Dear Spartans and Friends,
Michigan State University brought a very successful academic year to a close this month with graduation ceremonies honoring 6,917 undergraduate degree earners and 2,684 advanced degree recipients. These proud graduates all carry a wealth of knowledge and skills into the next chapter in their lives, and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish next.
At the ceremonies, graduates heard parting words of wisdom from several highly accomplished Spartan alumni who received honorary degrees, including basketball standout and sports broadcaster Steve Smith. Smith reminded baccalaureate graduates that the joy in life comes from the journey and the person in your life you really need to compete with is yourself. You can listen to his inspiring message here.
In addition to celebrating our graduates’ accomplishments, I was pleased to help honor outstanding faculty and academic staff this month at the annual All-University Awards Convocation. I also helped honor exemplary support staff in the annual Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff and Ruth Jameyson Above and Beyond awards presentation. MSU’s people are the heart and soul of the university, and those we honored set very high standards in teaching, scholarship, outreach and dedication to their jobs. Congratulations to this year’s honorees!
It was with great pride that we saw the U.S. Senate approve President Joe Biden’s nomination of MSU economist and professor Lisa Cook to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She is the first Black woman to sit on the board, which sets monetary policy for the nation’s central bank. Her background, scholarly activity and governmental experience make her an outstanding choice for this vital position. It’s also a point of Spartan pride that another MSU economics professor, the late Andrew F. Brimmer, was the first Black man to serve on the board from 1966 to 1974.
Another distinguished Spartan I’ll be honored to introduce at an upcoming recognition event is Executive Vice President and Provost Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., named a Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership by the American Council of Education Michigan Women’s Network. She is a firm champion for our university and its academic mission and a key partner in creating an intellectual framework of excellence for our students, faculty, academic staff and alumni.
I also have Provost Woodruff to thank for welcoming me into the membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a scholarly society founded in 1780. I am humbled to be part of such a distinguished group and look forward to supporting its important aims of contributing knowledge and ideas to conversations about our society’s most pressing issues.
Rankings and milestones
Our entire university community deserves to be congratulated for its recognition in this year’s Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, which assesses progress toward the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. MSU ranked No. 33 in the world and No. 2 in the nation among participating universities. Our performance across a number of related sustainability goals from food to poverty reflects the breadth of our efforts and the ranking fulfills a goal set in our MSU 2030 strategic plan.
We achieved another major milestone this month with the opening for user operations of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams. The event came 13 years after the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science awarded the project to MSU and eight years after we broke ground for the $730 million facility.
FRIB accelerates atomic nuclei to half the speed of light into collisions that produce rare isotopes, which we expect to help open new insights into the nature of matter and render new applications in medicine, national security and industry. It will also further solidify MSU’s position as a global leader in science education and training, as MSU’s graduate nuclear physics program has been ranked No. 1 since 2010 and trains about 10% of the nation’s doctoral nuclear physics students annually.
Nuclear science has contributed much to the development of vital medical diagnostic technology such as PET scanners, and we are installing Michigan’s first total body CT/PET scanner at the MSU Radiopharmacy in the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building in Grand Rapids. The device can scan a patient from head to toe for cancer in as little as 60 seconds — versus 40 minutes for a typical conventional scan — and is expected to be ready for use by health care partner BAMF (Bold Advanced Medical Future) Health Inc. in July.
I’m excited to tell you about several new leaders coming to MSU. Provost Woodruff has recommended Jerlando F.L. Jackson for dean of the MSU College of Education, pending approval by the Board of Trustees next month. He will also hold the title of MSU Foundation Professor of Education. He comes to us from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he holds two named professorships and chairs the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He is also founder, director and chief research scientist of Wisconsin’s Equity and Inclusion Laboratory.
At the Wharton Center, Eric Olmscheid has been selected for executive director. He has nearly 20 years of experience with nationally recognized performing arts organizations and currently is director of programming at Des Moines Performing Arts. There, he has led the organization through significant programmatic expansion, built a comprehensive education program and expanded community partnerships. He will assume his new role at MSU on June 22.
And in athletics, alumnus Adam Nightingale will bring hockey experience at the international, professional, collegiate and youth levels as the new head coach of MSU hockey. He completed two seasons as head coach at the U.S. National Team Development Program and brings four years of NHL experience, including as an assistant coach for the Detroit Red Wings. As a Spartan student-athlete, he was a two-year alternate captain.
And I want to add a note on the retirement of two longtime Spartan coaches. MSU’s winningest men’s tennis coach, Gene Orlando, is retiring after completing his 31st season and recording 361 victories. In addition, women’s softball coach Jacquie Joseph announced her retirement after 29 seasons, also as the winningest Spartan coach in her sport with 753 wins here. She will remain with the athletics department as an administrator. My thanks to both of these fine leaders for their dedication to their student-athletes and the university.
Monitoring state appropriations
Since 1985, state support has fallen from 58% to just 20% of MSU’s general operating budget, shifting financial burden to students and families. Two of the three fiscal 2023 Michigan higher education budget proposals under consideration — from the governor and Senate — would begin to address that long-term disinvestment, increasing university, MSU Extension and AgBioResearch budget lines between 10% and 11%.
Higher education is crucial for Michigan’s prosperity and competitiveness. If you wish to become a voice for MSU and higher education in Michigan, consider joining our Spartan Advocate program in the MSU Office of Government Relations.
You can hear more about the topics above in my monthly MSU Today podcast.
Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. (he/him)