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April 26, 2023

Podcast: 'I love this time of year'

In the April 2023 Spartan community letter, Michigan State University Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., reflects on commencement and the university's healing

Show notes

Michigan State University Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., joins MSUToday to elaborate on some of the topics she covers in her April 2023 Spartan Community Letter, which you can read by clicking on the communications tab at

“I love this time of year. Commencement is really one of my favorite days of the year. I'm excited for each of our students as they walk through that line and put on their gowns of green. It's a beautiful resplendent color, and they are beautiful and resplendent in it.”

More than 200 of our students will graduate with perfect 4.0 grade point averages. That excellence is amazing and is supported by our world-class faculty and staff. Even U.S. News & World Report continues to notice our excellence.

“We've got four programs that are ranked number one, and over 25 in the top registers of the U.S. News & World Report rankings. We're really pleased with the way in which our faculty achieve their excellence. That, in turn, creates the right environment for our students.”

Honors College Junior Victoria Fex is our 53rd Goldwater Scholar.

“That's something to celebrate. This is a place where our students really succeed, and then we see them excelling in these nationally competitive programs. I couldn't be more excited for Victoria, and certainly proud of MSU for its legacy and what it does to enable these students' success.”

Another Spartan was honored for his service and engagement with his selection as a 2023-24 Newman Civic Fellow by Compass Compact. That's Jai Kozar-Lewis. He's a supply chain management first-year student.

“This is part of the secret to Michigan State. Our students, like our faculty and employees, are always about learning, but also about giving. He's all about providing his knowledge and expertise in environmental issues across communities. That's the way in which we have outreach with impact. That's what Jai represents.”

Congratulations to the 25 exceptional undergraduate and graduate students and alumni selected for the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

“Our graduate students and undergraduates are exceptional. The National Science Foundation selects those who are the most outstanding across the United States. This is highly competitive for our students in the sciences, technologies, engineering and mathematic disciplines. These students will now be enabled to pursue their masters and doctorates. I look forward to supporting these students as they continue their pathway toward those advanced degrees.”

Excellence is also a priority in the field of competition among Spartan student-athletes. We recently welcomed a new head coach for women’s basketball. It's Okemos native Robyn Fralick.

“I've had a chance to meet Robyn. She came in and immediately started recruiting. I've had the chance to chat with her a couple of times. She's really terrific. She and her young family are here. Just immediately I think it felt like home. I think she's going to do a great job for Michigan State.”

New facilities go a long way in supporting our excellence. Among many projects, we had two important groundbreakings recently, the addition to the School of Packaging and our freestanding Multicultural Center.

“This is a time of real extraordinary advances across this campus. The School of Packaging is number one in the nation and the only school that has a Ph.D. program in packaging. We were able to cut the ribbon with a group of donors and industry leaders. If you go across any industry around the globe that is the in top 100 in packaging, they are led by Spartans. I'm so proud of the way in which Matt Daum, who is the director of that school, has led our packaging program. He’s also a great alum. The Multicultural Center, boy, the roof was blown off the tent top for that event. We filled the place with folks who were just so excited to be a part of the future of Michigan State through this new Multicultural Center. I'm excited for where Michigan State has been, and most importantly, the fulcrum towards where it's going as it will be represented in this building.”

Earth Day is just behind us. You have a key new hire in our new director of sustainability, Chip Amoe.

“Melissa Woo and her team looked nationally for our new director of sustainability. Chip is the real deal. He's going to come in and not only move us forward on the trajectory we were, but I suspect really move that upwards. He is someone who has had long-standing excellence in sustainability. Our folks are really excited about having him here. I'm thrilled that he's joining us. I think you know that we all talk about the Spartan Green in our sustainability efforts. He is already green through and through, so we're really advantaged by his presence.”

Have you had a chance yet to see the wonderful exhibit that Devon Akmon and his team have opened this month at the MSU Museum? It's a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution.

“It's special, not only with the Smithsonian, but also with the Audubon. I was able to meet several of our board members from the Smithsonian Institute who just have extraordinary praise for Michigan State and our museum and for Devon and the way in which we are representing to the broadest group of people the opportunity to join us in learning more, like in Knowing Nature. This was really about the boreal forest. There are billions of birds that migrate largely at night. These boreal forests are necessary for that habitat.

“Going to that exhibit will allow you to learn a lot more, as I did, about this part of our ecosystem. This is the starting point for this exhibit that's then going to travel from here. And with the new assets that we build for accessibility, which is something Michigan State is absolutely committed to, we’re going to add value to that program. I know the Smithsonian and the Audubon directors are really thrilled. We're excited about that exhibit.”

As Spartan Nation continues to reflect and heal from the violence we experienced on February 13th, you've created a temporary Office for Resource and Support Coordination. Tell us about that and your continued reflections as we heal.

“I want to send my thoughts out to everyone who is continuing to grieve in their own way on this, what we call the long walk forward. We're on a different pace but on the same path. We're going to get there together. Part of what we're hoping to do is to enable folks to be able to move forward, particularly those most affected in that violent event on February 13th. That's going to be coordinated through the Office for Resource and Support Coordination. I just ask all Spartans to be thoughtful and lift up those students and their families, and the office will be helpful in that.

“We also have an independent after-action review group that we've identified, Security Risk Management Consultants. We went through a formal RFP process to identify the right group for Michigan State. I'm really persuaded particularly by the fact that they're led by someone who was a head of campus police and who understands our size and scope to come in and help us really think through the ways in which we can continue to work towards our ideal of a welcoming and safe environment.”

What else are you reflecting on this month?

“I reflect on the word commencement and to commence. It maybe should be called the accomplishment for some people, but it's called a commencement because we're commencing a new phase of our life after completing these degrees. As we move that tassel across, or some of our students are hooded with that doctoral hood, I really think it's a moment to think about the journey that we've all been on. For students who've been here four or five or six years, there's been a lot in their baskets as they've walked this MSU path. They are stronger and more resilient as a consequence.

“Of course, for us, we wish we could have taken those buckets from them. We wish their baskets were not quite as full. But as I think beyond the commencement and the graduation exercises for each of our colleges, those students are ready for both what is expected as a part of accomplishing their degree, but more importantly, they're ready for the unexpected. That is going to allow for a better world any place a Spartan is. I'm looking forward to thinking about that as I shake 9,500 hands. I'm committed to it. I love each moment as the students come and as they approach the dais as one person and as they leave the dais as a new graduate on their way to something else. That's really where my mind is focused. I'm excited for this moment.”

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