Aug. 24, 2022: Spartan Community Letter

Dear Spartans and Friends,

An exciting start to a new academic year is just around the corner as MSU welcomes new and returning students for fall semester. We anticipate a record incoming group this year, with the start of classes on Aug. 31. To help get into the spirit, I hope you enjoy this year’s fall welcome video.

Students top our list
Supporting the success of our students is our No. 1 job. A critical indicator of that success is our graduation rate, and we’re determined to continue raising MSU’s overall six-year graduation rate from today’s 82.1% to 86%. That, along with eliminating disparities in the graduation rate between student groups, is among key objectives in our strategic plan. We have posted our first strategic planning update, which you might find of interest.

One new way we are encouraging family engagement in students’ success is called Spartan Family Connections, an office within the Division of Student Life & Engagement. It provides families with information and resources to help their students navigate life on campus. As part of that program, we are inviting families to visit their students and experience campus during our inaugural Family Weekend, Sept. 23-25. 

The health and safety of our campus community is a crucial foundation for all our work. Among the services we’re offering students this year is UWill, a new teletherapy service being piloted through our Counseling and Psychiatric Services department. 

I was also pleased this summer to appoint Michael Brown as the new university physician. The founding chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the MSU College of Human Medicine, Dr. Brown is a senior adviser to me and is the university’s chief public health officer. He steps into the shoes of David Weismantel, who retired this month after a distinguished career at MSU.

A great student experience also requires a great academic environment. Students will return to a university that continues to lead in academic and research categories, as reported recently in the ShanghaiRanking Consultancy’s 2022 Global Ranking of Academic Subjects. MSU is No. 2 in the world for education for the third straight year and No. 3 in communication programs for the second straight year. Seven of our academic disciplines ranked in the top 25. 

I’m a firm believer in the transformative power of education for individuals and nations, and I appreciate my position’s platform for advocating for all students who seek such empowerment. As I wrote recently in the The Hill, doubling the size of grants in the 50-year-old student Pell Grant program would help students and families keep up with spiraling costs.

Advancing Michigan
I was honored recently to join officials, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and, by video link, President Joe Biden, for a ceremonial signing of the CHIPS and Science Act. The act will spur investment in the domestic production of semiconductors, which are increasingly vital to 21st-century manufacturing. Soon after, MSU announced our participation in a higher education network innovating ways to bring the semiconductor and microelectronics supply chain to the Midwest through cutting-edge research and talent development.

My interest in growing the university’s impact in our communities and on the state’s economy will find a new outlet with my appointment by the governor to the executive committee of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. It’s a privilege to serve and find new ways for MSU to be “Michigan’s state university.”

We will celebrate one great legacy of MSU’s service in the coming year with the 100th anniversary of WKAR Public Media. A Century of Service, which kicked off this month, will include historical highlights on WKAR television, radio and online, plus community events over the next year. A capstone event next summer will unveil a special community project.

Spartans give back
We were especially proud to release the results of last year’s fundraising for the university, a record $284.4 million in cash and gift commitments. More than 170,000 individual gifts were made. Our devoted alumni outdid themselves with a 26.6% increase in giving. Nearly 9,700 individuals contributed for the first time. Thank you, Spartans and friends!

Spartans give back in many ways, and we have a great opportunity to serve our campus and communities with Spartans Serve Week from Sept. 17-25. This is a global effort to make a difference, including local service projects organized through regional alumni clubs and affinity groups.

On the road
Summer seems to fly by, and I hope you’ve enjoyed yours as much as I have mine. Did anyone have as much fun as the Spartan Marching Band, which shared its Spartan spirit and this performance in Salzburg during a tour of Austria? Thanks to all who support the band as it spreads goodwill and makes music and memories. 

I capped my own summer travels with a drive this month to the beautiful Upper Peninsula. It was an impressive tour that included some of MSU’s research, health care and Extension facilities there. It was great to learn more about Spartan engagement in the U.P., meet staff, students and partners, and deliver a presentation to Marquette’s Rotary clubs.

I visited the MSU AgBioResearch Forestry Innovation Center in Escanaba, for example, which focuses on key areas including forestry management, logger training, maple syrup and Christmas tree production. I also visited our College of Human Medicine U.P. clinical campus in Marquette. Twenty third- and fourth-year medical students engage in disciplinary clerkships in clinical training sites throughout the U.P., in Marquette and in rural, underserved locations.

MSU’s roots in the U.P. go back more than a century, with current associations famously including men’s basketball head coach and U.P. native Tom Izzo. We were very pleased recently to confirm Coach Izzo as a Spartan for life with a contract renewal headed to the Board of Trustees for approval next month. 

It’s going to be a great year! You can hear me talk more about these topics in my monthly MSU Today podcast.

Go Green!

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