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Feb. 23, 2022

Podcast: Reflecting on 167 years of making a difference

President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. elaborates on topics he discusses in his February 2022 Spartan Community Letter.

This month Michigan State University marked the 167 year since its establishment by the State of Michigan. From the 63 students, five faculty members and three buildings on campus when we opened our doors in May 1857, we now enroll almost 50,000 students, boast 5,700 faculty and academic staff and 564 campus buildings. 

“These kinds of anniversaries are helpful in allowing us to take stock of where we're going as an institution,” Stanley says. “The founders would be very pleased with what they saw from Michigan State today. We’re a top-100 ranked global university with half a million degreed Spartans who bleed green in our alumni network around the world. And all 83 counties in Michigan are being served by MSU. Those who envisioned this land grant mission would see it fulfilled on the state level as they wanted, but they would also see the impact MSU has on the national and international level as well through our work. We're taking the mission and working exponentially to expand it to be an institution that touches peoples' lives in so many different dimensions in so many ways.”

President Stanley talks about recognition for MSU faculty from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. 

“We have outstanding faculty who are really the lifeblood of what we do at MSU.”

MSU has a new dean of our renowned Lyman Briggs residential college in the sciences, Kendra Spence Cheruvelil, who has served as interim Dean of Lyman Briggs College since December 2020. 

“Dean Cheruvelil has really made a difference in her interim time and there was extraordinary support in Lyman Briggs for her elevation to the role of dean. She's very much deserving of that. She's an internationally recognized ecology researcher who's an expert on lakes and bodies of water around this area and does tremendous work in analyzing their vibrancy and health. Water is so important to Michigan State, so to have someone who's an expert in that is important.

“The residential colleges are a unique aspect of what we do, and they really allow students to experience the kind of small college experience that people can find very valuable. It's not for everybody, but it's an opportunity to be on campus and live with some of your faculty and instructors and fellow students who are interested in the same major. 

“James Madison, Lyman Briggs, and the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities allow this kind of coming together to occur and allow for a more intense educational experience. You can have a great educational experience at MSU without doing a residential college. You can create your own kind of nooks of knowledge and leadership with your roommates and people you want to live with who may share common interests. Those options are always available, too. 

President Stanley talks about the transition in the head coaching position for MSU Volleyball.

“Cathy George was such a pioneer in women's sports, and we must put this in the context of all the ways in which she contributed as the first woman coach to take a team to the NCAA tournament in volleyball. Leah Johnson comes to us from Illinois State University, a Division I school where during her five seasons there, her team made five postseason tournaments, including four straight NCAA tournaments. That's where we want to be. As I think about our Michigan State teams, we want to compete for championships, and we believe we can. Coach Johnson has really shown her capabilities, and we look forward to her first season in the fall.”

Give Green Day is Tuesday, March 15, when Spartans come together to support our students through a wide range of impactful programs. It's a chance for all of us to make a big difference in the space of 24 hours. is the place to go. Talk a bit about the important contributions to MSU's excellence that our donors make.

“They are so important, Russ, and philanthropy is really the margin of excellence. I had a chance to attend with our students some alumni events over the weekend and hear their inspirational stories. The way they talked about the way in which Michigan State University has changed their lives and helped change the lives of their families and their siblings and everyone they know was extraordinary. These are all people who are committed to doing something to help their communities going forward. They're in different areas, but all related to science. They're all students who did research, but what they talked about at MSU was opportunity. They said very few institutions provided the opportunity to allow them to fulfill their dreams, and MSU did that.

“They also had financial support to do this; all of them were recipients of scholarships. The scholarships that donors provide to our students and grant support for our faculty translates into changing lives and impact that goes far beyond just that gift. There's really a tremendous effect that comes from peoples' willingness to donate. This day is a chance to make a big difference in a mere 24 hours. I encourage everybody to participate. I appreciate all the giving that people are doing already, but this is a time to step up a little bit and make a difference in a student's or a faculty member's time at MSU.”

President Stanley reflects on Black History Month, and in circling back to the first topic in our conversation adds “We've had 167 years now to make a difference, and we continue to do it every day. I thank everybody who's a part of it at Michigan State. We're going to continue to push the limits and make our state a better place to be.”

Read President Stanley’s Spartan Community letter by clicking on the communications tab at And as President Stanley said, there are links to more information throughout the letter on everything we've been talking about. You can also keep up with President Stanley on Instagram @msupresstanley. 

MSU Today airs Sunday mornings at 9:00 on WKAR News/Talk and Sunday nights at 8:00 on 760 WJR. Find, rate, and subscribe to MSU Today with Russ White on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.

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