April 26, 2023: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and friends,

The most anticipated time of our academic year is here, as nearly 9,500 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students complete assignments and prepare for final exams and commencement on May 5. I love the word “commencement.” I tell each student that as they approach the stage to receive their degree, to think about what they have accomplished during their time at MSU. And as they move the tassel on their graduation cap from right to left or are bestowed a doctoral hood, to reflect on the people they have met and to know that they are commencing to the next phase of an exciting journey. 

We know from past graduate destination surveys that, within six months of earning their undergraduate degrees, nearly 60% of graduates will be working full time while about a quarter will continue their education. Close to two-thirds of those employed will stay in Michigan, and all will be well prepared for the careers of today and, very importantly, for those of tomorrow.

Graduation is a mile marker, not the destination, on our students’ educational journeys.  I know each of them carries newfound knowledge, energy and Spartan excellence. And they carry with them our pride in their accomplishments and hopes for a wonderful future.

Spartan rankings and excellence
The excellence of our graduates — more than 200 will graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade point average — is supported by MSU’s world-class faculty and staff. Such excellence is reflected in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings of top graduate programs across the country. Four MSU programs were ranked No. 1, and more were ranked among the top 25 in the nation. And we are not letting up.

Our excellence was reflected recently in the naming of MSU’s 53rd Goldwater Scholar with the selection of third-year Honors College student Victoria Fex for this nationally competitive program. The Goldwater Scholarship Program selects students who are committed to a STEM career with intellectual intensity, and Toria is pursuing a major in neuroscience.

Another Spartan was honored for his service and engagement with his selection as a 2023-24 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact. Jai Kozar-Lewis is a first-year supply chain management major. This fellowship supports students working toward positive changes to social, political and environmental issues affecting communities. His leadership skills and contributions to the scholar cohort are both inspiring and impressive, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact of his work within our local communities.

And congratulations to the 25 exceptional undergraduate and graduate students and alums selected for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, along with our eight honorable mentions. This is the country’s oldest graduate fellowship program and is directed toward those in NSF-supported STEM disciplines pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees.

Excellence is also a priority in the field of competition among Spartan student-athletes. We recently welcomed a new head coach to Spartan Athletics: Robyn Fralick, who grew up in this community, is the women’s basketball program’s sixth head coach. She comes to us from Bowling Green State University, where she built a winning program.

New facilities supporting excellence
Our School of Packaging, which earns top rankings across a wide range of rating platforms, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week for its recent expansion supported by more than $10 million from generous donors and stakeholders. The first and largest School of Packaging in the United States has 600 students and 10,000 alums worldwide and is the only school that offers a doctoral program in packaging.

We set the stage for another exciting facility to rise from the heart of our campus last week with a spirited groundbreaking ceremony for a freestanding multicultural center. MSU welcomes all university community members and supports the success of all students, and as our 2030 strategic plan envisions, enables people who are prepared to operate and collaborate in diverse environments.

The multicultural center will provide the physical spaces for critical conversations, the cultural spaces for people to express themselves, and the affirming educational spaces to encourage growth and learning. I want to thank all who have advocated for and contributed to this center, which will be located at the northeast corner of North Shaw and Farm lanes. 

Right across Shaw Lane, a $12.4 million renovation of laboratories and other spaces in the Chemistry Building approved last Friday by the Board of Trustees will help MSU take advantage of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and its production of rare isotopes. This space will catalyze fundamental research and applied work in areas that include medicine, biochemistry, materials science, horticulture and astrophysics.

MSU’s nuclear science facilities have more exciting news and another first for our 40-year-old K500 cyclotron — which was the world’s first superconducting cyclotron. We will refurbish the cyclotron to apply it to the testing of advanced microelectronics for next-generation semiconductor devices, seizing another opportunity presented by our nuclear science programs. If you are interested in the history of this work that began in the 1950s, check out “Up from Nothing,” the story of MSU’s cyclotron laboratory by University Distinguished Professor Emeritus Sam Austin, from our Main Library.

In another action by the board on Friday, trustees authorized planning for a next-generation health education facility. This building will expand our simulation and digital health education capacity, provide a new home to the College of Osteopathic Medicine and allow the College of Nursing to expand its enrollment. 

Being Spartan green
With Earth Day just behind us, a key new hire will help MSU reach its sustainability goals, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from our 2010 benchmark. Chip Amoe, MSU’s new director of sustainability, was recommended to us following his selection in an inclusive search process. MSU has a proud record of sustainability in research, education and operations, and Chip is excited to amplify our long-running work to “Be Spartan Green.”

A wonderful exhibit with a green theme opened this month at the MSU Museum in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution. “Knowing Nature” is focused on the world’s boreal forests and began its national tour here. The exhibit highlights the importance of boreal forests, representing Earth’s largest terrestrial ecosystem with a vast capacity for sequestering atmospheric carbon and helping regulate climate. I hope you get a chance to visit before it closes Nov. 12.

Safety and response updates
Before I close, I want to offer an update on the university’s continued healing following the violence on our campus on Feb. 13. We have created an Office for Resource and Support Coordination to coordinate the university’s response and provide supportive resources to those directly affected, their families and the campus community. We also selected Security Risk Management Consultants to lead an independent after-action review in addition to our own internal review. Check here for updates on our safety measures.

All of us can be proud of the resilient and excellent Spartan graduates soon to “commence” to the next chapter of their lives. I know our 500,000 degreed MSU alums will welcome them into the awesome Spartan alumni family with open arms, and they will sing the phrases from their alma mater with a new awareness of their “faith so true.” 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