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MSU President Stanley elaborates on topics in his January 2022 Spartan Community Letter

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Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. elaborates on topics he discusses in his January 2022 Spartan Community Letter.

MSU's excellence is a product of our long presence in the communities we serve. This week, MSU proudly joined the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation in Flint to announce a $25 million grant to support the expansion of the MSU College of Human Medicine’s public health research and educational programs there. This month also marks the first anniversary of another notable partnership focused on supporting healthcare in Michigan communities. Last year, MSU joined Detroit's Henry Ford Health System in a 30-year collaboration inspired by a bold vision to discover and advance a new standard of health to help transform the lives of people in Detroit and beyond.

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Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., MSU President

“They really are critical programs for the university that have brought great distinction to the university as well as made a huge impact to communities across the state of Michigan,” says President Stanley. “The Mott Foundation has been a really crucial partner in our work over the years to support the Flint community. And this grant really follows up on the Foundation's support over really a 10-year period and is designed to really help us develop a new model for improving public health outcomes.

“We're going to be able to support the addition of approximately 18 tenure system faculty members, boosting the program to more than 25 tenure track faculty and approximately 70 faculty members overall. And a community partner advisory committee will help determine priority public health areas for the program's recruiting focus. And this has been a really important part of this work in Flint. It involves the community and shows how important our community partners are in getting this work done.

“And it's not a question where we're coming to them and saying here's the problem we'll help you with. It's rather a partnership where they're talking to us about what are the needs of the community, and then we're working together to develop programs that can make a difference in these areas of priority public health issues.

“The Henry Ford partnership is something we're very excited about. This is a 30-year collaboration that we're working together on inspired by a really bold vision. And that's to really discover and advance a new standard of health to help transform the lives of people in Detroit, Southeast Michigan, and beyond. And I think we're making significant progress already.

“Our plans include building on our joint cancer research task force to increase research that opens up new opportunities for collaboration and innovation. And we're really trying to lay the groundwork for seeking designation by the National Cancer Institute, known as the NCI, for us to create a comprehensive cancer center in or around Henry Ford's Detroit campus.

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“We're doing education work as well that's really critical for us. Some of our students who are third- and fourth-year medical students from the Colleges of both Human and Osteopathic Medicine are going to be doing their training programs at Henry Ford Hospital. And the MSU College of Nursing will also offer professional development opportunities for Henry Ford employees. Nurses there can have additional professional development opportunities.

“We also have partnership goals in the areas of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. And we're working on ways to define paths for addressing health equity and health disparities through our partnership, particularly in cancer care. As we've seen before with the pandemic, there are huge differences in healthcare outcomes in rural areas versus urban areas and in urban areas versus suburban areas. And what we want to do is really try to get rid of those gaps and make sure that health disparities are not contributing to poor health outcomes in the state of Michigan.

“So, the Henry Ford partnership and the work we're doing with the Mott Foundation and others throughout the state of Michigan is designed to really help us have an impact on healthcare and health outcomes in a broad swath of the population of the state.”

At MSU, an important facet of maintaining a healthy and caring community is represented by a new effort based on one of the actions in our Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct Strategic Plan. Can you talk about the Support More Initiative?

“The Support More Initiative is a critically important communication initiative that focuses on providing guidance for how to respond to disclosures of relationship violence or sexual assault or misconduct on campus. It helps our faculty, staff, and anyone contacted to respond to those experiences in an empathic manner, and it promotes the availability of related campus resources and services.

“We're really taking steps to transform MSU's culture as it relates to instances of relationship violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking. And this really grows out of the work of a number of outstanding faculty at MSU who have developed trauma informed approaches to responding to people who've undergone one of these events.

“I'm really grateful to the RVSM Expert Advisory Work Group. Their members have been dedicated to this work and so has the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Division of Victim Services with support for this work through a Victims of Crime Act Grant Award. It's an important program, and I encourage everyone to go to the site because there are ways in which you can help make a difference in this important problem.”

On January 31st MSU returns to in-person learning after a three-week remote start for most classes, which was intended to mitigate the impact of potential classroom absences due to the highly contagious Omicron variant of the COVID 19 virus. While you're cautious, I'm sure you're happy that we can return in person.

