MSU President Stanley reflects on “a very successful academic year“ as summer begins
Michigan State University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. joins me on MSU Today to elaborate on topics he discusses in his May 2022 Spartan Community Letter.
MSU brought a very successful academic year to a close this month with graduation ceremonies honoring 6,917 undergraduate degree earners and 2,684 advanced degree recipients. What struck you and will stay with you about this spring’s ceremonies?
“It was wonderful to be in person. We had the opportunity because of low COVID transmission to be without masks for people who didn't want a mask, and so that was great. There was really a sense of being together that we haven't had in prior ceremonies. That made it very exciting, and the turnout was phenomenal.
“Steve Smith gave a remarkable speech where he talked about how much Michigan State University has meant to him. He talked about his relationship with his mother and the transformational gifts he's given to the university to help student athletes. Even though Steve played against people like Michael Jordan, he said it's not about beating others so much; it's about pushing yourself to be the best you can be. That was a great message for our graduates.”
In addition to celebrating our graduates' accomplishments, you helped honor outstanding faculty and academic staff this month at the annual All-University Awards Convocation and support staff in the annual Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff and Ruth Jameson Above and Beyond Awards presentations. You always say MSU's people are the heart and soul of the university.
“Faculty and staff achievement and development are key to us; we want our faculty and staff to reach their full potential. And then recognizing the extraordinary work they do is an important part of our strategic plan. These ceremonies are our chance to say thank you and recognize people who are doing exemplary work for the university, and it's a wonderful honor for me to be a part of that. I love the spring semester at Michigan State University because it’s the time to acknowledge and recognize the key people who help make this university work.”
The U.S. Senate approved President Joe Biden's nomination of MSU economist and professor Lisa Cook to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She's the first Black woman to sit on the board, which sets monetary policy for the nation's central bank.
“I've had a chance to talk to her several times during this process. And she's an extraordinary person in addition to being an extremely qualified candidate for the Federal Reserve Board. Her background and scholarly activity make her a unique choice. “
Another distinguished Spartan you'll be honored to introduce at an upcoming recognition event is Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Teresa K. Woodruff, named a Distinguished Woman in Higher Education Leadership by the American Council of Education Michigan Women's Network.
“Provost Woodruff is extraordinarily accomplished. She's a member of the National Academy of Medicine and a member of the National Academy of Inventors. And she's a champion for our university and our academic mission and a champion for students and faculty and staff. It's wonderful for her to be acknowledged in this way. She is a leader in higher education. She is a leader in Michigan. We're very fortunate that she's working at Michigan State University.”
And Provost Woodruff welcomed you into the membership of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Congratulations!
“It's remarkable. And I'm still humbled by this award and very appreciative to those who elected me to this very prestigious society. When you're in a society that contains Thomas Jefferson and others, it's remarkable. And this is a group that really puts as its goal bringing together the talent from the United States and the world to bear on critical issues for our society.
“It's not just an honorary society, but rather publishes reports, investigates, does research on critical issues facing the nation, and uses the expertise of its members to do that. I look forward not just to being a member and being surrounded by so many very accomplished people, but also the opportunity to give back and to do work with the Academy on issues that are important, including things like global pandemics, which are an area of interest for me, and, of course, higher education and the impact we can have on these global challenges.”
This year's Times Higher Education Impact rankings, which assesses progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, ranked MSU number 33 in the world and number two in the nation among participating universities.
“This is wonderful. And the sustainable development goals or SDGs really span several areas, including things like food security, where Michigan State University has very powerful research efforts. From food to poverty, this really reflects the breadth of our efforts in MSU and helps us achieve one of our strategic plan goals. Now we must continue to maintain it and sustain it, no pun intended, but we're very proud of this work we do.”
We achieved another major milestone this month with the opening for user operations of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams.
