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President's Perspective

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


            We’ve been taking stock of Michigan State’s assets lately, figuring out how best to deploy them on behalf of our stakeholders, and it’s clear that the most valuable one we have is our knowledge.

            People sometimes think about the knowledge they get as part of higher education as a commodity, a return on a personal investment that students make in order to achieve future personal gain. And that’s certainly a part of what we offer. We promise our students that the value of a degree earned at MSU will continue to increase over the years.

            But one of the things that makes a land-grant university like Michigan State unique is our connection to society and how we put our knowledge to work on behalf of the public good. Many among the public have lost sight of how universities—particularly land-grant universities—have a covenant with society to contribute to the public good.

            Reinvigorating that covenant is a vital part of what we’re doing these days, working with public and private partners in Michigan, across the nation and around the world to find ways to really jump-start economic growth in the state, and using Michigan State knowledge, research and resources as catalysts to spark the state’s economy.

            Economic growth has been part of MSU’s mission since the beginning. The teaching of scientific agriculture is an essential part of the foundation of what has become a $55 billion agricultural economy here in Michigan. Today, we’re looking for new ways to leverage the knowledge MSU generates through an array of priority research thrusts—including health and biomedical research; pharmaceuticals; foundational chemicals; nanotechnology; environmental science and policy; homeland security; family and community; and renewable resources—to meet the needs of the 21st century. 

            We share that cutting-edge research with partners and constituents who, in turn, will develop the new technologies, new products, new businesses and the new industries, that will create the new jobs. So it’s no exaggeration to say that the face of the knowledge-based workforce of tomorrow is the face of MSU’s student body today. 

            As the state’s land-grant university, MSU has a presence in every community in the state, with partnerships across the country and around the world—a powerful network that can fully deploy both MSU’s and Michigan’s resources and assets. We know that many of our areas of expertise will directly impact the development of our economy. And we remain agile and flexible so we not only can respond to the needs of today, but also anticipate the needs of tomorrow.

            Knowledge by itself is of little value. You have to put it to work. That’s why at Michigan State we’re working to leverage our knowledge in new ways that will benefit the people we serve, getting it out into the communities and into the hands of entrepreneurs. But being an engine for economic development and working to improve quality of life isn’t anything new to us—we’ve been doing it for 150 years. And there’s plenty more to do.

            Lou Anna K. Simon

            President, Michigan State University