September 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Peru: University Administration: MSU: The prepared text of the 2004 State of the University Address by MSU President Peter McPherson

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Peru: Special Report: MSU President and Peru RPCV Peter McPherson: September 30, 2004: Headlines: COS - Peru: University Administration: MSU: The prepared text of the 2004 State of the University Address by MSU President Peter McPherson

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The prepared text of the 2004 State of the University Address by MSU President Peter McPherson

The prepared text of the 2004 State of the University Address by MSU President Peter McPherson

The prepared text of the 2004 State of the University Address by MSU President Peter McPherson

Changing the World: The Revolution at 150

(The prepared text of the 2004 State of the University Address by MSU President Peter McPherson.)

Eleven days ago, the Michigan State University family gathered for a celebration of our heritage and our future. We formally began the celebration of our university’s sesquicentennial in the most appropriate way possible – dedicating a sculpture of the legendary 12th president of our university, John A. Hannah.

As was noted more than once on that Friday morning, a celebration of MSU’s first 150 years is also a celebration of 150 years of our nation’s grand experiment, the land-grant movement; indeed, the land-grant revolution. That historic movement began on this very campus. And it lives on where it began, inspired daily by revolutionaries like you.

Perhaps The State News headline tomorrow could read: “McPherson praises faculty revolutionaries.” It would be accurate.

Consider that before the land-grant college, American higher education was by the elite, and for the elite. But the land-grant college created what Oscar Clute – our first graduate to serve as president – called the “new order” of education in our nation. Our predecessors, who walked the same campus we walk, led the democratization of higher education in our land. What a noble heritage we have inherited. What an awesome responsibility we have assumed.

As I prepare to leave the MSU presidency, and appear before you in my final State of the University address, I proudly declare that at 150 years we have met that responsibility.

And I thank each and every one of you for keeping faith with the land-grant ideals and ideas that inspired a revolution.

Surely, the land-grant university stands today – as it did 150 years ago – as a symbol of a uniquely American commitment to access.But access is not an end but a beginning. Our commitment to access is matched by our commitment to quality. At Michigan State, we are elite. But we are not elitist. We are members of the Association of American Universities. Our faculty members are outstanding and engaged with students. Our research is cutting edge and impacting the world. Our outreach is engaged in meaningful problem-solving. Our record is elite. In so many ways, MSU is where excellence and service meet, where access and quality merge. For example, for the second consecutive year U.S. News and World Report has rated us the best public university in the Big Ten when it comes to value, where quality and access – in this case in terms of cost – intersect.

At its Sesquicentennial, the nation’s pioneer land-grant college stands among the most prestigious universities in the land. Even after “arriving,” though, we have never forgotten our roots. The principles we celebrate today are built upon the values that guided us in 1855. Our great university reflects a populist and progressive tradition, though we don’t often use those words. Today we speak of access and quality, intellectual capacity, and cutting-edge research. The lexicon might change, but the commitment does not. And the opportunity to impact our state, our nation, and our world is greater than ever.

That word “opportunity” has been a core value throughout our history. We were founded to provide opportunities to those historically unable to achieve higher education, to, as the Morrill Act signed by President Lincoln states, “promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes.”One of our Guiding Principles remains, quite literally, “access to quality education and expert knowledge.”

Today, more than 16 percent of our students are members of minority groups. Our commitment goes beyond admission – extending to retention and graduation as well. The College Admission Achievement Program (CAAP), where socio-economic status is considered, now enrolls 1,800 students. Of this group, 85 percent are minorities, and we have an increasing effort geared toward students in rural communities. We have made outstanding progress when it comes to access – and our commitment to improving is unshakable.

We have dramatically expanded the concept of access and opportunity in truly remarkable ways. Our instruction…our research…our outreach all are accessible globally. Today, in part because of our technology and always because of our commitment, the democratization of MSU-generated knowledge extends around the globe.

