Nov. 19, 2020: Wishing you a safe holiday break

Dear Spartan Community,

As students, faculty and staff look forward to next week’s fall break, I want to send my best wishes for a joyful and safe holiday to all. I’m sure alumni across the globe join us in a shared desire to be among family and friends at this special time. 

I’m urging everyone to carefully consider any travel plans and to observe the most careful precautions to protect ourselves, our communities and those we love from spreading COVID-19. Please recognize the elevated risk and follow the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officials and your state leadership. 

As we have demonstrated over the past eight months, I’m confident our Spartan resolve and commitment to each other will give us the will to prevail.

Fall holiday break
COVID-19 cases have risen on campus recently as they have in the local community and beyond, and MSU supports statewide public health regulations issued this week to curtail the spread. University employees who can work remotely must do so. Most fall semester classes already are held online and will remain so through final exam week in December, with some exemptions for in-person learning associated with our health care programs.

We encourage students and employees who plan to travel to participate in our COVID-19 departure screening and testing program. This convenient precaution can help reduce the likelihood of the novel coronavirus spread by learning your health status.

Additional information about the start of spring semester will be provided in the next few weeks. 

Approximately 2,800 students have been living on campus, and approximately 700 research laboratories and studios have been actively advancing knowledge this fall. MSU staff members have kept our buildings and facilities clean and the campus fully operational, though relatively empty. Important work has continued in Flint and Grand Rapids, as well as every county in our great state. As I travel these beautiful grounds in East Lansing, I am gratified to see Spartans observing our safety protocols, and the prevalence of mask-wearing — both indoors and outside — has been part of why we’ve been able to conduct fall semester as we planned. 

And if you haven’t yet, please make sure you get a flu shot soon. I urge everyone to add this tactic to your health commitment as we prepare for the winter season.

Points of pride for MSU
Our work continues in several key areas, and MSU remains among the world’s leading research institutions. Our commitment to student success has held strong, despite the headwinds of a global pandemic. Our total fall enrollment of 49,695 includes the most diverse student population ever for MSU. These are among the many areas of strength we will build on as we advance our strategic planning effort.

I was pleased to see MSU ranked again among the nation’s most environmentally responsible colleges. MSU is ranked No. 35 by the Princeton Review, and is the only school in the state and in the Big Ten appearing on the top-50 list. The ranking highlights that our commitment to the environment is reflected daily in how we operate, as well as by what we learn in the laboratory and field and teach in our classrooms.

U.S. News & World Report also recently ranked MSU among the top 100 institutions worldwide and top 50 public universities in the United States. Twenty-seven of our programs also ranked globally — up from 21 in the previous ranking.

Responding to RVSM
MSU’s concern for the well-being of our community members is taking form in important ways. As part of our ongoing efforts to comprehensively address the prevention of and response to relationship violence and sexual misconduct, or RVSM, we added an important component this month with the opening of our Sexual Assault Healthcare Program

This free, confidential, campus-based, first-response resource for survivors of sexual assault offers specially trained forensic nurses on duty around the clock. The MSU Center for Survivors hosts the program in the Student Services Building. The service, which is available to the broader local community, was recommended by MSU’s RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup as part of our trauma-informed response system to support survivors of sexual assault.

Post-Election Day
As a postscript to my communications prior to the election, I want to thank all those who registered and voted, especially first-time voters. I told many groups that I don’t care who you vote for, just vote, and many did in record numbers. I add my continued hope that a broad commitment to the fundamental values we share as Americans, and our personal willingness to consider others above ourselves, will usher in an ever-brighter future.

Congratulations to economics professor Lisa Cook, who was selected to serve on President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team. She will help review the policies and priorities of agencies such as the Federal Reserve and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Among her many leadership activities, Cook directed the American Economic Association Summer Program, which creates career opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds and was hosted at MSU for the last five years. It was my pleasure to join the group last summer to describe how important diversity, equity and inclusion are at MSU and help introduce guest speaker Janet Yellen, the former Federal Reserve chairperson.

Discussing advanced mobility
As I write, I’m looking forward to moderating a panel of industry leaders at the inaugural MSU Mobility Forum Nov. 19. The online event includes mobility experts from the automotive industry, government and MSU colleges and units. It will look at the future of mobility, including infrastructure and autonomy and how we can secure Michigan’s leadership position in the years to come.

We’re working to transform MSU’s 5,300-acre campus into a connected ecosystem to support new smart-vehicle technology and to better understand the human element. Our research areas include biometrics, cybersecurity, mobility modeling and management, integrated recognition and situational awareness, sociomobility, public policy and user interface and experience.

A parting thought
An institution committed to making a genuine difference to the many people we serve, as well as to our larger society, requires the dedication of many. I have personally witnessed incredible commitment to serving others on the front lines, in the virtual classroom and around the world as we contribute to advancing the incredible mission of this great university.

At one of the gloomiest moments of this pandemic, I am encouraged by the uncommon will of Spartans and the brightening prospects for new vaccines and treatments. Join me in this firm justification for hope — but let’s not drop our guard.

So please, be prudent. Be safe. And as always, Go Green!


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.