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President's Perspective

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Winter 2010

When the going gets tough, Spartans get going.

The State of Michigan has reduced funding for higher education in all but one of the last five years. Now, state support is dipping even lower, a trend that is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, our substantial health care and energy costs continue their long-term climb.

And although we must make significant budget reductions, we are not cutting indiscriminately across the board. That would be poor management, indeed, and fly in the face of our core values and identity. Those will not change merely because we’re forced to contemplate a leaner near-term future.

Today we ask ourselves what we wish to be in the 21st century, and we will resculpt the institution accordingly. We will invest even as we cut.

So, too, must American public higher education as it considers how best to serve individuals and society. It’s fitting to do so in this 200th anniversary year of Lincoln’s birth and as we approach the 150th anniversary in 2012 of his signing of the Morrill Act, which created land-grant institutions such as MSU.

The Morrill Act stood for the democratization of higher education and knowledge—revolutionary at that time—and made colleges and universities instruments of advancing the nation’s prosperity and well-being. The tendency to view higher education as a private rather than public good, unfortunately, has grown in more recent years. Yet for America to be competitive—and for humankind to address our common challenges—we must draw inspiration from our roots to shape our future.

I invite you to read more on this topic at

We are building on our strengths and focusing on where we see the greatest societal needs. We are leveraging our considerable international experience and our research and academic expertise. You can see it happening all around the state and beyond.

We’re reaffirming our commitment to Detroit and Southeast Michigan with the opening of our new MSU Detroit Center on Woodward Avenue to house music and education programs and other university functions.

Our Bioeconomy Institute in Holland is bringing scientists and business people together, and we’re ramping up activity with our College of Human Medicine location in Grand Rapids. Wharton Center for Performing Arts now is partnering with Broadway Grand Rapids to bring top-flight theater to the community.

And to the north, we recently partnered with Michigan Technological University and Northern Michigan University to link their premed students with our College of Human Medicine, assisting disadvantaged students and enhancing health care in underserved areas of the state.

Here on campus, the need to attract the best students, faculty, and staff continues unabated. Indeed, other states and countries are building up their educational capabilities, leaving Michigan and the United States with an even longer-term competitive challenge. We must continue our work to make Michigan State a more efficient, effective organization that remains a worldwide university of choice.

We will do it boldly, yet deliberately and transparently. Everyone on both the academic and the business sides of MSU’s operations has been enlisted to contribute. Alumni, too, have an important role to play. Consider how you will contribute to the transformation of Michigan State into something not diminished by adversity but strengthened by the challenge.

We are engaging our many stakeholders online at Along with a large amount of supporting information, you can read the communications Provost Kim Wilcox, Vice President Fred Poston, and I send to administrative leaders, faculty, and staff throughout this process. I urge you to visit that site and I welcome your thoughts. With members of Team MSU pulling together, Michigan State has been and will continue to be an institution of which you can be




Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

President, Michigan State University