Dec. 6, 2019: Letter to the community

Dear MSU community,

Since I began my tenure as president four months ago, I have given much thought to the history of MSU and its vision for the future. I have met with thousands of faculty, staff and students, and with external stakeholders across the state and country. I have attended open forums with 16 of MSU’s 17 degree-granting colleges so far, and I have learned a great deal about the campus community’s interests and concerns.

These conversations have deepened my understanding of the size and scope of our university. MSU’s research and scholarship, academic programs and community engagement provide extraordinary opportunities for making a meaningful impact on students’ lives and on those of individuals, families and communities throughout Michigan and around the world. We also have the opportunity to live our shared values every day around diversity, equity and inclusion, and to lead by example in being a safe, welcoming and respectful campus.

As I continue to listen and learn, I recognize the importance of building on the momentum of our successes as we chart a course toward an even brighter future. This will require our collective thought and action, which is why we will begin an inclusive and comprehensive strategic planning process.

Strategic planning

As an initial step, I am establishing a Strategic Planning Steering Committee representative of faculty, staff and students to guide this process and serve in an advisory capacity to me. Vennie Gore, vice president for auxiliary enterprises, and Joseph Salem Jr., dean of MSU Libraries, will co-chair the panel.

The committee is charged with developing an engagement process for gathering input from campus and external stakeholders, including alumni and community leaders, about the university’s vision, values and strategic direction. This will enable us to consider our current state and identify underlying themes, strengths and trends across campus as we consider new opportunities and respond to emerging challenges.

This process is less about establishing an exhaustive set of tactics and more about setting a guiding direction for the future. The best work in an academic environment stems from the ingenuity and creativity of faculty, staff and students. Colleges, departments, centers, institutes and units across campus always will be the driving forces behind our success.

Still, it is essential to create a shared vision for the future with a common set of principles and values to guide our work. We will seek opportunities to work together, leverage our collective resources and establish cross-institutional priorities and initiatives. These will accelerate and strengthen our impact as a leading global research university and the nation’s pioneer land-grant institution.

Diversity, equity and inclusion planning

Simultaneously, I am launching a separate — but closely connected — comprehensive planning process around diversity, equity and inclusion. A culture embracing these values is essential for all we want to accomplish together. This process will work in collaboration with the strategic planning process while elevating the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion as a foundation for all we do.

I have created a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering Committee to lead this planning process, co-chaired by Honors College Dean Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore and Migrant Student Services Director Luis Garcia.

In my time here, I have seen that many of you are investing in these areas, but I also have heard clear feedback that these efforts are too often siloed. I am charging the steering committee to inventory efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion across campus; identify potential synergies; pinpoint existing gaps; and establish a framework for making MSU a national leader in this area.

The steering committee will examine, among other areas, the composition and success of our faculty, staff and student body; research and scholarship; curriculum and educational programs; community engagement; and the culture our community members live and experience each day. These areas will be evaluated broadly with a focus on social identities, including age, color, disability status, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic level and veteran status.

MSU community engagement

The success of these initiatives requires a vibrant and engaged MSU community. I expect the steering committee to reach out broadly in collecting feedback across campus and from our alumni and external partners. We must all work together to advance diversity, equity and inclusion through every part of our university, and hold ourselves accountable for prioritizing this work, adopting initiatives to advance our progress and achieving meaningful results.

As we embark on these two key planning processes, there will be many opportunities to provide input and feedback. I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities. It is you — faculty, staff and students — who make MSU what it is today and what it will be in the future.

You can find more information about these initiatives and stay current on recent developments on my website.

We have been called upon to write the next chapter in Michigan State University’s storied history. Together, we will make it a great one.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.