May 24, 2023: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and friends,

Our graduation ceremonies this month were the perfect meeting of people and place.

Michigan State’s campus was at peak spring beauty, and the trees in front of Cowles House, Beaumont Tower and The Spartan statue were all great settings for pictures in the graduates’ green or black gowns and colorful doctoral hoods.

At our undergraduate convocation, I asked graduating seniors about their favorite spots on campus. Their answers were all over the campus map, from our gardens and natural areas to the Izzone and Munn Ice Arena. Their love of place and sense of belonging were clearly part of their MSU experience.

MSU’s campus is a source of pride for its beauty, and for 168 years, we have carefully transformed our natural and built environments to enable growth while maintaining its beauty for future Spartans. In this community letter, I want to celebrate the natural and built beauty of our campus.

Placemaking on campus and beyond
Just before graduation, we celebrated the groundbreaking for our new multicultural center, a brick-and-mortar representation of our commitment to a diverse campus community that fosters cultural and intellectual curiosity and understanding.

With our annual research and development expenditures growing to a record $759.2 million in fiscal year 2022, we need to ensure our facilities keep pace and advance our academic excellence. To that end, we are honoring our land-grant legacy with upgrades to our dairy facility and greenhouses. Those teaching and learning facilities will enhance our critical work in partnership with our Michigan agricultural communities, and I cannot wait to join Spartans and stakeholders to cut the ribbons in the coming year.

Several other important new facilities are in the planning stages, including a new engineering and digital innovation center, a plant and environmental sciences building and a student recreation and wellness center to replace IM West.

Our placemaking extends beyond the East Lansing campus, and I visited Flint this month to meet our faculty, students, staff and community partners as we work with the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation to expand our research facilities downtown. I am impressed by how place, purpose and people combine there to improve public health for the good of the city and region.

Guiding our placemaking is the University Facilities and Land Use Plan, which is grounded in the MSU 2030 Strategic Plan and has had input from students, employees, alums and the community. The plan prioritizes quality of life and work while nurturing a sense of community and belonging — which many felt especially strongly as we reclaimed our physical campus after the tragedy of Feb. 13.

Placemaking and belonging
In our intentional approach to placemaking, we need to consider the policies, practices and culture that build the sense of belonging that a welcoming and supportive university environment requires. Celebrating Spartans’ achievements is an important part of this goal and from graduation ceremonies for students to programs recognizing our amazing staff and faculty, we create time to share accomplishments.

The end of spring semester is rich with such opportunities, and in addition to our student graduation ceremonies, I had the pleasure of being part of the annual MSU Awards Convocation to honor outstanding faculty and staff for their research, teaching and outreach.

I also had the honor of congratulating the winners of the 46th annual Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Awards and the Ruth Jameyson “Above and Beyond” Award, the latter of which goes to one staff member pursuing an advanced degree while working full-time. We also gathered to celebrate 552 dedicated employees and 201 retirees who have reached milestones at MSU at our annual Service and Retirement Recognition Awards. Two employees have served our university for a remarkable 55 years! My congratulations and thanks to all!

Ensuring the safety of university community members is another vital element of MSU’s placemaking for well-being, and I am pleased to welcome a new vice president for civil rights and Title IX education and compliance, Laura Rugless. I look forward to her successfully guiding our strategies and bringing a fresh perspective to our efforts in preventing and responding to discrimination and sexual violence and misconduct. Her appointment is effective July 1.

In closing
Travelers on campus this summer might encounter cranes in the air (the avian variety as well as the mechanical, terrestrial versions) and a few traffic detours as we upgrade our infrastructure and facilities to keep pace with our ambitions. Such changes represent an expectant future as placemaking creates belonging today and warm memories tomorrow. I very much hope to see you all soon on our beautiful campus on the banks of the Red Cedar and in all our vibrant university spaces across the state of Michigan. 

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

My best,

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