To Boldly Go…
MSU leaders re-examine progress and create new plan to lead MSU forward
MSU isn’t perfect.
Even MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon can attest to that.
But in the past academic year, Simon and other administrators have been mulling over ways to decide how to overcome some of the obstacles facing MSU.
To Simon and her predecessors, the key lies in being bold.
Boldness in terms of becoming one of the top land-grant universities in the world, enhancing the overall Spartan student experience and creating a healthy environment that is geared toward high performance.
President Lou Anna K. Simon speaks to The State News editorial board Jan. 31, 2013, at The State News. Simon spoke about issues relating to the university.
Since she took office in 2005, Simon has been working with administrators and the colleges to implement the university’s strategic framework, Boldness by Design, which has set five imperatives and guidelines to meet MSU’s aspirations.
But when the economic downturn of 2008 led to cuts university funding across the state, MSU experienced a budget decrease, academic restructuring and tuition hikes, leading administrators to redistribute MSU’s priorities.
As the economy turns around, Simon said it is time to re-evaluate where MSU stands in reaching its over-arching goals in research, academia and global outreach.
Hence, 2013’s Bolder by Design was born. The initiative updates MSU’s strategic framework for the next several years and implements a sixth imperative — for MSU to become a “better high-performing organization,” she said.
“Not cheap in a sense, but high performing. The idea would be, ‘How can we both be very demanding in terms of academic standards (and) at the same time, have that Disney-magical quality?’” Simon said. “So, when people interact with us in a consumer service way — in which, they think of the campus — we can create magic.”
The new framework still is in flux with much discussion to be had and initiatives to be finalized. But many at MSU are pleased MSU’s leaders are stepping back and taking another look at where the university stands on a local, national and global platform.
Within 2005’s Boldness by Design, MSU’s mission is to be “recognized worldwide as the leading land-grant research university in the United States,” by 2012.
According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities, MSU academically ranks within the top 100 universities internationally, settling in at 96 in 2012.
Although MSU is not number one, Acting Provost June Youatt said in many ways, the university is fulfilling this goal.
“There just aren’t many (universities) that are doing the range of things that we are doing and doing them all over the world,” Youatt said.
Youatt said MSU’s leading international programs also are noteworthy when competing against other universities.
According to the Office of Study Abroad in 2011-12, MSU had 303 programs in more than 60 countries with 2,380 student participants. MSU’s study abroad program ranks in the nation’s top 10 in terms of participation and international student enrollment, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual report on international education.
Dan Clay, the director of the global program in sustainable agri-food systems, said he has been a faculty member at MSU since 1987. Clay has witnessed MSU make its mark globally and agrees with the strategic guidelines.
“To me, Boldness by Design is … (becoming) an institution that is outward looking and willing to take on … some of the greatest challenges we face in the world — addressing issues of hunger and poverty around the world, issues like addressing climate change, boldly going after those and becoming international players in those domains,” Clay said.
Boldness to Bolder
Throughout the past eight years, Boldness by Design has helped guide MSU toward advancements including the residential neighborhood concept, research expansion with the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams and the implementation of the Energy Transition Plan.
Bolder by Design will continue these efforts and makes aim to establish a healthier and smoke-free campus and implementing new ways to use technology in the classrooms, among other things, Simon said.
“In Boldness by Design, was why we were founded and (what) the values and expectations of Michigan State (are),” Simon said. “To be good enough for the proudest and open to the poorest, and at the same time, be able to blend the theoretical and the practical.”
Last academic year, Simon said MSU wanted to get out of the “budget-reduction mentality” and return to focusing on what is most important in higher education. Bolder by Design is the framework to bridge this gap, she said.
Since 2006, the average incoming freshman’s GPA has remained at 3.61, the student to faculty ratio has fallen from 18:1 to 16:1 and the six-year graduation rate has increased from 74 to 77 percent, according to MSU’s Common Data Set 2012-13.
But to maintain these statistics and further MSU’s involvement, Simon recognized the need for re-evaluation and has set up conversations with colleges, asking their needs and concerns to figure out the best ways to continue forward.
Trustees Faylene Owen and George Perles are on board with Bolder by Design’s purpose, and Perles said he believes the plan will ensure MSU is on the right track.
“It doesn’t hurt to re-evaluate — that’s how we keep up with everything,” he said. “I’m just supportive of the president and the idea that she wants to get across.”
Simon said she will brief the plan at her State of the University speech on Feb. 12. The plan continuously is developing and does not have a set implementation date.
Where MSU wants to go
Although Boldness by Design has driven MSU forward in many ways, Simon said there are some areas where MSU is lacking.
The cut programs, slumped fundraising efforts and graduation rates for the bottom half of the class are all areas where MSU can improve, she said.
To her, Bolder by Design is the start of rethinking some of these issues and finding the best ways to overcome.
Evan Martinak, president of MSU’s undergraduate student government, ASMSU, attended an “open dialogue” session last Tuesday with Simon, administrators and other student leaders to discuss Bolder by Design.
He said they talked about efforts to increase admission rates, student body-diversity and of course, affordability — all in order to “enhance the student experience.”
“Talking about tuition hikes is the story,” Martinak said. “But the university has recognized that in order to stay competi tive, they are going to have to tap into alumni and donor dollars and … they have absolutely expanded that.”
Although many of the plan’s imperatives will not be noticed in the day-to-day life of a student, Martinak said by enriching MSU’s presence worldwide in areas of research, academics and outreach — all students will benefit.
Youatt said right now, the plan’s first steps of action are being arranged, but students potentially could experience its effects in the next one to three years.
“If we are really able to make the kind of transformational changes Bolder by Design calls for, really the entire campus will gain,” Youatt said. “We will be able to feel a different sense of energy on the campus as people get involved in some of these initiatives.”