Beaumont Tower sits on the site of Old College Hall – the first building built on any campus for the scientific study of agriculture.Our first president, Joseph Williams, said, “A farmer should be a chemist. A farmer should receive instruction in the veterinary art, entomology, and the principles of natural philosophy.” Now that was an understanding of integrated learning!

Our “scientific study,” which began so humbly, continues to serve and improve the quality of lives through its application. We also take great pride in our 21st century capacity to do basic research that helpsanswer fundamental questions of the universe. Hybrid corn. Cisplatin. Homogenized milk. The first vaccine for Marek’s disease. They’re ALL part of our distinguished history. And contemporary MSU researchers continue the tradition.

Last week, in a historic announcement, an international consortium released the first complete DNA sequence of a tree – the black cottonwood or poplar, one of the most ecologically and commercially important group of trees in North America. MSU scientists made significant contributions to this widely acclaimed Poplar Genome Project.

Imagine those agricultural researchers at President Williams’ college 150 years ago conducting their research out in the forest. Today, their successors in East Lansing, in labs with equipment and technologies those early researchers couldn’t imagine, participate in international sharing of data that will provide humankind with ways to develop healthier, faster-growing trees.

* From the frontiers of nuclear physics research to the frontiers of composite material development…at 150 years, MSU is there.

* From improving the scholarship of teaching to improving food safety…MSU is there.

* From the study of mathematics and science education in 51 countries to the study of the Amazon rain forest…MSU is there.

* From an international online resource center for humanities education to developing microbes that degrade toxic waste…MSU is there.

* From the soils of Michigan farms to the galaxies explored with the SOAR Telescope…MSU is there.

It is important to note that no matter how widely shared our research findings and no matter how many miles away the research is conducted, there always is a connection to the state of Michigan. The same faculty expertise that led to understanding climate change in the Amazon rain forest is applied to our understanding of Michigan’s lake shores. And vice versa. Images from the SOAR Telescope on a mountain in Chile are immediately available to Michigan citizens in a room in our Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building. MSU research that developed pest-resistant potatoes in distant countries also serves Michigan farmers.

Coupled with our dedication to sharing of research is our passion for public service. Our intellectual capital is our most prized export; it is our greatest contribution to the world. On township councils and in the U.S. Senate, in the Upper Peninsula and in Africa, in the PTA and in the Peace Corps, our alumni serve – and always have – in leadership positions.

Today’s students, educated at MSU to believe the world is their campus, graduate with the knowledge that the world will be their workplace. Right now, nearly 8,000

people with degrees from Michigan State live and work outside the United States. That number will grow significantly in the years ahead. That is why our national leadership in study abroad is so important.

We have more undergraduates studying abroad than any other university. Last year more than 2,000 students studied in 64 countries on all continents, a 21 percent increase over the previous year. Despite the impact of 9-11, we should be able to reach our target of 40 percent participation near our 2006 target.

Study abroad has become an integrated component of the MSU experience. It will not be long before we can say that MOST MSU students will have such an experience during their undergraduate years.

Peter McGrath, president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, has said, “Michigan State is a model and inspiration for the international public service role of our nation’s universities.”

May that ever be so.

I became president of MSU 11 years ago. As I prepare to leave, let me take a moment to share with you 10 challenges for higher education, especially for land-grant universities. These are challenges and imperatives, I am proud to say, that MSU is poised to meet.

First, is the challenge of success. Success inherently brings with it issues and opportunities. With achievement comes obligation. For example, in recent years we have welcomed freshman classes with very impressive high school GPA’s and test scores. But in our success in becoming more selective, we have maintained our commitment to access. We have remained a university that, as Lou Anna Simon says, “Creates as well as selects winners.” The challenge to remain this kind of university will grow even more demanding, as we become more selective.

Our success in attracting top-level students with top GPAs and test scores must be matched by our success in remaining accessible to “winners” who might not have the quantitative credentials at application time. Surely, achievement drives admissions – and it should. But we must be open to defining achievement in a broad sense – including evidence of drive, leadership, and persistence. We know there is clear evidence of the relationship between high school academic records and socio-economic status. We, like MIT and some others, have never OPENED doors because of legacy. Our heritage demands that we not CLOSE doors to potential winners. And I believe that there is educational value in having socio-economic diversity, as well as diversity in terms of race and nationality.

