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President's Perspective

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Winter 2005

            I am excited about the year ahead for Michigan State.  As the nation’s pioneer land-grant university, we are in the midst of celebrating our 150 year sesquicentennial, an occasion that touches every member of our Spartan family – including you, our Alumni. 

            We mark a number of additional milestones this winter including the beginning of a new period in the history of this pioneering land-grant university.  I am proud to serve as MSU’s 20th president.  This time of transition allows us to reflect on our land-grant heritage and gives us a renewed vision of the University in the 21st century.

            In 1855, higher education was mostly the province of the elite, in private universities named after their founders. But forward-thinkers had a vision of democratizing higher education, of combining the traditional liberal arts education with training in the cutting-edge sciences of the day. By offering broad access to knowledge, the land-grant philosophy forever transformed the concept of public higher education in Michigan and across the nation.  Graduates of land-grant institutions would be prepared to participate fully in a rapidly changing society and developing economy.  That philosophy defined the reciprocal relationship between the university and society that we reaffirm today. 

            MSU has continued to adapt and transform to meet challenges of the times, leading the way for other institutions of higher education. As the prototype for 69 other land-grant founded institutions, MSU continues to lead by example.  Our model—outreach programs, engagement with communities, lifelong learning, study abroad, and international partnerships, to name but a few—has been embraced by universities worldwide.

            Today, we find ourselves living in a period of accelerating change, where knowledge breakthroughs arrive at a dizzying pace and, more than ever, society looks to its institutions of higher education not just for answers to the most complex and perplexing problems of the day, but for the vision to anticipate the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.  We are called upon to support greater creativity, to conceive of new ideals, and to foster entrepreneurship grounded in ethics and values that will benefit the people of Michigan, the nation, and the world.

            In the face of those challenges, the recent recommendations of Michigan Lt. Governor John Cherry’s Commission on Higher Education and Economic Growth underscore the continuing relevance of our land-grant ideals.

            Those recommendations call for expanded access to higher education and integrating specialized skills and entrepreneurial education into the curriculum. They call for investing in cutting-edge technology, partnering with stakeholders and constituents in society, and aligning postsecondary education with the economic needs of today and the opportunities of tomorrow.

            We embrace those recommendations—they’re essentially a reiteration of the land-grant philosophy that has guided us for 150 years.

            A bold experiment that began in 1855 with 59 students in three buildings adjacent to a plank road three miles outside of Lansing has become an internationally engaged academic powerhouse, one of the top 100 research universities in the world, with outstanding alumni in communities around the globe, with service to society as its land-grant heart.  

            Together, let’s celebrate the transformational power of education and renew the covenant Michigan State made with society in 1855.  Let us reaffirm the enduring land-grant spirit that is as revolutionary and relevant today as it was then.


Lou Anna Kimsey Simon

President, Michigan State University