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March 29, 2023

Podcast: Academics, athletics and the arts bring Spartans together

March 2023 Spartan Community Letter with Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.

Show notes

Michigan State University Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff elaborates on topics she covers in her March 2023 Spartan Community Letter, which you can read by clicking on the communications tab at

Academics, athletics and the arts are all important parts of the university experience. This month they brought Spartans together to cheer, to celebrate excellence and to heal.

Congratulations are in order for John A. Hannah Distinguished Professor Felicia Wu, appointed by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to the Michigan Commission of Agriculture and Rural Development for a term running through 2026.

“She is one of those that we're cheering this month. Professor Wu really is so humble but is really helping all of us to support Michigan's agricultural mission and bringing what we do at MSU to the community in important ways.”

You had a fun opportunity to honor the dedicated professionalism of our educators leading our classrooms like Professor Susan Masten of the College of Engineering, who's the recipient of this year's President's Distinguished Teaching Award. You surprised her with the award.

“I did, and her class. We got to kind of burst in. The class was as surprised as was she. But she not only got the 2023 President's Teaching Award this month, she also received the 2023 MSU Community Engagement Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2023 College of Engineering Sustained Excellence in Diversity Award. She's a powerhouse. Professors like Dr. Masten are really those who are elevating our academics every single day.”

Our Mr. MSU Tom Izzo set another record this year being the first person to take his team to 25 straight Big Dances.

“He's been amazing for us and has lifted all of us up, not just for 25 years, but most particularly in the last six or seven weeks where he's really been the heartbeat for a lot of us and said the right things at the right time. It was really thrilling to watch him help our student athletes and navigate them towards this NCAA Tournament, which was really thrilling right down to the last overtime period buzzer. It was really exciting.”

Sadly, though, Suzy Merchant had to call it a career due to some health issues.

“Tom and I were at every women's basketball game starting from when I first arrived and right up to her last game. We recognize her legacy. I'm sure it was a difficult decision to retire after 16 seasons, but I just really celebrate her and the way she also guided our student athletes. I really wish her all the best as she continues in her profession and career.”

Another MSU squad continues an illustrious record of national tournament competition this month. They're on their way to the National Debate Tournament in Virginia. Spartan debaters have qualified for the tournament for 27 consecutive years, and they've won it three times.

“That's the resonance. If we talk about academic excellence and athletics, 27 consecutive years for our debate team is really a national record and a cherished one here at MSU and beyond. I really look forward to seeing what happens when our debate team goes down to Chantilly, Virginia, beginning this Friday for this next run that they have in the national tournament.”

We continue to address campus safety in the wake of the violence our campus community experienced on February 13th. What would you like to update us on today on our collective healing?

“One of the things that's so important, Russ, is that arts can really help us reclaim ourselves and our campus. So together with that action, I really encourage everyone to join together in community. One of the things that I've had a chance to go through is the new installation at the International Center. There's a series of folded paper butterflies that bring the kind of message we need. It elevates and sores and helps us to be inspired by each other. From that to our Wharton Center to the Broad Art Museum and the MSU Museum, our collection in arts really help bring us together as a community. They knit us together, and they elevate us and help us to lift up our eyes a little bit further.”

Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar Bennett and his team recently released the 2022-23 Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Report. What are some of the highlights from the report you'd like to share today?

“We have the University Strategic Plan, the DEI Plan, and the RVSM Plan. To me, that interoperability between those three plans is what sets MSU apart. With this annual report, what we all learned is there were 270 action plans that the community brought forward that they really saw this university needing in order to achieve our welcoming and safe campus ethos. About half of those action items have been accomplished and/or are in progress, and that's really exciting. That shows that over time we continue to work towards what everyone believes is the positive impact. That's on recruitment and on retention at the student and faculty, and employee levels. I just urge everybody to click on that report, and I think you'll be as inspired as I was.”

Spartans helped us further support the success of our students in March through their generosity on Give Green Day. That's our annual fundraising event supporting students. Our new Spartan Strong Fund was well-supported by the Spartan community too.

“I'm so thrilled for the ways in which our community supports our students. Our regional clubs raised $120,000 for scholarships, which is really remarkable. Then our MSU faculty, staff, and retirees contributed more than $157,000 to various funds. That is up about seven and a half percent year over year, and that just shows the generosity and the value that all of us place on MSU. The Spartan Strong Fund, which is to enable the restoration of healing for our students who are most affected, that total is about $900,000 at this point. I think that just really demonstrates, again, the generosity of the entire Spartan community as they wrap their arms around all of us as we continue to heal.

“We're all cheering excellence. We're cheering success for our student athletes. We're cheering success for our debaters. We're cheering on everyone as they continue to reclaim our campus. My hope is that as we continue this long walk together, we know that we're a community and we can support each other in each of the ways we talked about today, Russ.”

Find and follow President Woodruff on InstagramFacebook and LinkedIn.

Listen to MSU Today with Russ White on the radio and on SpotifyApple Podcasts, and wherever you get your shows.

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