“Someday when I look back at my career at MSU, one of the highlights will be that I had the opportunity to cut the ribbon for FRIB. This has been an incredible effort for not just Michigan State University, but the state of Michigan and the people who came together to make this possible. This event came 13 years after the Department of Energy Office of Science awarded the project to MSU and eight years after we broke ground for the $730 billion facility. It's already had a significant economic impact from the jobs it created in Michigan, but it's going to have more going forward.
“MSU has the number one nuclear physics graduate program in the country. This facility helps ensure that we can keep that ranking. We generate 10 percent of the nuclear scientists graduated every year; that's amazing for MSU. And this is going to help us keep that lofty status and continue to have an impact on nuclear physics here and around the world.”
There are some new Spartan leaders on their way to campus. Jerlando Jackson will be the new dean for MSU's world renowned College of Education. At Wharton Center, Eric Olmscheid has been selected to succeed Mike Brand as executive director. And Spartan hockey has a new head coach in alumnus Adam Nightingale. Your thoughts on these additions to the MSU family?
“Professor Jackson is going to be outstanding as the dean of the MSU College of Education. He's going to also hold the title of Chief Foundation Professor of Education. Eric Olmscheid comes to us from Des Moines. He led a significant programmatic expansion there, built a comprehensive education program, and expanded community partnerships, all of which are things we want to see continue at Wharton Center. And Adam Nightingale has had a lot of experience working with young athletes. He brings roots and connections to the Green and White, but also experience in the National Hockey League coaching some of the most talented young hockey players in the country.”
And two long-time Spartan coaches are retiring. MSU's winningest men's tennis coach Gene Orlando is retiring after completing his 31st season and recording 361 victories. In addition, women's softball coach Jacquie Joseph announced her retirement from coaching after 29 seasons and 753 wins here.
“I play tennis. So, I've gotten to know Coach Orlando. He's been a legend here. His dedication to MSU is extraordinary. It's amazing to be at a place for that number of years and to have the success he's had. Everyone, including me, wishes him all the best as he goes forward. Jacquie Joseph is also a legend. She's going to remain with the athletics department in an administrative role. She's really been an advocate for women in sports, and she is going to continue to push us to make sure that we're living up to the promise of Title IX and giving women every opportunity to succeed and student-athletes to succeed in women's sports.”
What are you watching for throughout this year's state appropriations process and what is the Spartan Advocate Program?
“We're really working to get at least modest increases in funding. We would like to see that go to our base funding. Certainly, we’ll take some one-time money as that's available as well, but we're really interested in increasing the base funding going forward. And both the executive budget and the Senate budget do have increases, significant increases, built into the budgets. The House budget unfortunately does not do that. The House budget provides some money for other capital projects but doesn't really raise the state allocation.
“Higher education is so critical for Michigan's future and competitiveness. We have a Spartan Advocate Program in the Office of Government Relations that allows people to get engaged and reach out to their elected officials to tell them how important Michigan State is and how much it's meant to them or their families and the lives they lead. It's amazing that people don't always recognize the value of higher education. It's somewhat disappointing to me that we spend a lot of time trying to convince people that the return on investment from tax dollars that comes in to support Michigan State University or other institutions of higher education in Michigan is incredible. People's lifetime earnings go up and their health improves with a college degree. It really makes a difference to so many facets of people's lives.
“I encourage people to consider joining the Advocate Program. We need all the help we can get here. And your voices often are heard more loudly than mine. People see me as advocating for the institution as part of my job. When you do it when it’s not your job to do so but rather because it’s something you care about, that's very important to elected officials.”
Any final thoughts as we head into the summer?
“I've told students and faculty and staff to find time for yourselves this summer. People have been under so much stress the last two years. The opportunity to take some time and relax is important. I plan to do some of that for sure. And I've encouraged all the people who work with me at Michigan State University to do the same. And for our students, it's okay to take some summer courses; it's good to get ahead. But try and find some time to relax and recharge, particularly for those of you coming back because we'll have an exciting fall and a big class coming in.”
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