Dear Spartans and Friends,
Spring has officially arrived, and I’m sure you, too, look forward to the warmer weather it brings as well as the prospect of opportunities to gather safely.
Supporting student success
Student success remains the heart of Michigan State University’s mission. I was pleased to join approximately 40 U.S. college and university leaders on the Task Force on Higher Education and Opportunity, which was formed to address major challenges students face and higher education’s response to those challenges after the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an important issue as we explore ways to enable student success, especially for those from underserved communities that have been disproportionately impacted.
An innovative program at MSU called My Spartan Story represents a potential task force deliverable as we plan for students’ general return to campus in the fall. This initiative acknowledges the college learning experience is defined by more than grades, and it can be difficult for students to articulate that extra value. By creating verified mechanisms for students to document efforts outside the classroom, a more comprehensive record of their education, experience and skills can be compiled.
And in another development, today we announced an enhancement of our partnership with Lansing Community College to improve support for those who wish to pursue a four-year degree as transfer students. More transfer students come to MSU from LCC than any other college. To better assist those planning to continue their education at MSU, we’re providing new academic counseling and other services.
Give Green Day
Supporting students is an imperative shared by Spartans on campus and around the globe. I want to thank everyone who participated in Give Green Day on March 16, an annual opportunity for alumni, faculty, staff and friends to make a difference for current and future Spartans. It was our second-best Give Green Day on record, totaling $1,166,000 from more than 6,084 gifts. We’ll have a fuller tally once all gifts are processed in the coming weeks.
I’m proud of how Spartans stepped up in this especially difficult year, with 27% more gifts recorded than in 2019, when we last hosted this event. Give Green Day supports students with efforts that include college-based emergency funds and alumni club scholarships, among others.
MSU’s commitment to sustainability represents another variety of being “green” that we are proud to represent. This week, I’m helping launch the University Sustainable Systems Steering Group, made up of university leaders guiding the development of a sustainability and climate change action strategy. I will share more details with you as this important work progresses.
Planning safe events and operations
As we continue building MSU’s capacity to address institutional priorities, the university passed the one-year mark for remote teaching, learning and working for many students and employees. I marked the occasion with a message conveying my gratitude to all for their flexibility and dedication.
The broadening availability of COVID-19 vaccines gives us optimism for a gradual return to normal routines. Michigan State offered employees a second vaccine-focused informational town hall webcast Monday. Both events are available for view.
With the spring graduation season almost upon us, I’m looking forward to helping recognize more than 8,400 MSU undergraduate and advanced-degree recipients. Our colleges are planning in-person undergraduate and graduate-professional degree ceremonies outdoors, while master’s/educational specialist and doctoral degree ceremonies will be held virtually. Details are posted on our commencement website.
As a recent COVID-19 surge and the emergence of a more transmissible virus variant in our community underscore, we can’t let our guard down. MSU’s mandatory on-campus measures remain in place, including saliva screening and mask wearing. Michigan State will host no large camps or events this summer. We will add in-person courses as safety and government guidelines allow, and some students will continue to reside on campus.
I look forward with great anticipation to a more typical fall semester of in-person classes, spectator sports, performances and other activities here on campus. We are planning for 75% of our courses to be held in person, while some larger classes and lectures will continue to be held remotely. Residence and dining halls will be open, and first-year students will reside on campus with as many other students as we can safely accommodate. Vaccination rates will influence the extent of our in-person activities, and we expect to continue some testing and mitigation measures, but I welcome the opportunity to be part of a vibrant, bustling campus once more.
MSU encompasses a diverse, engaged and caring community. I hope you read the statement regarding hateful rhetoric and targeted violence against Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) and Asian communities. As leaders of an inclusive and global university, we acknowledge the concerns of MSU’s vital and valued members of these communities, and we encourage the active support of Spartans everywhere.
I am grateful for the engaging scholarship, curriculum and activism generated by the Asian Pacific American Studies Program in the College of Social Science; the Asian, Pacific Islander, Desi American/Asian Faculty Staff Association; the Asian Pacific American Student Organization; and others. These are crucial endeavors for informing campus, Michigan and the world on issues impacting the APIDA and Asian communities.
MSU regularly celebrates our diverse university family. March is Women’s History Month, and I hope you take a moment to enjoy this MSUToday story highlighting Spartan women trailblazers. I will be joining MSU’s annual César Chávez and Dolores Huerta Commemorative Celebration on March 31. Among other events coming up in the next month is an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month author conversation on April 16.
The excellence of exemplary faculty and staff members is honored each year at the All-University Awards Convocation. I’m pleased to congratulate all of this year’s honorees on this most deserved recognition. Because we can’t gather this year, I look forward to helping acknowledge this talented and dedicated group in person next year.
Last month, we announced the 2021 winners of our annual Excellence in Diversity Awards recognition program, which was held virtually this year. I want to add my thanks to those honorees for their meaningful contributions to this university’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
Finally, I want to congratulate our student-athletes this season for their academic and athletic accomplishments, including postseason competitions. It has been a challenging and uncertain pandemic year for our teams and participants, and I salute them and all those with undaunted Spartan spirit. Go Green!
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. (he/him)