President Stanley: Healing the campus while continuing the “relentless progress Spartans have made”

Aug 13, 2019

Samuel L. Stanley Jr, MD is Michigan State University's 21st president. MSU’s rich land grant heritage attracted President Stanley to MSU at this crucial time in its history.


“One of the things that really caught my eye was the tremendous things that Michigan State University has done over the years,” Stanley says. “Its role as the pioneering land-grant institution and its importance to the state of Michigan and the world, and the real scope and scale that this university has – all of that attracted me to MSU. Fifty thousand plus thousand students and 20,000 faculty and staff have the chance to have an impact on the broadest scale possible on a global scale. The chance to get engaged with this university, everything that it's doing and the kind of people that were here, it was really exciting for me so I'm glad to be here.”

What are some of President Stanley’s priorities as he begins work at MSU?

“One thing I'm doing is thinking a lot about how to heal the campus and how to bring everyone together. And I have a drive to make this a safer and more welcoming place. I think there's been a lot of work done in that area already. A lot of things had been done on campus like 52,000 people undergoing training and a survey of 15,000 to help us understand how to change culture and how to make a difference. But there's still more to be done. I need to understand what I can do to help us in that process. At the same time, we've been doing great work and need to continue to do great work in student success. I'm really impressed by what MSU's been doing, but I think we can do even more.

“We can work to abolish the gaps between economically disadvantaged students and other students and their graduation rates. The differences in ethnic groups and graduation rates. I think we can do that. We did some of that at Stony Brook and I want to bring those same kind of approaches to MSU.

“I care a lot about research. One of the things that makes MSU special, puts it in that great group of the 62 campuses in AAU, is the ability to generate new knowledge, not just impart it in the great educational process we have, but to generate it as well through our creative work, through our scholarship, through our scientific research. I want to continue to enhance that at MSU. They've done great. We're over $600 million in sponsored research. That's spectacular. But I really want to push us to even go further because I want to continue to push us to help the people of Michigan, the U.S. and the world. I want to continue to push that.”

What are the challenges and opportunities for MSU and higher education moving forward?

“There are a lot of challenges in higher education. One of the biggest ones is budget and funding. The question is how do we fund this? There's of course a big push and pull because of the concern about tuition costs rising and making it more difficult for students to pay, maybe restricting access and increasing debt. At the same time, states are feeling budget squeezes and not wanting to commit the same resources they had in the past. Striking that balance, finding that price point where students can still afford to go is key. We're an incredible return on investment for the state in terms of what it invests in us and what it gets back in economic development.

“People who are graduates, as you know, over their lifetime will make $1 million more in a career. You translate that into the 8,500 people coming into our class this year. If they all graduate, that's immediately a huge impact for the state by just having that class go through. I think really the challenge of making the case to the state, to the people of Michigan, why MSU matters and why we need support is really important. I would love to never raise tuition, but if we can't get increases in state support, we have to because our costs rise every year just like everyone else. Thinking about that is important for us and for every other school.

“There are other countries that want to be number one in the world economically. They want to lead in science. I think the most important thing the U.S. can do with that is to fund our institutions of higher education, fund our NIH, fund our Department of Energy. Fund those institutes because they will help us lead in innovation and that will help us lead in competition. Those are two things I think about a lot and we need to work on.”

What message do you want to leave with alumni and Spartans around the world as your tenure begins?

“Well, first of all, again, I'm so excited to be here. I have been so welcomed by people I've met. People have been so excited and I personally am grateful for their kindness and for their support as we move forward. We're going to have challenges ahead, but we're going to get through them together. We're going to get this right in terms of MSU, of really finding the right balance of healing and moving us forward, but at the same time, continuing the relentless progress that Spartans have made over the years. We're going to do that. The last thing I'll say is Go Green!”

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