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MSU President Stanley’s October 26, 2021, Spartan Community Letter

President Stanley.jpg
Derrick L. Turner
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Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MSU President

Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. talks about topics he covered in his October 26th, 2021, Spartan Community Letter.

Russ, it's always a pleasure to be with you. And it's a very exciting weekend we have coming up. I was traveling out of state in Washington, D.C. the past couple of days and the first thing everyone wanted to talk to me about was the game. I didn't need to say more than that, just the game. People are excited about it. If you look at statistics, I can't remember the exact number, but roughly we have played Michigan let's say more than 100 times, and only four times have we both been ranked in the Top 10. The last time was 1964. This is really going to be a game that people are going to remember. And I hope it lives up to all our expectations and of course ends with a Spartan victory.

Russ White:

And sir, while we compete fiercely with Michigan on the fields and the courts, we cooperate with them through our University Research Corridor arrangement, which Wayne States is in too. We work together a lot for the betterment of the state and frankly the world.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

That's absolutely correct. And I think we really put differences aside that exist on the athletic field. And we work together on a lot on scientific collaborations. And there have been a lot of discussions about managing during difficult times like COVID 19. How do we do that? Both Mark and I were panelists in a meeting that dealt with this. And I think it's a great opportunity at multiple levels. I know the provost speaks to the provost at Michigan. We're in the same state. We have several of the same challenges and can talk to them about what they're doing and learn best practices from each other. I think it’s incredibly important and people might not believe it, but we do that.

Russ White:

You couldn't travel much during the pandemic, but lately you made a couple of trips, one to Detroit and one to Grand Rapids, where you really got to experience MSU’s land grant outreach mission in action.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

Oh, they were incredibly exciting. I had a chance to go to Detroit and see the new Apple Developer Academy, and this is in the old First National Bank building in downtown Detroit. It’s a partnership between Apple and Michigan State University. The Rocket Companies and Rock Ventures came on board to help us with the property and help make this building is available to us as a donation from the Gilbert Family Foundation and the Rock Companies. It’s an incredible space and within it are some incredible people. This is the only one in the United States. There's one in Brazil, one in Italy, one in Indonesia, and we’re the first one in the United States. Apple picked MSU and they picked Detroit to place it.

Apple identifies individuals 18 or over who are interested in learning how to develop applications for the iOS system. They learn some very important foundations of coding and development. And then there are some who are selected to go on to the full program and that's another nine months, or it could be another nine months plus another year, depending on the option they take. And so, there are 100 students enrolled, I think in this first class, and they are so enthusiastic and excited. They're now in this the first nine months of training. We had a chance to watch them work with their mentors. I met a mother of six who has decided to do this so she can have a better life for her family, but also so she can talk technology with her children. I met an 18-year-old who is still in high school who arranged with his principal to be able to get mornings off so he could work at the Apple Developer Academy, and he wants to be a programmer someday.

And I met somebody who's been in the tech business but saw this as a way to give back to the community by developing apps that could help the community as he approaches retirement. It's a great program. We hope some of them may become MSU students as well, but it's something MSU can be proud of and it's very distinct.

Russ White:

And sir, in Grand Rapids, you took a tour of the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building. The facility is another anchor for the growing MSU Grand Rapids Innovation Park, the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center, and the continuing MSU transformation of the Medical Mile.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

One of the things that really attracted me to Michigan State University was the Grand Rapids initiatives that we have. The opportunity to really see how a public private partnership and the will and the commitment of leaders in the community can really help build an industry in a city was remarkable. And the Medical Mile represents this incredible coming together of people who care about their community and who want to see cutting edge medicine available to everyone and are willing to invest their time and energy in making it happen.

The Doug Meijer building is really the third building that MSU is involved in. We have the Secchia Center where we're housing our medical school students who train in Grand Rapids. And they really enjoy being there. I saw Spectrum Hospital where they have a chance to practice their residency programs and do their third- and fourth-year medical training. It’s an incredible facility with state-of-the-art equipment.

Then I had a chance to go back to our research building and see the amazing research that's going on there. And that was built in association with Spectrum Health, who were major contributors to it and helped build it. And then finally, the Doug Meijer Innovation Building really houses several things. It houses some offices for MSU people coming over from our East Lansing campus who are interested in bioinformatics and epidemiology based on big data. But the exciting thing probably for me is the theragnostic component. This was from Doug Meijer's experience in having treatment for his cancer in Germany. It’s an approach to cancer treatment that involves using isotopes that could both identify where the tumor is as well as kill the tumor cells and that was not available in the US. It's now going to be available in Grand Rapids in the State of Michigan for people who need it. And that's something I think we can all be excited about.

Russ White:

The university strategic plan is out. What are some things you want people to know about the strategic plan?

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

The first thing to know is that it puts people first. The first category is student success. It's the idea of really helping everyone who comes to Michigan State University as a student to succeed, graduate, reach their goal, and reach their full potential. And it's about helping them, not only when they're in school, but when they're out of school as well, and really helping provide the networks and support they need to be successful in their chosen careers.

There's a lot of detail in that first section alone about plans we have and outcomes we want to see. We want to see an increase in graduation rates, and we want to see a reduction in gaps in graduation rates between groups.

