Aug. 29, 2023: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and friends,

I want to begin with a big MSU welcome to the newest Spartans, who start classes this week: the class of 2027, MSU’s 166th graduating class. Our alums, parents, faculty and staff join me in wishing our students at all levels a successful and rewarding 2023-24 academic year. To mark the new academic year, watch the Our Spartan video that welcomes students back to campus.

Remembering Feb. 13
It has been six months now since the tragic events of Feb. 13 on our campus. In 2024, most classes will not meet on that date to afford us a period of remembrance. MSU Vice President and Chief Safety Officer Marlon Lynch sent a message last week updating the community on our safety efforts.

We know students continue to process that experience at different rates and in different ways. There are many paths Spartans walk, but they converge here, where a caring community wraps students in understanding and support. Certainly, the violence on campuses and in communities across the United States just in the last week has been disheartening. I have offered our support to others and want to remind our community that support is available as you process these events. Students can access MSU Counseling and Psychiatric Services, and employees can contact our Employee Assistance Program.

While our sorrow is deep, we recommit today, and every day, to the safety and success of our students, faculty and staff. We walk forward together as a family.  

Beginning our academic year
Generations of Spartans have walked our campus paths, and for our students, exciting years lie ahead. It recalls what MSU’s 12th president, John A. Hannah, told the graduating class of 1979: “It is an encouraging time to be young, for there is so much to do that can be done.”

That is just as true today, with so many pathways to make a difference in this world. And I can’t think of a better place to identify your mission and prepare for your journey than Michigan State, with more than 400 academic programs in 17 degree-granting colleges, more than 1,000 registered student organizations, world-class faculty and staff and a legacy of engagement with communities from East Lansing to East Asia.

Preliminary enrollment reports indicate another strong and diverse entering class of more than 11,000 first-year and transfer students. More than 8,000 incoming students from Michigan make MSU once again the No.1 choice across the state.

We will celebrate several milestones this year, among them the 150th anniversary of the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden and the sesquicentennial of our first enrolled international students. Spartans and community members will gather in the garden Sept. 13 to observe its anniversary, and the university will salute our international programs and people at events throughout the year.

The start of the semester also heralds the return of fall athletics, including Spartan football, with another big anniversary to celebrate throughout the season: the centennial of Spartan Stadium. This season, alcohol sales will begin at athletic and other events. This change will bring MSU in line with most Big Ten members. We will monitor how the new policy unfolds to ensure safe and enjoyable celebrations for all, including those who do not drink.

A key Michigan asset
I was pleased to see the university’s value affirmed earlier this month in Money magazine’s latest Best Colleges ratings. Student success is our top job, and through measures such as growing our academic advising program and instituting a flat tuition rate that encourages students to take more credits per semester, we are working to reduce students’ time to graduation and increase our graduation rate from 82% to 86% by 2030.

MSU’s value to our communities across Michigan was also underscored by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities when it designated MSU an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University. MSU’s economic impact — more than $5.8 billion annually across Michigan’s 83 counties — is a topic I regularly discuss with local and state community leaders. The APLU’s designation acknowledges our historic commitment to enhancing the prosperity of Michigan residents and emphasizes the continued importance of integrating our engagement and innovation efforts into the university’s planning efforts.

Research enhances MSU contributions
Beyond enabling our students with cutting-edge knowledge and serving as one of the Lansing region’s top employers, MSU’s research supports residents with practical discoveries ranging from agriculture to advanced materials.

Our Facility for Rare Isotope Beams is a strong example. FRIB enables scientists to make discoveries about the properties of rare isotopes, nuclear astrophysics, fundamental interactions and applications for society, including in medicine, homeland security and industry. In July, we welcomed research colleagues from France who are establishing a presence at FRIB with the International Research Laboratory on Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics. It will bring together researchers from France and the United States to stimulate discoveries in fundamental nuclear physics and astrophysics. 

Just this month, we announced a five-year, $529 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science to continue FRIB’s world-leading nuclear science research as a DOE-SC user facility, enabling unprecedented discovery opportunities envisioned by a global user community of 1,800 scientists. 

Earlier this summer, we finalized a $9 million federal investment to develop the next generation of lightweight, all-terrain autonomous ground vehicles for the U.S. Army at Michigan State. This program will help create a technological edge in autonomous mobility to support national security as well as strengthen the commercial U.S. automotive industry. 

As we look forward to revisiting strategic planning around campus sustainability efforts this season, MSU’s research and development work on materials that could keep food packaging out of the waste stream is worth noting. Researchers from MSU’s top-ranked School of Packaging have developed a bioplastic material that’s easier to compost

For there is so much to do that can be done
Whether you graduated in the 1960s or ‘70s, are an MSU parent, alum, retiree or a current campus community member, a new academic year reminds us of President Hannah’s evergreen wisdom that it’s an encouraging time to be young. For all of us, it’s also an encouraging time to be a Spartan!

You can hear me discuss some of these topics on this episode of the MSU Today podcast. You can also visit me on social media via Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

My best,

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