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President’s Message

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon, PhD
  • Published:
    Winter 2013
Greetings, fellow Spartans.  In the course of a recent interview by the editor of a forthcoming directory to the world’s top 200 research universities, the writer said he was impressed that Michigan State operates programs on every continent.  He said it’s clear that MSU has taken on the challenge of becoming a leading global university.
I told him it was a conscious decision starting with the appointment by then-president John Hannah of the nation’s first dean of international studies and programs in 1956.  Today, “international” isn’t an accessory, but a thread woven into our institutional fabric.
Higher education today simply must link to global pathways of innovation to develop students’ talent and prepare them for the global environment; to facilitate faculty engagement in global intellectual networks; and to add value to society from the collective capacity of thinking and working together.
MSU supports more than 25 internationally focused centers, institutes, offices and programs.  We’ve consistently been a leader in study abroad and international student enrollment.  Just in the last 10 years our international enrollment rose by about three quarters and MSU now has more than 41,000 international alumni living in 172 foreign countries. 
And of the 48,906 students we enrolled fall term, about 13.5 percent were international students who contribute to the campus and community in many ways. The state of Michigan in fact ranked ninth in the nation in 2011 in international student enrollment, with 24,668 students, and MSU enrolled nearly a quarter of them.  The estimated total foreign student expenditure in the state last year was $705.7 million, so a rough calculation shows more than $160 million in annual international student spending in this community alone.
Our roots and relationships around the globe run deep, with partners such as the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, a land-grant pattern institution we helped establish in 1960.  MSU around that time also was instrumental in the establishment of three business schools in Brazil.
Here on campus, we were pleased in October to host the International Students Summit, a program unique in its focus on undergraduate student leadership to address issues in global hunger and agriculture.  For the last dozen years it had been hosted by the Tokyo University of Agriculture, another of our longstanding international partners.
Michigan State’s international expertise was validated recently by some very significant grants for education-focused programs.  The U.S. Agency for International Development awarded us $24.9 million to set up a Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.  That center will build a sustainable group of problem-solving institutions, a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to food systems stressing global knowledge and local impact. 
Earlier we announced a partnership with the Toronto-based MasterCard Foundation.  Under a nine-year, $45 million agreement, we will lead development of a scholar and alumni network in concert with a consortium of universities tapped to train a large group of undergraduate and graduate African students.  And don’t forget the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum on campus, which will focus on the artistic expression of international contemporary culture.
Our international outlook is strongly connected to domestic competitiveness.  In June, I joined fellow presidents and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in supporting visa reform to allow more international STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students to stay here after graduation.  Retaining international talent in metropolitan Detroit is something we’re also pursuing together with our University Research Corridor colleagues at the University of Michigan and Wayne State. 
An international community today is almost a prerequisite for any place that aspires to be world-class and prosperous.  If you look at innovation as represented by intellectual property, immigrants file nearly half of Michigan’s international patents and are three times as likely to start a business.
Michigan State’s global network is a set of strategic assets and skills embodied in people, governments, businesses and universities.  It includes more than 250 partner institutions helping solve the world’s most challenging problems and reaching for its most promising opportunities.  As alumni, you are part of it too.  More than ever, MSU is bringing the best of the world to Michigan and the best of Michigan to the world.  
Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.
President, Michigan State University