We have a related challenge: the challenge of effective management in time of success. Reputational success demands that our management approaches and financial stewardship be efficient, fair, technologically sound, and demanding. Cost-cutting in hard economic times has to protect our quality and our mission. More importantly, it has to enhance our quality and our mission. Over the years we have managed our finances well. For example, we make no commitments to new, recurring projects without a projected cash flow to cover them. We allow no new construction without either having the funds in hand or identifying the future cash flow from sources other than state appropriations or tuition. We have put MSU in a position to handle an economic downturn much better than in previous times, like the early 1980s. We have been efficient and effective in our cash management and return on investment.

Next is the challenge to listen. We must never separate ourselves from the people who have entrusted MSU to us. The land-grant university always has been the “relevant” university. Relevance demands that we be a part of – not apart from – those we serve. The voice of the people must be heard and learned from on issues from affordability to program requirements, from student behavior to technology transfer, from praise to criticism.

We must honor and respect the wishes, aspirations, values, and expectations of the people we serve – the citizens of Michigan, from Marquette to Monroe, from Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. They proudly declare ownership of MSU, and they look to us as stewards of THEIR university. We seek and need their support, and they have been there for us – as supporters, not as micro-managers – time and again.

Next is the challenge to truly educate the citizens of the 21st century. I want us to recommit Michigan State to the education of our students beyond professional preparation. We have been leaders in this endeavor. At the

base of the new John Hannah statue are these words he spoke at the 1961 National Conference on General Education: “If educators are agreed on any thing it is that the fundamental purpose of education is to prepare young people to be good citizens.” That fundamental purpose must never be relegated to a secondary priority on any American college campus, and surely not on this campus. I call upon us all to recommit MSU to that mission.

Another is the challenge of MSU’s global imperative. In this talk I have emphasized our international heritage and our global role. I firmly believe that when it comes to positioning MSU for the future, we must focus on that tradition. In our recruitment of faculty and students, in our quest for research dollars, and in our reputation – Building, this competitive advantage will be increasingly important. For example, in Africa – where progress has been difficult – MSU stands ready to truly make a major difference. Our expertise and our commitment there are second to none.

At its 150th anniversary, MSU is addressing problems and needs of people around the world. Imagine our potential global impact at our bicentennial. But I am concerned, frankly, that challenges at home – from shrinking appropriations to campus issues to discipline-related pressures – can lure the academy inward.

The result would be a campus focus on the local at the expense of the global. Intellectual isolationism must not take hold, no matter what pressures present themselves. My experience last year in Iraq, and my return to the campus, have convinced me that now more than ever higher education must look beyond borders – literally and figuratively. We must resist the enticements of isolationism and provincialism in any forms.

I commend and support efforts such as those in the College of Social Science, where considerations are focusing on how study abroad and other external experiences can be built into graduation requirements.

We have a challenge to plan creatively, at times with risk, resisting calls for play-it-safe caution. At MSU, we are the beneficiaries of innovate risk-takers. Consider the risk John Hannah took when he built the largest on-campus residential complex.

When he brought a superconducting cyclotron to a campus unfamiliar with the possibilities. When on a Midwestern campus he named higher education’s very first dean of international programs.

Aspirations for Big Ten and AAU membership…Ammunition storehouses converted to classrooms…A School of Packaging…Bringing an independent law school to the campus – MSU has dared to change, to dream big, and to be distinctive. We did not achieve prominence by playing it safe. We will not maintain prominence by avoiding risk.

In this spirit, and with due diligence, we are looking at medical education and health care delivery for the entire state in bold new ways. We have been exploring an expanded presence of our College of Human Medicine in West Michigan. As we all know, there has been much controversy and public analysis. But I want to make it clear.

