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President's Message: Leveling the Playing Field

  • Author:
    President Lou Anna K. Simon
  • Published:
    Fall 2016

Autumn’s cooler temperatures and college football activities once again are energizing the campus community and MSU alumni everywhere.

We alumni love our sports teams. They help bond us to our alma mater and join us in a common cause. Win or lose on football Saturdays, Spartans know we belong among the best.

That’s no less true off the field. Among top academic institutions, there are none against which Michigan State cannot compete in significant areas. Most importantly, from our earliest days, our aspirations were never built around exclusion, but rather on how many of the best we can include.

At the same time Michigan State rose to national football prominence in the 1960s, we were becoming recognized for our academic excellence and international engagement. In 1964, we earned a seat among North America’s elite research institutions when we became a member of the Association of American Universities, for which I’ve served as board chair for the last year. Today, Michigan State is recognized for both athletic and academic distinctions, from number one-ranked College of Education programs to our international leadership in nuclear science—validated by the construction of the world-class Facility for Rare Isotope Beams on the MSU campus.

Despite our many accomplishments, there is one critical area in which Michigan State falls glaringly short. We trail our peers in the number of our endowed faculty positions—often by substantial margins. Recent efforts by other Big Ten institutions to remedy their own shortfalls have put us close to last.

That’s why Empower Extraordinary, MSU’s $1.5 billion capital campaign, includes a $350 million segment focused on academic innovation and the addition of world-class faculty members. We aim to add 100 endowed chairs, which, if achieved, will place us around the norm among peer universities.

Michigan State has a great faculty and many outstanding researchers, so why the need for “named” positions?

These endowments ensure a source of dependable, perpetual funding for generations. And the benefits extend far beyond the faculty members who come to MSU for these distinguished positions and the funding their work attracts. Endowed chairs and faculty also enable us to draw top graduate students with promising research opportunities and to provide undergraduates with transformational learning experiences.

At the end of the day, offering endowed positions helps MSU compete for the top talent needed to carry out our most fundamental mission— discovering solutions and disseminating knowledge that makes a better tomorrow for our students and our global society.

I encourage you to visit to learn more about faculty endowments and to consider the ways in which you can support Team MSU in this most important contest.

After all, a rich past is worth nothing without an investment in the future. Spartans Will.

Lou Anna K. Simon, PhD