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President's Perspective

  • Author:
    Lou Ann K. Simon
  • Published:
    Winter 2011

In October, Michigan State University marked the 50th anniversary of its African Studies Center, another milestone for an institution that established global horizons long before many others looked overseas. Our research and engagement have transformed countless lives through our global partnerships, treating and studying disease, probing environmental issues, promoting community development, and working to feed millions.

We have a tradition of global engagement dating to the visionary leadership of John Hannah, who established the Office of International Studies and Programs in 1956. Today, more than 1,400 MSU faculty and staff members are regularly involved in international research and service activities. Such scholarship and outreach take MSU faculty, students, and staff to more than 176 countries around the globe. Over the past five years, MSU faculty have been awarded more than $204 million for international research projects, and MSU has formal partnerships with 193 universities and institutions around the world. Michigan State is among only five universities in the nation to be in the top 10 for both study abroad participation and international student enrollment.

In 2009, MSU was ranked first for study abroad participation among public universities by the Institute of International Education. We boast more than 41,000 international alumni living in 172 countries and 25 active international alumni clubs. On average over the past five years, MSU has had 2,775 students studying abroad annually, with 380 of those students, or 14 percent, studying in the most popular destination, the United Kingdom (UK). We rank fifth in the nation for participation in this region and have our highest concentration of study abroad programs—41—in the UK. But we also have long-standing and productive connections with institutions and regions in less traditionally popular study abroad regions, including in Africa.

More than 50 percent of MSU students study outside of western European locations. In fact, we offer more study abroad programs in Africa than any other U.S. university—this year there will be 28 programs available. All told, we collaborate with 16 universities and other institutions in Africa. So it’s fitting that we celebrate the anniversary of our African Studies Center, one of nine Title VI National Resource Centers on Africa designated by the U.S. Department of Education. It involves more than 160 faculty members who conduct research, teaching, and service there.

We’re celebrating for a year, starting with an exhibition put together by the MSU Museum for the International Center. Dubbed “Pamodzi,” a Malawian word meaning “together,” the exhibit uses artifacts, graphics, and text to illustrate our work on the continent in areas from medicine to education to the arts. It will move to other locations around the state through the year, including to the Secchia Center in Grand Rapids. The exhibit is the first of its kind in a new series designed to connect audiences with life-changing research conducted by MSU faculty.

Honoring our land-grant roots and pursuing what I call the World Grant Ideal means having the resolve to transform lives on campus, throughout Michigan, and around the globe by advancing knowledge gained in multicultural settings and by understanding the applicability and benefits of that knowledge for all. After all, the world’s biggest problems don’t often observe borders or boundaries.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of our recent projects in this issue.


Lou Ann K. Simon, Ph.D.

President, Michigan State University