At the beginning of the academic year for many years, Keith Williams has made a presentation to new students entitled “What it means to be a Spartan.” At a time when Michigan State is broadening its mission from land-grant to “world-grant” and as Keith takes on new challenges—moving from his role as executive director of the Alumni Association to lead a special project developing programs that will enhance MSU’s global alumni relations—I thought it would be appropriate this time around to reflect a bit on what it means to be a Spartan.
Taking on new challenges is really what Michigan State has been about from the very beginning. In the seven years between our founding and when President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act to create a nationwide system of land-grant colleges based on our innovative model, this university has led the way in defining and transforming the role that higher education plays in our society.
When we unveiled Boldness by Design last year, we established another seven-year window, during which we will expand our historic land-grant role to “world-grant,” leading the way in what we hope will be another transformation of higher education, one designed to embrace our global responsibilities and engage with even more international partners to respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing—and some would say, shrinking—world.
But even as the university changes, what it means to be a Spartan essentially remains the same. Keith summed up three characteristics that define who we are as Spartans and as members of the MSU community, wherever we may be: sharing in the experiences of MSU; contributing to the value of MSU; and upholding the traditions of MSU. And because we are a community—one that includes some 400,000 members living and working around the world—and because MSU is engaged with and responsive to society, those characteristics provide the foundations on which we build our ever-expanding global partnerships.
As MSU graduates, when you return to your home communities or seek out new ones, you take with you the experiences of MSU—the intellectual vitality of our university; the fruits of our service learning, international programs and hands-on research; and the preparation for a lifetime of learning. The time you spend here and the work you do here not only serves you as an individual, it contributes to the value of MSU and the contributions we are able to make to society. And that, in turn, supports and underscores one of the most important traditions we have, and the promise we make to you: that your MSU degree will appreciate in value even after you leave campus.
Ultimately, being a Spartan means you’ve made a positive difference in our world and will continue to do so. And all of us here in East Lansing will continue working to make MSU an even better place, so that value—to each of you and to society as a whole—will continue to increase in the years ahead.
Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph. D.
President, Michigan State University