Oct. 29, 2021: President's remarks to the MSU Board of Trustees

Faculty and student excellence
I want to begin my remarks today with appreciation for our students, staff and faculty for their many contributions to what’s been a very successful start to the semester. 

I’ll discuss some examples of excellence on campus, share perspectives on several campus events that highlight student success and our path forward, and end with a brief update on COVID-19.

I had the pleasure last week to congratulate and personally recognize many of the 123 faculty members promoted in 2020 and 2021 to associate professor with tenure. 

As I spoke with many of them, I was reminded of the ways excellence is exhibited among our faculty. Their enthusiasm for their scholarship and clearly demonstrated excellence is inspiring. It’s a powerful validation of our emphasis on faculty and staff success in our new strategic plan.

Speaking of excellence, this month, we recognized the 10 MSU students and four alumni nominated for Churchill, Marshall, Mitchell and Rhodes scholarships. These prestigious scholarships support graduate study in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

We can be so very proud of them, as well as our previous 16 Churchill Scholars, 20 Marshall Scholars, five Mitchell Scholars and 20 Rhodes Scholars from Michigan State. I know you’ll join me in congratulating this year’s 14 nominees and wishing them the very best. 

Student break days
This week most students were able to enjoy MSU’s first-ever two-day fall break. This was really a student initiative, championed by ASMSU and strongly supported by shared governance.

Students were encouraged to take the opportunity to catch up and recharge for the remainder of the semester.

Safe campus update
Let me turn now to an update on COVID-19 cases on campus and our ongoing efforts to support safety.

We’ve now seen a significant fall in cases fall from our peak two weeks into the semester and are now approaching pre-return to campus levels. And even with more than 15,000 students living on campus, we have only five students in isolation and zero in quarantine this week.

I attribute these low numbers and the absence of outbreaks on campus to our vaccination rate, which is now 90.5% fully vaccinated for our campus community. An additional 3.19% say they are partially vaccinated and working their way toward full vaccination.

I thank everybody for compliance with our vaccination mandate and also for compliance with our mask mandate. Thank you again for supporting these efforts. 

I happened to receive my COVID booster and my annual flu shot recently. I want to remind everyone that influenza is also still a health threat, and I recommend people take advantage of the flu vaccine this season. 

Student services restructuring
As our strategic plan makes clear, we are laser-focused on the success and well-being of our students.

For the past year, Senior Vice President Vennie Gore assumed the interim leadership of Student Affairs and Services in addition to his leadership role of Residential and Hospitality Services. In this role, we asked SVP Gore to not only do that but also to lead the assessment plan for an enhanced student support structure.

Today’s agenda includes a major step designed to better align our support for all MSU students. We propose a new Division of Student Life and Engagement under SVP Gore’s leadership. Vennie is a transformational leader and collaborative partner, and I’m excited about the energy and wisdom he will bring to this critical role.

Ethics symposium
Another transformational initiative for Michigan State took a step forward recently at an ethics symposium at the Minskoff Pavilion.

The colleges of Arts & Letters, Business and Law are spearheading this initiative to place ethics at the heart of the MSU research and educational experience.

I was pleased to welcome the symposium’s speakers and attendees. It was an impressive event, and I want to acknowledge the faculty co-chairs and the college deans for their work on this very important initiative.

Billman Music Pavilion
Speaking of excellence, I want to thank Chairperson Dianne Byrum and Trustee Melanie Foster for joining me for the Billman Music Pavilion ribbon-cutting event early this month. 

The Billman Music Pavilion is a beautiful and highly functional facility that will support the College of Music students and faculty who study and perform there. The new pavilion represents a superb space for music study, practice and performance.

The pavilion serves as another example of the importance of the arts and humanities as essential components of a great university, connecting people and nourishing a creative community.

Visits to Detroit and Grand Rapids
I was pleased to tour several other impressive facilities in visits to Detroit and Grand Rapids over the past few weeks. 

I joined Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and others for an amazing tour of the new Apple Developer Academy in downtown Detroit. The academy is a partnership with Apple supported by the Gilbert Family Foundation and the Rock Family of Companies. It is the first Apple academy in North America.

At the developer academy, we are developing skills for a very diverse group of students from Detroit and beyond — I enjoyed meeting several of them. This academy will support Michigan’s economy with in-demand technology skills.

Moving west, I recently spoke to the Economic Club of Grand Rapids, sharing examples of our activities and partnerships in the West Michigan region. We highlighted the phenomenal growth of facilities on the Medical Mile in downtown Grand Rapids. This began with the 2010 opening of the Secchia Center for the College of Human Medicine, and I was pleased that many members of the Board were there to highlight MSU’s commitment to West Michigan.

After the meeting, I was pleased to join several Trustees and other leaders and friends of MSU for a tour of the new Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building.

The Secchia Center, Grand Rapids Research Center, Meijer building and Grand Rapids Innovation Park are great examples of how we’re leveraging MSU’s research and clinical assets through visionary partnerships to advance medicine, the university and the health of the people of the state.

I want to conclude my comments today by expressing my excitement about tomorrow’s showdown between the University of Michigan and our undefeated Michigan State Spartans.

Michigan versus Michigan State is an iconic state rivalry and a highlight for our student-athletes and for Spartans across Michigan and all over the USA. This is only the fourth time in the history of our rivalry — and the first time since 1964 — that both teams are ranked in the top-10. 

The attention this matchup is gathering on the national level is extraordinary, and it seems as though the entire sports world will be looking at East Lansing on Saturday.

This is a great opportunity for us to highlight our amazing students, student-athletes and campus. I know we will display our pride in our team and our university and show the world what Spartans Will means. 

Enjoy the game and respect the rivalry, and let’s all make it a game we can remember with pride. 

Thank you. Go Green!