Sept. 29, 2023: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and friends,

The final numbers are in for our fall semester enrollment, and I am thrilled to share them with you, together with other current updates, in this month’s Spartan Community Letter.

No. 1 choice in Michigan
I am proud to report that we have a strong and diverse entering class of more than 10,917 first-year and transfer undergraduate students, which is comparable to last year’s record incoming group. Over 8,500 of them come from Michigan. That makes MSU once again the No.1 choice across the state and truly “Michigan’s state university.”  

All told, the powerful draw of our people and this place has attracted 51,316 students to MSU this fall, according to our official count. In total, 40,483 of those are undergraduate students — the largest group on record. That is up 1,293 students over last year, supported by strong retention of undergraduate students — a great signal that our work in fostering a sense of belonging among our students is working. The community engagement, social and well-being opportunities we provide across the university are helping students succeed in and out of the classroom. 

Our strengthening persistence numbers are all the more worth celebrating because our average time-to-degree number again falls below four calendar years! 

Meanwhile, our graduate and professional enrollment numbers remain strong and comparable to last year’s. This is also the most diverse overall student group in the university’s history, with students from diverse backgrounds making up about 27.2% of the domestic student body. 

Arts MSU
I think that a university that celebrates is a great university, and as I think about what we do to make MSU stand out as a special community, I am reminded of the words of MSU’s 14th president, Clifton R. Wharton Jr.

He and Dolores Wharton were great advocates for the arts, and our performing arts center was named in their honor. He recalled later that, “Any university worthy of being called great needed a rich foundation in the arts — physical no less than intellectual.”

So, I was thrilled earlier this month when we launched Arts MSU, a unified and strategic approach to centering the arts at MSU by integrating them into our educational experiences, our research activities and our campus culture. This 360-degree approach prioritizes advancing the impact and amplifying the presence of the arts at MSU. 

Arts MSU is grounded in three pillars: 

  • Integrating the arts into the educational experience fosters a more holistic approach to learning and problem-solving. 
  • Integrating the arts into the research endeavor drives innovation and openness to new ways of knowing. 
  • Integrating the arts into the physical and cultural infrastructure of campus nurtures a sense of place, belonging and community. 

The arts truly are happening all around us at MSU, and a new website brings them together in one place. I hope you return to it often to learn about arts-related happenings at MSU.

Conversation with the President
In a Zoom-based “Conversation with the President” on Wednesday, I updated the university community on this and other topics, illustrating MSU’s upward trajectory and referencing a half-dozen consequential actions taken in the presidency of our 12th president, John A. Hannah.

Hannah was a builder in an era of rapid MSU growth. Today, we are starting projects such as our new Multicultural Center and the Student Recreation and Wellness Center — for which we broke ground just this month — that will support the success of students and other members of the university community for years to come.

More excitement is coming, as we lay plans for a new Engineering and Digital Innovation Center and a new Health Education Building to provide state-of-the-art facilities that prepare students for the careers of the 21st century and to give faculty researchers and stakeholders the spaces they need to continue pushing boundaries of knowledge.

Our medical and research excellence will be further enhanced with the Nick Gilbert Neurofibromatosis Research Institute to be housed in the planned Henry Ford Health + MSU Health Sciences research facility in Detroit. Our partners at the Gilbert Family Foundation are helping make that possible, together with a 72-bed physical medicine and rehabilitation facility planned for the HFH campus in association with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab.

And remembering how MSU’s nuclear science leadership began with a bold initiative started under Hannah’s administration, it is wonderful to see it continue to bear fruit through the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. FRIB recently won a $115 million grant to fund a new High Rigidity Spectrometer project, leveraging and extending the utility of this world-leading laboratory for discovery. Meanwhile, FRIB researchers are using artificial intelligence to help shorten the timeframe for discoveries.

The reach and reputation of MSU expanded vastly under President Hannah, and the results of our focus on excellence through the years can be seen in our recent rankings, some of which I highlighted in my email message earlier this month.

In short, MSU’s national ranking from U.S. News & World Report rose to number 60, a 17-place increase in our national position and the highest ranking held by MSU in our history. Washington Monthly and Forbesboth ranked us in the top 25 public universities. And most recently, the Wall Street Journal and College Pulse ranked MSU No. 14 among public universities, with student outcomes carrying the highest criteria weight. And finally, the National Academy of Inventors ranks MSU No. 48 on its list of top U.S. universities granted patents last year. 

I invite you to watch the video recording of my Sept. 27 “Conversation,” and I also discuss it in this month’s MSU Today podcast.

Looking forward
It can be difficult for us to perceive institutional inflection points as they occur, but I believe such developments as I mention above are signposts. Current headlines you might read do not define us but reflect only isolated moments in the long march of Michigan State’s continuing ascent.

Men’s Basketball Head Coach Tom Izzo said it beautifully this week when he spoke about Spartans’ resilience. “My message to everybody is, stay the course … grasp arms (and) stick together.”

My best,

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