“We're very excited about it. And I know students are as well. And I know faculty and staff have worked hard to get prepared to be in person in the classroom again. I think the important thing to note is that our cases have started to come down on campus. We're absolutely monitoring it very carefully. We did see a surge with Omicron as expected. The case numbers are coming down; they've been down again the past couple weeks. Our hope is by the 31st we will really have seen the peak and be very much on a decline in Omicron related COVID-19 cases.

“The critical thing, though, is that employees have been vaccinated and boosted and are wearing masks, and we believe that the classrooms represent a relatively safe environment.”

COVID booster shots are required unless an exemption has been granted with a February 1 deadline for most to update their verification forms online.

The excellence of several of MSU online degree programs was validated this week in the latest U.S. News and World Report rankings. MSU College of Education programs placed in the top 10 in all four of the U.S. News Graduate Education Discipline program rankings, with curriculum and instruction rising to number one in the nation. Among other highlights, MSU’s online master’s program in Criminal Justice is ranked number five for the second year in a row. And our non-MBA online master’s program in business jumped nine places to number 12. The online master’s in mechanical engineering program ranked number 14. Will there be more hybrid instruction even when the pandemic eases?

“Oh, absolutely. And I think it's a great mark of the quality of our College of Education, our Broad Business College, our Criminal Justice program, and our College of Engineering that they've reached these kinds of accolades.

“This is a very competitive area. Delivering this kind of material in a way that allows students to learn and be successful is a challenge. MSU and our faculty have risen to the challenge and really developed programs that are appealing to our students and that have the potential to appeal to other students as well.

“As we think about education in the future, having this combination of the ability to deliver both in person and remotely I think becomes incredibly important. With asynchronous learning, particularly, it allows us to expand the kind of students who can take and receive an MSU education. We have a quality combination of in-classroom and online coursed, and that's very special.”

This month Spartans took great pride in seeing MSU economist and professor Lisa D. Cook nominated to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System by President Joe Biden. If confirmed, Cook will be the first Black woman to serve on the board in its 108-year history.

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MSU Professor Lisa Cook.

“It's wonderful. And professor Cook is really a remarkable economist and leader whose nomination just highlights the excellence of our Spartan faculty. I was really honored in 2020 to help welcome former Federal Reserve Chairperson Janet Yellen as a guest speaker for the American Economic Association summer training program, which was hosted by MSU under Cook's direction.

“So, I've had a chance to see her in action and to get to know her. She's a great representative for MSU and I'm sure, hopefully, she will be confirmed and will make a big difference to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.”

Also, this month, we say goodbye to another trailblazing Spartan, that's volleyball head coach Cathy George, who announced her retirement after an impressive 35-season career, the last 17 at MSU. She's MSU's winningest volleyball coach, recording 302 wins with an overall record of 667 and 457 across her outstanding career.

“I had a chance to meet Coach George and see her in action coaching volleyball, and she was extraordinarily impressive. She has really been a tremendous asset and treasure to the MSU community. She was the first woman to lead a team to the NCAA Division 1 Final Four in 1989. She guided her team to 15 NCAA tournaments in all, 10 of them at MSU, with three Sweet 16 appearances and one in the Elite 8. And her student athletes were successful in the classroom as well, with 37 Big Ten Distinguished Scholar recognitions and seven academic All-America honors. She departs with our admiration and gratitude, and we'll do a national search for the next head volleyball coach. My thanks to her and my congratulations to her on such an extraordinary career.”

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Any final thoughts as January turns over to February that you'd like to leave Spartans with today?

“Just again, we're so excited about this semester. There are great things that are going to happen. We are working very hard to manage successfully, and we will, through the return to campus in terms of in-person instruction. And I really appreciate all the efforts that people are putting in and the community support that comes forward to us as we continue this vital education mission.”

Keep up with President Stanley at president.msu.edu and follow along on Instagram @MSUPresStanley.

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on WKAR News/Talk and Sunday evenings at 8:00 on 760 WJR. Find, rate, and subscribe to “MSU Today with Russ White” on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.