Our decisions will be more about state history than state geography – because, as our Board of Trustees and others have said, the possibilities are truly historic. Yes, we explore the possibilities with some risk. But it would be a far greater risk for the people of Michigan if we played it safe and failed to pursue historic progress in medical education, research, and health-care delivery.

We also seek to bring a Rare Isotope Accelerator to MSU. Again we are risk-takers, with heavy odds against us, in the minds of some. But like so many other chapters in our history, the quest for RIA is about excellence, about innovation, and about the future.

For the state of Michigan, RIA presents a new paradigm, based upon intellectual capital. And for the world, it presents a university-based approach to answering monumental questions – nothing less than answering questions about the very origin of the universe. RIA belongs at MSU. The expertise is here. The commitment is here. The vision is here. And the track record is here.

At MSU we are especially prepared to meet the challenge to integrate our learning. We must value MSU’s distinct – maybe even unique – commitment to interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches to education and research. This MSU distinction will elevate us in the next 50 years. For example, our Environmental Science and Policy Program brings together faculty from nine colleges to create an environment of flexibility, creativity, and knowledge derived from diverse academic areas. We must remain committed to such approaches; our reputation in the long run will be enhanced significantly, I am certain.

I predict that one of the most dramatic changes in American higher education over the next half-century will be a realignment of disciplines and a move toward integrating disciplines. And again, all eyes will turn toward the pioneer…in East Lansing, Michigan.

Our nation’s public universities, and indeed this nation itself, must never lose sight of the challenge to excel. We must nurture and support excellence. Like in our $1.2 billion capital campaign, private support will more and more be a part of this quest. But public disinvestment in higher education must be forcefully challenged in the years ahead. The land-grant revolution itself…the GI Bill…the space race…Pell Grants…cancer research…cooperative extension…genome research…and so much more.

The record is clear: public support for higher education has been this country’s best investment in its future.

The land-grant revolution began because risk takers predicted that higher education could improve society as a whole, not only individuals. History has proven those risk takers to be visionaries. And there is no better evidence of that than right here…at the place where it all began.

Then, there is the challenge of engagement. In pursuit of reputational excellence we must not seek prestige at the expense of engagement…engagement with people, with problems, and with opportunities. At MSU, we are CONNECTED to society in very real and pragmatic ways. We are engaged in real- world problems, problems that demand our most sophisticated and technologically advanced approaches. Our strength over time – from criminal justice to biotechnology – has derived from knowing problems… analyzing problems…seeking solutions…and applying solutions. Lofty status does NOT mean we are higher above society’s problems.

Finally, there is the challenge of resources. This challenge, of course, is related to all the others, because it impacts access, quality, engagement, and every other issue before us. And it goes beyond public disinvestment, although that challenge is central. I do not want this challenge to excellence to become a THREAT to excellence. But that potential is real. It is a threat I ponder daily. We have addressed affordability and resource allocation here is so many effective ways, from the Tuition Guarantee to cash management. But in a world where education and health-care costs are the fastest-growing, we will not be able to “cash manage” our way to future excellence. I am so proud of this community’s response to our capital campaign. It shows a commitment and a love for this university by the people who know it best. But we will not be able to look to private dollars ALONE to get us there. And we will not soon see a reversal in a dramatic state disinvestment trend. We cannot assume that current approaches will be enough. For example, how we use technology to deliver instruction must be looked at in new ways – yes, in REVOLUTIONARY ways.

Fifty years from now, at Michigan State’s bicentennial, I hope the community looks back on 2005-2055 as years when MSU enhanced its excellence.

When MSU enhanced its global reach.

When MSU continued to lead the way in assuring access and opportunity.

When MSU continued to be THE pioneering land-grant college.

When MSU continued to lead the revolution.

I have every confidence that will be the case. Because I have every confidence that you and your successors will “Advance knowledge and transform lives” the MSU Way. Thank you very much for the honor of serving as your president. Joanne and I will forever cherish these past 11 years. You have helped to advance our knowledge. You have transformed our lives.

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