Sept. 10, 2021: President's remarks to the MSU Board of Trustees

Starting fall semester
I’m pleased that we’re starting a new academic year and I’m looking forward to my third year as MSU’s 21st president.

We know students want to be back on campus, and they have exceeded all of our expectations. We have a large class joining us this semester, with more than 9,000 students in the entering class. This class also is our most diverse, with more than 2,300 students of color. This year we also are enrolling a near-record number of Michigan students.

I enjoyed greeting many of these students as they arrived on campus, at Spartan Spectacular events and at Fall Convocation. Move-in and welcoming events were well received and the energy on campus is simply palpable.

We know our efforts to help keep the campus safe by instituting COVID-19 precautions are absolutely needed to sustain this momentum as we enjoy in-person and on-campus living, learning and activities.

My thanks to all who have received their vaccination according to our mandates, and to those following the requirements for masking in all buildings, classrooms and other indoor spaces. This includes the Spartan Stadium concourses for our game coming up tomorrow, which, of course, we’re all excited about as well.

New STEM building
Later today, many of us will gather for the grand opening of our STEM Teaching and Learning Facility, which the Board authorized to plan nearly five years ago. This facility has been under construction since 2018, with nearly $30 million in support from the State Legislature toward its $110 million cost.

We are very grateful to the state for its investment in this building, where we will provide state-of-the-art learning experiences for tomorrow’s leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The STEM Teaching and Learning Facility repurposes the decommissioned Shaw Lane Power Plant and adds nearly four times its original square footage. The building also promotes sustainability by utilizing innovative mass timber materials in its construction.

This facility will be an important center for MSU’s STEM education innovations, and we’ll speak more about the building and its extraordinary potential at today’s grand opening.

Donor generosity
External support for our great university continues to be strong. Our top-ranked School of Packaging recently received a substantial gift from Amcor, a Switzerland-based packaging company. This $10.8 million gift will establish an endowed packaging faculty position focused on sustainability.

The endowed position will also provide the resources to advance research, build collaborations and create opportunities for promising students to gain research experience. Part of the gift also will support renovations to the School of Packaging building. 

On a broader front, MSU completed an excellent fundraising year thanks to the generosity of alumni, employees and others. We received $232.2 million in gifts and pledges, which rivals amounts we recorded during the capital campaign that ended in 2018. Among the 70,512 people who pledged are many new donors, and I thank each and every one of them who contributed.

Initiatives and action
MSU is moving forward into the new academic year in several significant ways. Later in this meeting, the Board will take action on the university’s strategic plan. This vast effort included substantial involvement and input by the Board, as well as faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and others.

It was a truly inclusive process, and I thank the committee’s members and the co-leaders, Dean Joseph Salem and Senior Vice President Vennie Gore, for all of their efforts.

This plan identifies underlying themes, strengths and trends as we pursue continued excellence across our activities. It has a critical focus on student, faculty and staff success — on helping each and every person at MSU fulfill their full potential, lifting our campus, our state and the world in the process.

The plan, derived in the midst of the pandemic, also will allow us to consider new opportunities, respond to emerging challenges and accelerate our progress toward earning even greater recognition as a leading global research university. 

The strategic plan is connected to other priority initiatives we’ve previously discussed, including the diversity, equity and inclusion plan we released in August after many months of work.

I want to thank Dr. Wanda Lipscomb and Migrant Student Services Director Luis Garcia for leading the DEI Steering Committee. The DEI plan will help integrate diversity, equity and inclusion practices into units across the university under the guidance of our vice president and chief diversity officer, Dr. Jabbar Bennett.

In a related development, a new focus and structure for the MSU police department will focus more attention on DEI and relationship violence and sexual misconduct. Under the leadership of Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police Marlon Lynch, the department is realigning toward more community engagement, professional standards and public integrity, and behavioral support services.

I want to thank Chief Lynch for his efforts in this area, which are very much aligned with the important work the university Task Force on Policing did in the previous 12 months.

Spartan sports
I want to turn to athletics now. First, many of our teams had great starts last weekend, highlighted by a 38-21 football team win at Northwestern on Friday night. That was one of several victories by our Spartan athletes over the weekend as field hockey, women’s cross country, volleyball, men’s soccer and men’s golf all posted wins.

Our fall sports teams secured a 14-2-2 record through Labor Day and we’re very proud of all they’re accomplishing, both on and off their fields.

Many of us also are looking forward to the first home football game tomorrow.

And I want to add my recognition of MSU golfer James Piot, who was introduced earlier. As he mentioned himself, he’s not only the first Spartan to win the amateur golf title, but the first winner born in Michigan.

Athletic Director
Of course, the other big news in athletics has been the appointment of Alan Haller, with Board of Trustees approval, as MSU’s new vice president and director of intercollegiate athletics.

As I said in the press conference we held to welcome Alan, Alan has been a leader in developing athletes and administrators and in broadening our diverse talent within MSU Athletics. I value his understanding and perspective as a former student-athlete and his commitment to developing Spartan student-athletes.

Alan shared remarks at that press conference featuring MSU trustees, coaches, athletes, our Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren and many people who were recognized and thanked by Alan. Congratulations again, Alan, and I look forward to working with you.

Acknowledging 9/11
And finally, I’d like to conclude my remarks with an acknowledgement of tomorrow’s 20-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Many of us clearly remember what we were doing that day, the shock we felt and our sorrow for the nearly 3,000 who perished.

Right now, I’d like to pause for a moment of silence to allow each of us to reflect on the lives lost and the courage of all those who respond and serve.

(Moment of silence observed)

The 9/11 anniversary also will be commemorated at tomorrow’s football game with a pregame flyover, halftime band performance and honoring first responders throughout the game.

That concludes my report. Thank you, and now we’ll move into the remainder of today’s agenda.