Feb. 19, 2021: Planning a safe graduation

Dear Spartans and Friends,

Extreme weather across the country this week reminded us winter is far from over. For those of us making plans and developing programs and initiatives, spring might seem like it’s just around the corner. Perhaps that’s so, too, for students completing their degree requirements this semester and looking forward to graduation.

COVID and graduation ceremonies

For almost a year now, large gatherings on campus have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 safety precautions. I understand how attending graduation ceremonies with classmates in person is an important aspect of the student college experience. This semester we’re making every effort to plan smaller, in-person ceremonies — consistent with state and local health department guidelines. We’ll be able to share more information as the semester moves forward.

Safety precautions over the last year for those living, working and studying on campus have proved effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19. As I’ve mentioned, I see the vaccines as reason for hope that we will be able to return to a more normal teaching, learning and working experience as more people receive a vaccine over the next weeks and months. Yesterday I joined a webcast conversation for MSU faculty and staff focused on COVID vaccines. I want to thank co-panelists Dr. Debra Furr-Holden and Lt. David Oslund and moderator Shawn Turner for their contributions and insights. I also appreciate the more than 1,000 viewers who joined us live for an informative discussion.

Health system partnership

MSU continues to pursue its mission in collaboration with the communities we serve, near and far. We formalized an important partnership recently with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit through a 30-year agreement to foster innovative research and increase diversity among the next generation of health care professionals. Henry Ford and MSU will be each other’s primary clinical and research partners, aligning our programs and collective assets.

Importantly, this multifaceted relationship is designed to improve access to all health care and outcomes for members of underserved communities — both urban and rural around our state. The partnership will align our basic and translational research and create an integrated network of scientists, scholars and health care practitioners. And we want to address health disparities to offer healing and hope as we enhance MSU’s impact in southeast Michigan and beyond. As part of this partnership, MSU will expand its presence in Detroit through the development of a regional campus located within the existing Henry Ford Detroit campus footprint.

This partnership will serve as a model for academic training and research across the nation. We already attract top students pursuing degrees in business, agriculture, social science, humanities, physics, computer sciences and other areas — all of which are focused on improving the human condition. This can extend career opportunities to students beyond those entering health professions. Moving the dial on society’s most intractable health challenges requires the broadest expertise, and the scale of Henry Ford Health System and the education mission of MSU create a perfect partnership to improve the condition of many.

Of course, we will continue to maintain our existing relationships with hospital systems and other partners around the state.

Supporting MSU’s values and mission

February is Black History Month, a time when we at MSU join the nation in acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of Black Spartans and others. A number of commemorations are offered across campus, including from MSU Alumni and Spartan Athletics, and you can find more events on the Office for Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives website.

As the semester advances, we also will learn more from three committees leading strategic initiatives set in motion in the last year or so. Their members have studied and planned for improvements around relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM); diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and comprehensive strategic planning concepts for the university. These vital initiatives will allow us to advance our core values and mission as we push the boundaries of discovery while providing students with life-changing opportunities.

Spartans making a difference

I was pleased recently to announce the selection of a new police chief and vice president for public safety following a national search. Marlon Lynch was approved by the Board of Trustees this month and will start April 1. He has nearly 25 years of experience and has led some of the largest academic police departments in the country. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at MSU, and we look forward to his return to campus. I thank the search committee for its excellent work.

Another Spartan alumnus returned recently to make an extraordinary commitment to the university. Mat Ishbia, a 2003 graduate of the Eli Broad College of Business and a former member of the Spartan men’s basketball team, made a $32 million commitment to MSU Athletics. It is the largest single cash commitment from an individual in MSU history and will allow us to expand our football training facilities, among other purposes. One of those is the Spartan for Life Fund, which will provide career development services and lifelong career opportunities for all of our student-athletes.

You don’t need to make a record commitment to make a difference. Whatever your capacity to give, Spartans will have an opportunity to support a wide selection of vital MSU programs on Give Green Day, March 16. Over 24 hours, Spartans on campus and around the globe will come together to make a better tomorrow, with a strong focus on supporting our students. I encourage you to mark your calendar and join this collective effort. And Go Green!


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.