Aug. 29, 2019: Letter to the Community

Dear Spartans,

Students are settling in, faculty and staff are getting back into the school year routine, and it has been a busy first month for me as Michigan State’s 21st president. If you haven’t viewed it yet, please take a look at the inspiring new video we’ve been sharing to help start fall semester. You can also hear me speak about some of my early impressions in a recent interview.

It has been a pleasure meeting so many students, campus and community leaders, faculty, staff, alumni, stakeholders and other friends of MSU in these first few weeks.

Ready for a new year

This fall more than 8,500 students started their first year at MSU, and last weekend I had the opportunity to meet hundreds of these new students and their family members during move-in and Fall Welcome. While walking around campus, it was exciting to see the boundless energy and enthusiasm these new arrivals bring to Michigan State.

Our alumni and donors share this enthusiasm, setting a record $272.6 million in gifts and pledges to the university — the best fundraising year in our 164-year history. This support is so critical and ensures we can continue to educate the next generation and create a stronger teaching and learning environment during a time when the state continues to reduce its funding to higher education.

And while the legislature and governor continue to work on the state’s budget, we remain hopeful that they understand and value the work universities are doing and how we count on their support to deliver a quality education to students.

Connecting with the community

As I continue to explore the campus and meet people, I try to listen more than I talk. I look forward in the weeks and months ahead to group meetings with our colleges, student organizations and others. I also will be getting out into the community more to speak with our neighbors and local government and business leaders.

Strategic planning with MSU leadership will get underway over the next few months. My highest priority is for our campus to be one that is welcoming, respectful and, above all, safe. That is the foundation for all we do. I also will be asking for a plan related to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion, all of which are essential for a safe, respectful and welcoming community. As we think about how to bring about culture changes we wish to see, a commitment to respect and care is high on my list.

Guidance from RVSM experts

Recently I appointed two campus experts as special advisers to provide guidance and make strategic recommendations in the area of relationship violence and sexual misconduct. Professor Rebecca Campbell chairs the RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup, and Lt. Andrea Munford is with the MSU Police Department’s Center for Trauma-Informed Investigative Excellence. I am also asking them to help facilitate meetings between me and survivors of sexual assault in September and October.

As always, I encourage you to refer to the Our Commitment website for information and updates. There, you can find the recent briefing report prepared for me by the RVSM workgroup, with a lot of good information summarizing its activity since it was formed in February 2018.

Student success

During move-in last weekend I had to opportunity to tour Spartan Compass, a pilot program in Akers and Hubbard halls. Its purpose is to help first-year students adapt to life at Michigan State by helping them build strong relationships, find their niche on campus and become part of the Spartan family in order to enhance their academic success.

MSU is a place of opportunity that changes people’s lives for the better. Spartans explore, discover and inspire. Here, we prepare talented students to go forth and transform our communities and our world — students like Clayton Queen. Clayton is a graduate student working alongside Alan Arbogast, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Geography, to map Michigan’s sand dunes. The data they are collecting can inform public policy decisions and provide fodder for discussions about protecting Michigan’s natural resources, which strengthen the state’s economy and offer a wide range of recreational opportunities.

As you can see, it is shaping up to be an exciting year here on the banks of the Red Cedar River, and I am grateful to be here to share it with you.

Go Green.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.