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President's Perspective

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Fall 2009

Environmental stewardship is a key part of our DNA at Michigan State, and you will read more about how we’re working to model that in the following pages. We’re proud of the way our faculty, staff, and students are pulling together to apply what we know—and to learn what we don’t know—to lighten our environmental footprint.

Today’s economy poses another great challenge to us, and here, too, we aim to apply knowledge-based solutions. Universities such as Michigan State employ a lot of creative, innovative people, and employers look to us to, likewise, help develop a skilled and savvy work force.

I have had several opportunities over the summer to talk to top business executives about how the MSU mission focuses and motivates us to do just that at a time when innovation is increasingly viewed as crucial to the recovery of the economy.

I joined a number of business and institutional leaders—including the heads of IBM, Dow Chemical, Ford, Google, and Microsoft—speaking at the three-day National Summit in Detroit. A week later, I participated in a summit in Washington, D.C., produced by the Council on Competitiveness and Seed magazine, focused on innovation.

My panel at the National Summit in Detroit focused on talent, which is key to the success of any organization. Much of the discussion came back to the need to improve workers’ skills, including increasingly important mid-career retraining. We know our graduates will face career changes more often than their parents, and universities will need to stay involved to support them. Technology will facilitate this, and we might see universities such as MSU offer a wide range of postgraduate skills certification programs online.

It’s a matter of empowerment, of finding ways to give people more tools to control their destinies. At the nation’s pioneer land-grant institution, that’s been part of our mission and our impact all along.

In Washington, my panel discussed how we manage innovation. My point was that I view the challenge of leadership as aligning assets with attitude to create synergy that magnifies the impact on behalf of society.

We do it at Michigan State though focusing on cross-boundary collaboration—across disciplines, borders, communities, ideologies—and by never losing sight of our core values of quality, inclusiveness, and connectivity. As with our environmental stewardship initiative, we think we have much to offer by modeling our way of working.

Today’s matrix organization relies on teams to get things done, whether the challenge is implementing sustainable practices or developing a workforce capable of meeting the challenges of today and tomorrow. We’re striving to break down barriers, enhance connections, and apply the knowledge we gain together to solve the problems that confront individuals, communities, and our global society.




Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D.

President, Michigan State University