Dear Spartans and Friends,
Last week I joined colleagues from across the university, trustees and honored guests to mark a joyful milestone for our latest Spartan graduates at our fall commencement ceremonies. I also joined the Board of Trustees Friday in congratulating this fall’s 38 4.0 GPA achievers and offered my warmest wishes to them and each of our graduates at every degree level.
As an eventful 2021 draws to a close, we can reflect with pride on what we accomplished together. Three new strategic plans address relationship violence and sexual assault; diversity, equity and inclusion; and a university strategic vision that will guide us as we build excellence and impact in key areas in the years ahead. Each plan focuses on creating an environment where students, faculty and staff can do their best work and achieve their greatest potential as MSU serves its mission here and around the world.
With MSU’s overall six-year graduation rate rising nearly a percentage point to over 82% this year and a new record 80% four-year Federal Graduation Rate for our student-athletes, progress in these crucial areas lends solid momentum toward reaching the strategic plan’s goal of an 86% overall graduation rate by 2030.
We recently added another point of pride with the announcement that Honors College senior Andrew McDonald was selected for a Marshall Scholarship. He becomes MSU’s 19th Marshall Scholar and will undertake graduate studies in the United Kingdom.
The opening of renovated teaching and learning spaces in Wonders Hall Dec. 10, with computer and other laboratories for College of Engineering students, capped a year of exciting facility openings that will support student learning and success for many years. Also opened this year were the innovative STEM Teaching and Learning Facility, which incorporates the former Shaw Lane Power Plant, and the Billman Music Pavilion, offering exceptional learning, practice and performing spaces.
As it does for student success and other key areas, the new strategic plan sets ambitious goals for campus sustainability. We were proud to be ranked No. 21 on the Princeton Review’s 2022 list of top green colleges in the United States. The guide lists those institutions making strong commitments and progress in sustainability and the environment, including academics, career preparation and operating practices.
MSU’s academic quality is underpinned by the excellence of our faculty, 11 of whom earned recognition for their influential research and are ranked among the world’s most-cited researchers over the past decade.
Commitment to safety and health
Campus safety is another commitment to our university community, and Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police Marlon Lynch recently announced two new initiatives supporting that priority. Both are the result of the MSU Department of Police and Public Safety’s engagement with students, faculty and staff. All of those groups will be represented on a new Police and Public Safety Advisory Committee that will help the department develop its strategic outlook and raise awareness of community safety programs, services and initiatives.
The other new initiative is the SafeMSU App, which puts a variety of safety resources at the fingertips of the campus community. One feature is the virtual friend walk, allowing Spartans to share their location with a friend who can follow their progress to the destination in real time. It also allows the friend to immediately contact the police if they believe there is a problem. This adds to measures such as installing new security cameras on campus and improved outdoor lighting.
Students have let us know how important the campus living experience is to them, and if you eat on campus, you know MSU’s dining facilities are special. Congratulations to MSU Culinary Services, which earned a national grand prize recently for Thrive, the allergen-free dining hall in Owen Hall.
Gratitude and best wishes
I want to close with my gratitude to our university community for observing the safety precautions, including vaccination and indoor masking, that allowed us to return to our living and learning spaces this fall. On Friday, I announced that COVID-19 boosters will be added to our safety requirements for students and employees with the start of the spring 2022 semester. We also recently introduced a new service for testing on campus.
MSU faculty and staff have made extraordinary efforts to safely carry on their important work despite the disruptions, temporary compensation impacts and tasks created by the pandemic. To recognize their dedication, we recently announced one-time bonuses of $1,500, three additional holiday break days for employees and our commitment to developing a university-wide program to support caregivers.
We have much to look forward to in the coming year, and to end the year on an exciting note, we will enjoy a Spartan Football appearance in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta at 7 p.m. Dec. 30.
I discuss the issues above in this month’s MSU Today with Russ White podcast. I also share some brief end-of-year thoughts in this video that I hope you will appreciate. As always, I urge you to protect the safety of yourself, your loved ones and your community by getting a COVID-19 vaccination or booster as well as an annual flu shot.
My family and I wish you and yours a joyful holiday season and a very happy and healthy 2022.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. (he/him)