I recently caught up with Michigan State University Provost June Pierce Youatt for an update on the academic side of MSU. One of the challenges is developing the right resources and facilities for MSU’s burgeoning research enterprise.
“Our research activity on campus continues to grow,” Youatt says. “We're at almost three quarters of a billion dollars in externally funded research. That is impressive and exciting when you think about the potential implications for what will be discovered and the ways it will change lives. It's significant.
“But the question becomes, as we continue to expand, hire new people, have the people we already have expand their work, where do we put people over the next three to five, ten years? And where to we put our resources? So this is just a comprehensive study of all the space we have on campus, how it's being used now, who we anticipate hiring, not by name but by area, and where we might anticipate renovating space, expanding space, trading out space, and how we think about the space.
“So it's really just a planning process for the idea of improving the infrastructure so that our faculty and academic staff can do their best work.”
Provost Youatt talks about her steering committee on outreach and engagement’s report: A Forward Look to New Opportunities, and she talks about a strategic plan for the graduate school.
She provides an update on MSU’s arts and culture strategy saying “The goal continues to be how to make the arts and culture central to the academic experience of all of our students and how we continue to enhance our community through arts and culture relationships.”
On the university’s new dean of students Youatt says “It's really about helping people understand their responsibilities as students and as citizens. We’re trying to encourage people to be good, not catch them being bad.
“The new office is committed to thinking about how to enhance the education on campus and work with student affairs, work with academic affairs, again, to help students develop because that's the commitment here. Student success is about graduation, it is about career development, but it's really about personal development. This is a part of that commitment.”
She describes a long overdue upgrade to MSU’s 30-year-old student information system. And she says student success continues to improve.
“The probation rate for fall continued to decline. We're now at 6.7 percent, which is, it's hundreds of students in a class their size. Hundreds of students were in better shape. Our graduation rate has gone from 79 to 80 percent. The really good news is it is across all demographic groups. In underrepresented minorities and every group there has been some improvement. And that is a point of pride because we know that many of those students come from communities where they have had educational disadvantage. So there are incredibly able students who didn't have all of the resources, in many cases, that they needed to come as fully prepared as other students. It's a very big deal to all of us who do this work that this is a level playing field. And I won't say we're there yet, but I'm saying that we're committed to getting there. It's really good news."
MSU students can plan better with a flat-rate tuition now.
“This flat-rate tuition will allow students to take up to 18 credits for the same price. Anywhere between 12 and 18 credits at the same price. We're hoping this will encourage students to enroll really in a full load because that's another really important finding. If you divide the 120 credits that are required by four years, which is what most people want to see as their undergraduate career, you really have to do 30 credits a year and it doesn't have to be 15 and 15 but you have to think about how to get that 30 in a year if you want to graduate in that window. This will allow students to do 16 or 17 credits in the fall or spring if they can carry that load. It will at least allow them to keep up with their 15."
On the transition in the university’s interim presidency, Youatt says “The transition to Satish Udpa is just such a calm transition because he so deeply understands, not just the workings of the institution, but the goals of the institution, the mission of the institution, and maybe just as importantly he understands what's happened on this campus in the last couple of years. I have watched him, in his compassion, care about those who have been hurt. I've watched him suffer, really suffer, I think, over the loss of trust. And through all of that he has maintained his compassion, his respect for our faculty, for our students, for our survivors, and I see him carrying that into the next few months of his leadership.
“I don't expect dramatic changes, although I think he will make some. I think he will be asked to make some hard decisions and he won't stand down from that. But I think what he most wants to do is to bring back a tone of respect and caring on this campus. He's obviously eminently qualified. Anyone can read all of his degrees and all of his honors, and of course all of that's there or he wouldn't have been as successful in his roles as he has. He is that and so much more and I truly believe what this campus needs right now."
MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 105.1 FM and AM 870.