Feb. 2, 2023: Remarks to the MSU Board of Trustees

Good morning, everyone. Today I just want to comment on some university highlights since we last met and shine a spotlight on our collective work to move our university forward. 

I was proud to revive the State of the University address last month.  It was a wonderful opportunity to recognize some of the progress we have made in the 2030 strategic plan  and honor several examples of MSU’s excellence, equity and impact.

I want to especially thank everyone who attended the event and remind you all that you can view the address, or just sections of it, on the office of the president’s website.

Know More survey
At the State of the University and in the weeks since we have been sharing the 2022 Know More Campus Survey results with the community.

You might recall that the first Know More campus survey in 2019 built a baseline for improvement and informed the development of our RVSM strategic plan.

The 2022 survey showed several areas of progress, with some forms of victimization dropping, most measures of climate and culture improving and high awareness of our training and policies. 

Among those findings, it was also good to see that incidents of workplace incivility and employee sexual harassment dropped significantly since 2019.

But the results also tell us there are areas that require more attention.

This time, data was collected to be more inclusive of our transgender and nonbinary community members.

The results indicate that this group experiences victimization at significantly higher rates than cisgender members of the community.

Safe Place, Counseling and Psychiatric Services and the Center for Survivors are always available to anyone seeking assistance. But we understand that transgender and nonbinary individuals might not fully trust or feel safe approaching these units. 

So, the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center will partner with MSU Safe Place and other campus services to embed RVSM advocates and counselors within its programming.

The Center for Survivors is also collaborating with MSU Safe Place to gather information to create peer-led support groups for GSCC-connected survivors of RVSM.

And, Counseling and Psychiatric Services has a dedicated counselor available weekly at the GSCC Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to noon.  

Our RVSM special advisers, Professor Rebecca Campbell and MSU Police and Public Safety Deputy Chief Andrea Munford, are leading our next steps.

With the RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup, they are now in the campus engagement phase of their work.

Dr. Campbell and Deputy Chief Munford have reached out to the Faculty Senate, ASMSU and COGS to invite their feedback.

We have also invited campus community members to four in-person or virtual sessions this month to discuss the survey in more detail and provide input.

There, members of the Workgroup will answer questions about the data and collect feedback on improving services, prevention efforts and policies.

We all want to thank Professor Campbell, Deputy Chief Munford and the members of the Workgroup for engaging so thoroughly with the MSU community on the survey.    

Recognizing leadership achievements
MSU is fortunate to have so many dedicated leaders, several of whom have recently earned new distinctions. A big shout out:

  • To Chief of Police and MSU Vice President for Public Safety Marlon Lynch, who was recently selected by his peers to chair the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies Board of Officers;
  • To Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar R. Bennett, who was honored by the Not Alone Foundation and the Academy of Diamond Awards for his great work supporting students, faculty and staff who are members of historically underrepresented groups; 
  • And to Senior Vice President for Student Life and Engagement Vennie Gore, honored by the American College Personnel Association – College Student Educators International for his powerful commitment to enhancing the lives of college students and professionals while advancing student affairs and higher education.

And on Monday, groups and individuals will be honored at the all-university Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Awards, including the lifetime achievement award category for special mention.

That award this year is shared by Kurt Dewhurst and Marsha MacDowell, both representing the College of Arts and Letters and the MSU Museum, and Dionardo Pizaña of MSU Extension.

I want to thank these honorees for their years of work in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion, and congratulate all those being honored at the event this year for their dedication to this core university value.

Faculty excellence
I want to turn now to our dedicated faculty and academic staff, starting with five researchers recently recognized for excellence by their peers. 

The American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, is the world’s largest general scientific society.  This year, five faculty members representing five colleges have been named AAAS Fellows:

  • Evangelyn Alocilja, from the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Engineering;
  • Andrea Case, from the College of Natural Science;
  • James Fairweather, from the College of Education;
  • William Lovis, from the College of Social Science;
  • and Shin-Han Shiu, from the College of Natural Science.

These researchers represent not only great excellence in the classroom and laboratory, but also in shaping the way we teach and perform science to make it more accessible, impactful and inclusive.

They join more than 175 current and past Spartans who have been honored as AAAS Fellows, so congratulations to them.

In another great example of making learning more accessible, this week we learned several of our mathematics faculty members will share a nearly $2 million NSF training grant. 

They are building communities of undergraduates, graduates, post-graduates and faculty working in topology and related mathematical areas.

Congratulations as well to the W.K. Kellogg Biological Station’s Long-Term Ecological Research program, which won a $7.65 million dollar renewal of its foundational grant from the National Science Foundation.

This is the nation’s only long-term ecological research program focusing on the ecology of agricultural systems.

This grant marks the LTER’s seventh straight successful funding cycle request and reaffirms the program’s reputation as one of the nation’s premier research sites.

And today, we are announcing that Michigan State was named a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program Top Producing Institution for the 2022-2023 academic year.

That establishes MSU as the only U.S. research institution to be named a Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars for the last nine consecutive years.

This year, nine faculty members representing six MSU colleges earned Fulbright awards.

They join the ranks of the over 475 MSU Scholars who have previously earned Fulbrights, teaching and pursuing research in countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. 

168 years of excellence
As we approach the 168th anniversary of MSU’s establishment on Sunday, our commitment to the tripartite mission of education, research and outreach remains firm.

And I am proud of the Spartans carrying on this noble work, including the students who engage in our community recognition service program awards.

Last month, alongside the Center for Community Engaged Learning, we saluted the 92 recipients of the 2022 Spartan Volunteer Service Award.

In 2022, this group logged an impressive 19,824 hours of volunteer service with a market value of more than $593,000 contributed to our local community.

Before I close, I will just note that February is Black History Month and remind everyone of the many programs scheduled on campus to observe the month. 

Probably the most well-established of these events is our College of Osteopathic Medicine’s William G. Anderson Lecture Series, “Slavery to Freedom: An American Odyssey” — now in its 23rd year!

Among the exciting speakers being hosted by the series is higher education leader Freeman A. Hrabowski.  He is president emeritus of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County, a minority-serving institution noted for its inclusive excellence.

Programs such as the Anderson lectures heighten awareness and bring new perspectives to our university community as we continue to build a culture that is safe, welcoming and supportive for all.

With that, let us turn to the other items on today’s board agenda.