April 28, 2022: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and Friends,

Classes are wrapping up, final exams are next week, and I’m eagerly anticipating graduation ceremonies for some 9,600 soon-to-be Spartan alumni. It’s truly a joyous time of year, and I’d like to congratulate the class of 2022, including 181 students who have been named Board of Trustees Scholars for earning a 4.0 cumulative GPA. Our graduates’ success is Michigan State University’s pride as they move to their next chapters bearing valuable degrees and memories to uplift them for a lifetime.

As we prepare to say goodbye to most students for the summer, we’re already welcoming new ones for the fall. More than 7,000 prospective students and family members joined us this month to visit colleges and attend the Green and White football game and a Breslin Center pep rally during an inaugural Admitted Student Day. Admitted students visited from 37 states and 11 countries — from as far away as India. The entire event was a large success, and I greatly appreciated all the work our faculty, deans and staff put into welcoming so many new faces to our beautiful campus.

Recognizing outstanding faculty members

Our new students will soon learn what our graduates and alumni already know so well: We have outstanding faculty committed to providing an exceptional educational experience. I’m thrilled to congratulate one such faculty member in our College of Engineering who retires after 57 years and eight months as MSU’s longest-serving professor. Professor Martin Hawley joined the college in 1964 and was a Spartan even before that, earning his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from MSU. The college estimates he has educated at least 80% of MSU chemical engineering students, and last year, an alumnus endowed a chair in his honor. Thank you, Professor Hawley!

Congratulations, also, to Vashti Sawtelle, associate professor of physics in Lyman Briggs College and the Department of Physics and Astronomy. She is among three professors named 2022 Michigan Distinguished Professor of the Year by the Michigan Association of State Universities, which represents Michigan’s 15 public universities. Dr. Sawtelle is noted for her scholarly focus on inclusivity in the teaching of physics and is a wonderful example of MSU faculty members’ engagement in the success of all our students.

Key leadership changes

I’m pleased to welcome several new leaders who were confirmed by the MSU Board of Trustees last week.

Kim Tobin will become our next vice president for advancement on May 1, bringing an impressive record of success in donor and alumni relations. If you spend any time with Kim, you will quickly learn that she is a people person. I’m confident she’ll be a great ambassador for the university as she plans and implements our next comprehensive capital campaign.

Pero G. Dagbovie, who served as an associate dean in the Graduate School and is a University Distinguished Professor in the Department of History, was confirmed as associate provost for graduate and postdoctoral studies and dean of the Graduate School. I got to know Pero when I was recruited to MSU, and I know he will do great work supporting MSU’s graduate, professional and postdoctoral communities.

After serving the College of Human Medicine as interim dean, Dr. Aron Sousa was confirmed as dean by the Board this month. A practicing general internist with a strong public health perspective, he has been an engaged leader in the growth of the college and its service to our communities.

The Board also endorsed the selection of Christina K. Brogdon for vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer. Starting June 1, she will be a key contributor to the university’s efforts to develop the best approaches to help us pursue the university’s mission through our people.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the pending retirement of two university leaders: Vice President for Advancement Marti Heil and University Physician David Weismantel. From advancing good stewardship to student health and well-being, both helped lay a solid foundation for MSU’s future.

Vice President Heil began her development work at MSU in 1980, retiring for the first time from MSU as associate vice president for development in 2009. She rejoined us in 2018, helping complete the “Empower Extraordinary” campaign and since then preparing University Advancement for the next capital campaign.

Dr. Weismantel has served MSU in a variety of capacities for the past 23 years, including leading the Student Health and Wellness unit as executive director. His leadership has been especially critical through the dynamic and challenging years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am grateful for his dedication and counsel.

New and expanded facilities

Great educational programs require not only great people but also great facilities. That’s why last week, I was pleased to help celebrate the groundbreaking for the School of Packaging’s building expansion after a fundraising campaign that raised more than $10 million. This project, with a new endowed professorship, will help the school maintain its leadership in packaging education.

Also last week, we broke ground for our Service Road recreation turf fields. This new facility, which will be ready in the fall, will serve more than 8,500 intramural sport participants, more than 500 club sport participants, plus youth camps, tournaments and other uses, supporting MSU’s priority of student health and well-being.

And on May 2, years of planning, construction and testing will be capped with the opening of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on our campus. Through FRIB, MSU will build its position as a destination for scientists from around the world, a training ground for the next generation of researchers and a valuable asset for the region’s economy. I’m excited to see how FRIB contributes to a better future, from advancing our knowledge of the universe’s formation to driving innovation in medicine, nuclear security and environmental science.

Celebrating Earth Day, advancing sustainability

As we build and expand our facilities, we recognize our responsibility to do so sustainably and build a greener future. Indeed, our strategic plan commits us to climate neutrality by 2050.

Last week, as we celebrated the approaching Earth Day, I was pleased to join a campus convening on climate change to identify new opportunities to leverage MSU’s research capabilities in this critical area. We also hosted Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and other special visitors for a roundtable event focused on public/private partnerships supporting Michigan’s leadership in electric vehicles and advanced mobility. It was a great opportunity to showcase MSU’s work in autonomous vehicle technology.

And just this week, we announced our intent to replace 369 internal combustion vehicles in the university’s fleet with electric vehicles over the next decade, starting with 40 this summer. We’ll continue to monitor ownership costs with the potential to eventually shift all our 1,100 vehicles to electric power in the years ahead.

April commemorations

In April the university acknowledged two important and valued communities by celebrating Pride Month and National Arab American Heritage Month. And this week’s annual awards reception hosted by the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities is a particularly special one. This year marks the 50th RCPD Awards Reception, an impressive milestone for this inspiring celebration of ability and accomplishment. Congratulations to RCPD Director Michael Hudson and his staff!

You can hear more about the topics above in my monthly MSU Today podcast. I wish all our spring graduates and their families the very best — see you soon.

Go Green!

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. (he/him)