May 28, 2019: Remarks to the MSU Board of Trustees
I want to begin by expressing my deepest gratitude to the Michigan State University Board of Trustees and the Presidential Search Committee for giving me the opportunity to serve this great university.
MSU is an extraordinary institution. The pioneer land-grant university. One that helped define that noble mission and one that accomplishes the difficult feat of providing students affordable access to excellence. And that’s an excellence that shines across the whole university. In the caliber of your faculty, staff and students. Your innovative teaching and learning. Your groundbreaking research and scholarship. Your world-renowned athletic programs and your vital extension mission.
And MSU is a university with the scope and scale that few others possess. A scope and scale that creates impact. That allows you to do good. Not just for individuals and their families, but also for communities, for the state, for the nation and for the world. You are engaged in initiatives that I have worked on in my career and I deeply care about — improving student success, growing sponsored research to generate discoveries that will change lives, as well as other initiatives that are new to me but have already captured my imagination. Like the drive to integrate the arts into your land-grant mission and your new initiatives that are transforming agriculture for local freeholder farmers and farmers across the globe.
I am also impressed by your growing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion — a core value for any successful institution. I want to build on that so the development of a campus-wide plan for diversity, inclusion and equity will be a high priority for me. I look forward to engaging the board, shared governance and the entire campus in this endeavor.
These are just a few of my initial impressions and there is so much more to learn about MSU. But I am so excited about the trajectory you are on, and I look forward to being part of this journey.
At the same time, I also see a Spartan community that has had a turbulent and difficult time — a community in need of healing. Like Dr. Udpa and the board, I want to meet with the survivors and their families, listen to their voices and their thoughts and learn from them. And I want to work with them and all of the campus community to ensure changes that need to be made are implemented. What happened at MSU will not be forgotten. Instead it will drive us every day to work together to build a campus culture of transparency, awareness, sensitivity, respect and prevention — a safe campus for all. This is going to be key to all of our initiatives.
Before closing, I wanted to especially thank the students of the Associated Students of MSU for their letter to the incoming president. It was full of wisdom, but I particularly took to heart their reminder that “…while you will be leading the Spartan community, you will not be independent of it; we hope you will become an integral community member.” That will become one of my goals. And I will further it by living on campus and by making every effort to be visible as possible to my fellow Spartans.
Again, my sincere thanks to the board and the search committee for their confidence. I look forward to working hand in hand with you, with MSU’s distinguished faculty and staff, with the amazing undergraduate and graduate students, with the citizens and elected officials of the great state of Michigan and with the more than 550,000 proud MSU alumni who bleed green and white. Together, we will write the next great chapter in Michigan State University’s storied history.