March 29, 2023: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and friends,

Academics, athletics and the arts are all important parts of the university experience, and this month they brought Spartans together to celebrate excellence, to cheer and to heal. I am so proud of our community’s achievements and would like to share some of our highlights with you.

Academic excellence
Loud cheers were heard across campus for our MSU Debate team. Spartan debaters have qualified for the National Debate Tournament for 27 consecutive years and have won it three times. Congratulations and good luck to MSU Debate as they send three teams to compete in Chantilly, Virginia, starting this Friday.  

Great academics is created by great educators, and one such educator is Professor Susan Masten of the College of Engineering. She is the recipient of the 2023 President’s Distinguished Teaching Award. In a surprise visit to her classroom, several of us honored Dr. Masten for her instructional innovation and exceptional dedication to her students as well as her service in communities from Michigan to Tanzania. In addition to this year’s teaching award, she received the 2023 MSU Community Engagement Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2023 College of Engineering Excellence in Diversity Award for sustained excellence. We are grateful for Dr. Masten and all those at MSU who demonstrate excellence in teaching, research and outreach every day.

We also offer congratulations to John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor Felicia Wu, appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development for a term running through 2026. Supporting Michigan’s vital agricultural sector across its diverse products and communities is a proud legacy of MSU’s land-grant mission. Dr. Wu is a food safety, risk analysis and public health expert, now adding her cutting-edge knowledge and deep experience to this important state commission.

We can be proud of the service performed by MSU faculty and academic staff across the state and around the world. More than 1,600 of them are involved in teaching, research and outreach internationally, and 10 will be honored April 5 in the 2023 MSU International Awards. We also will acknowledge honorees from the past three years who were previously recognized in virtual ceremonies.

Athletic recognitions
Loud cheers were also heard around East Lansing when Tom Izzo led the MSU men’s basketball team to the NCAA Tournament for the 25th consecutive year. The team’s 15th appearance in the Sweet 16 under Coach Izzo was simply thrilling, right down to the overtime period buzzer. Congratulations to the team and everyone in the program for a memorable season. It was wonderful meeting so many Spartans in Columbus and New York, too, during the tournament games.

I also have enjoyed attending our women’s basketball games and celebrating women’s basketball head coach Suzy Merchant and recognizing her legacy as she made the difficult decision to retire after 16 seasons at MSU. Her accomplishments include two Big Ten titles and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, as well as her guiding influence on her student-athletes on and off the court. I know all Spartans share my gratitude for her dedication and wish her the very best!

Action and art reclaiming campus
We continue to address campus safety in the wake of the violence our campus community experienced Feb. 13, which I outlined in a campus community message earlier this month. We now require MSU identification to enter buildings earlier in the evening and are adding new locks and security cameras. We also will require active violent intruder training for students and employees in the coming academic year. Our healing continues, each at our own pace, supported by counseling and other services and by being here for one another.

The arts also encourage our healing and joining together in community. A beautiful new installation at the International Center, “Together We Heal, Grow and Soar,” features folded-paper butterflies bearing hopeful messages made by members of the university community. I hope you can visit this space and feel the sense of calm and soaring it inspires. We are fortunate to be able to offer a wealth of inspirational encounters with the arts on our campus, from the Wharton Center and College of Music to the Broad Art Museum, MSU Museum and more.

Appreciating Spartans
Our work to make MSU inclusive and welcoming for all is detailed in the newly released 2022-23 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report. Importantly, half of the 270-plus action items from the DEI Steering Committee Report and Plan are complete or in progress. As Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar R. Bennett wrote, this progress positively impacts “the recruitment, retention and success of all Spartans.”

Spartans helped us further support the success of our students in March through their generosity. Donors made nearly 5,400 gifts that totaled more than $1.1 million for this year’s Give Green Day, our annual fundraising event supporting students. MSU alumni clubs raised more than $120,000 for scholarships, and MSU faculty, staff and retirees contributed more than $157,000 to various funds — a 7.5% increase from last year.

The Spartan Strong Fund was very well supported on this day of giving. Donors made 573 gifts totaling approximately $143,000, with another $18,400 designated for the existing Support Our Spartans student emergency fund. The Spartan Strong Fund has raised close to $1 million from 4,200 donors since it was created shortly after the events of Feb. 13.

Looking ahead together
There is much still to be done to achieve MSU’s goals and more fully represent our ideals, but examples of excellence and accomplishment surround us: in our classrooms and laboratories; in athletic, academic and club competitions; in artistic and performance spaces; and in all the places Spartans gather. Thank you to all who reflect, support and cheer on such excellence.

You can hear me discuss these topics on this episode of the MSU Today Podcast.

My best,

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Interim President
MSU Research Foundation Professor