And then the second piece is all about our faculty and staff. They are the heart and soul of the university. They're the continuing workers here. And the difference they make is extraordinary. So how do we make sure that their experience is a great experience? How do we make sure that this is a place where they want to come to work and that this is a place where they can reach their full potential and succeed in their careers? The provost and our HR group are spending a lot of time trying to figure out ways to make this happen. We’re going to do work in health, sustainability, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.

And last, but certainly not least, is our research and innovation. There are several plans on how to grow that anchored with the FRIB, our amazing plant scientists, and several other areas in our Extension program that allow us to do outreach and transform lives throughout the state of Michigan.

Russ White:

And enhancing arts and culture on campus are part of what you'd like to do. Part of that is the Billman Music Pavilion, which was opened recently. The facilities now have caught up with our world class College of Music.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

The Billman Music Pavilion is a beautiful building. We have the Minskoff Pavilion at Broad. We have the STEM Teaching and Learning Facility, which is incredible. And now with the Billman Pavilion, we have a building that does justice to our outstanding music program. The humanities and arts are so important to the university. They really give people ways to approach problems in different ways. They really facilitate creative thinking. Beauty is something we can all appreciate. And I think particularly when we've seen stressful times as we had recently, the arts really have an important healing and unifying effect. Arts are a critical part of the strategic plan, and we're working hard to find ways in which to integrate them into all the things we're doing on campus.

Russ White:

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. MSU Safe Place under the direction of former first lady Joanne McPherson was the nation's first on campus domestic violence shelter. It’s another resource where we try to help our Spartans and the community.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

It's a great resource that’s been making a difference in people’s lives for over 25 years. Peter and Joanne McPherson are to be congratulated for helping to make this possible. I think it's something people need to know more about. I think it's probably underutilized. I think there are probably people right now who are suffering from abuse who need help, and this is a place where you can get it. I encourage people to look at it, read about it, and find out about it online. In the community letter I sent there's a link that takes you to Safe Place. And I encourage people to go there and understand the kind of possibilities it can help with in a very, very difficult problem for our country that we need to do more on.

Russ White:

Another resource is our Student Veterans Resource Center.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

I can't say enough to thank our veterans for what they've done for our country. Both my uncle and my dad fought in World War II. I’m very proud of the contributions they made to the United States at that time. We don't want to forget about our veterans, and there are several programs that are available. We want to make sure they're taking full benefits out of them. One of the things that the Student Veterans Resource Center is designed to do is to help acquaint them with these services and the benefits they can get. There are also many opportunities to honor our military, our veterans, and military affiliated students at MSU, including supporting the center through scholarships. Veterans can be financially challenged even if they have benefits such as the GI bill. We'll continue to make it an emphasis in our plan going forward and part of the student success component.

Russ White:

And if I could ask you to put your infectious disease expert hat on for a moment, where are we with COVID, not only on campus, but around the world? What are you feeling good about and what still concerns you?

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

I'm very pleased with how we're doing on campus right now. We've really seen a fall in the number of cases. We peaked in early September when we came back, and we've been going down steadily since then. I’m a little concerned about the state of Michigan. I haven't checked the numbers in the past few days while I've been away, but they've been doing kind of a slow but steady rise over the same time. The things we put in place are really having a positive effect. I think the vaccine is making a huge difference and is the reason why we're getting to such low numbers now. The last time I looked, we had only seven students in isolation. I don't know what the number is now, but there are 16,000 students living on campus so that tells you we really have things under control at this point.

Everybody stick with it. The mask wearing makes a difference. To anybody who's not been vaccinated, please get vaccinated because we really are serious about the mandates. They're really designed to protect the community, to allow us to come back safely, and to allow us to experience college the way we all want to experience college. And that's for faculty, staff, and students. What we're seeing is still the same thing as the pandemic progresses and that’s the Delta variant. And what we know is that the vaccine prevents and protects you against the Delta variant. And if you're vaccinated, you have an incredibly low chance of dying or being hospitalized from Delta. If you're not vaccinated, you are taking a chance.

Russ White:

What are you optimistic about? Is there something keeping you up at night? Preview for Spartans what's ahead the next couple of months.

Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.:

I worry a little bit about the winter because flu season is coming, and people will be inside more. Students and faculty and staff have taken advantage of being outdoors and we've had a fall that made it possible to do that. I encourage people to continue to try to do activities outside when they can. But I'm very optimistic about going forward and my prediction is that we're not going to experience the same winter as we did last year, which was a terrible winter for the United States. Over December, January, and February, about 250,000 lives were lost during that time. I think things are going to be better because we have more people vaccinated and people are following the rules about indoor masking.

I'm optimistic about our football team. I'm optimistic about our basketball team. I think we're going to see great things from the Spartans as we approach the end of the year. Everybody be safe, particularly this weekend. We're going to have a lot of folks here. We're going to be the center of the athletic universe on Saturday. So everybody be careful. Please take care of yourself and watch out for cars and pedestrians. Be careful and let’s practice moderation in everything we do.

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on WKAR News/Talk and streams at WKAR.org. Find, rate, and subscribe to “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.