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President's Message

  • Author:
    Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Fall 2014

            Fall semester is well under way, with the quickened pulse of student energy flowing throughout the MSU campus. Seniors in particular are looking to the future, as they anticipate establishing careers after graduation.

            And there’s good news for them. Many indicators point to a brightening employment outlook. This was recently borne out in Michigan State’s own Destination Survey. The survey of spring and summer 2013 Spartan graduates showed that their employment rate was the highest since these online surveys began in 2006.

            Combined with the number of graduates who are continuing their education, the overall placement rate also reached its highest level ever at 93 percent. And a similar proportion of respondents indicated that their jobs were either career-related or a stepping stone.

            The leading average reported salary level of $63,305 came from engineering graduates. Indeed, the fastest-growing and best-paying category of occupations across the country is connected to the STEM disciplines—science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

            Jobs in information technology, manufacturing, medicine and other technical occupations are so important to the economy;our STEM graduate numbers are tracked on the State of Michigan’s online metrics dashboard. STEM-prepared workers have a direct impact on the country’s global economic competitiveness, too.

            Yet despite growing numbers of STEM graduates, employers report there are still many jobs they can’t readily fill. Michigan State is addressing that challenge in many ways, and in this issue you’ll learn about one of them: Future DOcs, a growing program of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and partner hospitals. It’s been offered to high school students in Detroit and Macomb County for a few years, and now it’s expanding to include Lansing-areastudents.

            The idea is to engage promising urban student populations to offer career exploration opportunities while also helping abate what is predicted to be a future health-care worker shortage. Future DOcs is a great way to provide students with experience in health-care careers—and to instill a better appreciation of the need to develop STEM skills in high school and college.

            Another excellent STEM portal is agriculture. Two-thirds of MSU students who participated in MSU Extension’s 4-H programs as youths went on to select STEM majors. So it comes as no surprise that College of Agriculture and Natural Resources graduates also reported above-average employment and salary levels.

            To improve retention of students once they’re in a STEM major, MSU is working on reforming “gateway” courses, which are typically large prerequisite lecture courses. Several faculty members have received fellowship support to transform their own STEM teaching and to advise colleagues, while an interdisciplinary STEM Alliance of interested faculty and staff members also is coalescing around that goal.

            Similarly, a recent $1.5 million grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute will support science students, especially students from underrepresented groups. The program’s approach is to transform introductory STEM courses to emphasize core scientific and mathematical concepts and practices that span different disciplines.

            Michigan State’s work to support students in the STEM disciplines is part of our larger efforts to innovate for student success. In September, our Neighborhoods initiative won Michigan State’s inclusion in the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of 11 universities around the country that model innovative solutions to improve success rates for minority, low-income and first-generation students. The Neighborhoods initiative brings academic, health and other support services into the residence halls, making them true living-learning communities for all students.

            Michigan State continues to pioneer innovations that help ensure our students thrive and to provide a model that enables others to succeed as well. That’s Spartans Will.


            Lou Anna K. Simon, Ph.D

            President, Michigan State University