Strategically planning for MSU’s vibrant future

Sep 17, 2020

Vennie Gore and Joe Salem return to MSU Today to provide an update on Michigan State University’s strategic planning process.

Vennie is the vice president for Auxiliary Enterprises. And recently President Stanley promoted Vennie to senior vice president as he is now also overseeing Student Affairs and Services. And Joe Salem is dean of libraries. Vennie and Joe are the steering committee co-chairs of MSU’s strategic planning process that's charting a course toward a brighter future for the university. It's an inclusive and comprehensive strategic planning process. And while many of the plans have been adjusted or placed on hold due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the work being done around strategic planning is too important not to move forward. 

And as we move through the conversation, we'll be joined by four Spartans who are also members of the Steering Committee and are directing focused inquiry groups. 

“I think it's important as we begin to look at the future for the university, COVID has made us realize that having to pivot to online instruction and all the challenges that created, strategic planning becomes more and more important for us as an institution,” says Gore. 

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“I would add that I think one of the goals that President Stanley articulated to us is, in addition to helping to chart what MSU will work on and look like, it's also important, and it was important to him early in his presidency, to articulate and to demonstrate how we'll work together,” Salem says. “The idea of being inclusive and engaged and to really leverage the expertise on campus and to lift and listen to and engage as many voices as possible is an important part of what a modern strategic planning process looks like. 

“The idea of having a plan that you create and that just sits on the shelf, no one wants to do that. The whole idea is to go through a process that engages people and listens to them. And so I think that idea of trying to establish how we want to work together is just as important as what we'll work together on.”

Anna Maria Santiago is an associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Social Science and a professor of social work. She's leading that group on the optimal size and scope of the university.

“We call it the optimal scope and scale inquiry group because we felt that our charge was to develop recommendations, to shape a model and process that optimizes the use and allocation of institutional resources. It’s more than just a matter of size,” says Santiago.

“As we move forward, we need to think about developing a continuous inclusive and transparent process to assess priorities, practices and activities that we want to engage in in the future. We need to think about focusing on areas of excellence and what does that mean and how are they defined? We also think that we need to intentionally assess decisions and examine them in terms of their benefits and costs. And in particular, to frame future and realign current decisions and practices using the lens of diversity, equity,and inclusion.” 

Jennifer Johnson is the C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health and a professor of OB GYN, psychiatry ,and behavioral medicine. She's been looking at values. 

Beneath the Towering Pines...
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“Values are defined as core beliefs and guiding principles that inform and shape our daily activities, behavior, and interactions across the university,” Johnson says. "What values would we like to see guide Michigan State University over the next five to ten years? And what would these values look like in action?

“Values don't have a lot of meaning without a definition. Those values are  partnership; improving the human condition and solving the world's major problems and promoting local and global citizenship; diversity, equity, inclusion, and access; putting people first, valuing and supporting the wellbeing of students, staff, faculty, and the communities with whom we work;  safety, integrity, innovation - this encompasses both the ideas of creativity and addressing the world's most pressing and intractable problems, and having new approaches to things; and excellence.

"We will hold ourselves to the highest standards of teaching, research and engagement because our excellence makes a critical difference to the amount of good we can do."

Thomas Jeitschko is associate provost for graduate education and dean of our graduate school. He’s thinking about institutional resources and budget. 

“What was important for us was to recognize that we really want to deliver on our mission through a manifestation and the living of our values,” Jeitschko says. “And that should be the guiding principle when we think about resources that we have and budgeting around that. 

“Essentially, we think of it sort of as three areas that we need to concentrate on that we're going to flesh out a little bit more. Concentrate on the core mission of the university around teaching, research, and service and outreach. We want to make sure that these missions reflect our values. And what kind of support systems and infrastructure do we need to support the core mission?”

Jeff Grabill is associate provost for teaching learning and technology and a professor rhetoric and professional writing. His group is looking at virtual and online learning.

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“Our online learning strategy really has two components to it,” Grabill says. “One is looking at fully online learning programs that the university does offer and might offer in the future. And the second is how do we use digital technologies to support student learning and success regardless of the modality of instruction?

“The big thing for us is, and this will not be surprising, is that the pandemic changed everything. Where people were with regard to their habits and expectations and understandings and dispositions towards online education before March, they're in a different place now. And whereas it may have been a little bit challenging to get people to engage with thinking about the future of MSU as a significantly digital future, that's changed.

“And so we have more engagement, we have more ideas, we have more enthusiasm around campus for the conversations that we've had about the role of digital technologies in general and online learning more specifically with regard to the future of MSU. 

“We're in a state with a declining number of students attending high school. Digital technologies and their impact on the economy are changing the need for continuous learning for human beings throughout their lifespan. There are a lot of opportunities for MSU to leverage digital technologies and online programs to meet its mission as a land-grant institution in the near future.”

“In our next phase we want to engage the campus community,” Gore adds. “We didn't really have a chance to do that as much as we would've liked to in the spring when the stay at home order was put in place. And then we all went out and we were trying to figure out how we survive in this digital world. So this is our next step, we want to begin to do that.” 

“Although there's been really great work done so far, it really sets us up for good conversations with the communities,” Salem says. “Especially on the values. They inform and frame a really good conversation about the big questions about our mission. We still have big opportunities to ask big questions about significant parts of our mission that we really haven't addressed yet. There are significant questions to be asked about the way that our values and our strengths related to the student experience, to extension, to our community engagement, and to our teaching, learning, and research missions.” 

“Another important part of our work is the work of the diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic planning committee,” adds Gore. “It’s important that we incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work. That committee and ours share a common goal to make the MSU family better connected.”

For more information or to provide some input or get involved, visit the Initiatives and Mission section of President Stanley's website at

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