee will screen and interview applicants and advance the qualified finalists to the board.

It was great to welcome students and parents a couple weeks ago for Fall Welcome activities and residence hall move-ins. Michigan State’s incoming freshman class of approximately 8,400 students this year is predicted to be the largest and most diverse in school history. I’m grateful to all the volunteers, faculty and staff who have gone out of their way to make our new Spartans feel at home. 

MSU was honored to host U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor for Fall Convocation. She delivered an inspiring address to a crowded Breslin Center audience and challenged all new Spartans to get involved and also to work hard to avail themselves of all MSU has to offer. Across campus, as students get settled, we are making special efforts to remind everyone that the Student Code of Conduct has been expanded to include off-campus locations.

As we continue our work to improve campus health and safety, students this year also will see new purple and teal posters displayed prominently. This is part of a prevention effort to help reduce relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM) and to assist members of the campus community with locating services if support or help is needed. All of this is part of a new communication campaign from the Office of Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance called “Know More” to help raise awareness and to support those affected by RVSM with guidance on where to find resources and supportive services or to report incidents.

At the same time, the MSU Sexual Assault Program has added a web-based service, Crisis Chat, to its resources for survivors. The online tool will provide an additional avenue to receive support, information and resources.

We were pleased last week to be informed by the NCAA enforcement office that MSU has been cleared in all investigations regarding potential violations stemming from the Larry Nassar case and sexual assault allegations made against our football and basketball programs. As Athletic Director Bill Beekman said, while we agree with the findings, it doesn’t diminish our commitment to ensure the health, safety and wellness of all our students, including our student-athletes. 

We have a university-wide commitment to make MSU an even safer campus. Everyone is working together, dedicated to making improvements and needed changes. 

Our mediated settlement with the Nassar survivors took an important step toward closure recently. MSU and lawyers for the 332 plaintiffs submitted the signed, final settlement to Judge Gordon J. Quist of the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan for his approval. A finalized settlement is a key goal I’ve been working to achieve since I became interim president. I believe this was an important and necessary step for both the survivors and the university.

In a related matter and acting on an outpouring of interest from police agencies around the country, MSU Police has created a new unit focused on sharing best practices in trauma-informed, victim-centered investigations of RVSM reports. The training unit is headed by Detective Lt. Andrea Munford, who earned wide praise for her work with survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse. We’re very proud to be invited to share the expertise developed by our dedicated MSU investigators with the nation. 

Today we announced the appointment of Marti Heil as our new vice president for University Advancement. She returns to us, having spent most of her career here, after working as a development executive at Indiana University and Virginia Commonwealth University. She steps in for the departing Bob Groves, who is wrapping up our highly successful Empower Extraordinary capital campaign.

I was pleased to recommend Nakia White Barr from MSU’s Office of General Counsel as secretary of the Board of Trustees. She was unanimously approved by the board and replaces Bill Beekman, who is now athletic director. Another shift brings Michael Zeig from our Office of Planning and Budgets into my office as chief of staff. He comes highly qualified for this role and replaces Jane Miller, who departs to athletics to support AD Beekman. We also recently welcomed the moves of John Ambrose to interim executive director for admissions and recruitment and Judith Stoddart to associate provost for university collections and arts initiatives.

I invite you to take a look at the newly redesigned msu.edu website. We’ve given it a fresh look designed to help visitors find information quickly and easily and to showcase MSU’s work, its people and its impact. Expect additional user-friendly improvements in the coming weeks. Another new effort that is focused on internal communication—called InsideMSU—is designed to keep the campus community informed through a new biweekly newspaper distributed across campus, along with a website and weekly emails. 

Finally, two dates to keep in mind. MSU Homecoming is Saturday, Oct. 6, and the celebration of the Empower Extraordinary capital campaign is Friday, Oct. 19 and extends to the Oct. 20 MSU vs. U-M football game in East Lansing.

Go Green!  

Sincerely,

John Engler
Interim President