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Executive Summary

This strategic plan builds upon a decade of growth and success in providing world-class education, research, and outreach and engagement benefiting Michigan, the nation and people around the globe. That decade flows from a storied history, strengths built over time, and the unique character of the Spartan community, known for its collaborative, innovative spirit and determination to make a difference. But great institutions never stand still. And neither will we. Our trajectory is positive, and our will is legendary. We can and will achieve more in the decade ahead. The needs we were built to serve demand no less.

Between 2010 and 2020, we grew from 47,278 to 49,809 students while improving student graduation rates from 77% to 81% and closing graduation gaps. The graduation rate for Hispanic/Latinx students increased 10 percentage points, and graduation rates for African American/Black students increased 8 percentage points. These are positive trends, but we are committed to doing more. Graduation rates for African American/Black students still lagged the average by 18 percentage points in 2020 and Hispanic/Latinx students were 9 points below the average. While the 2020 graduation rate for American Indian/Alaska Native students was 81%, previous years have fallen significantly short of this percentage and been highly variable due to a small number of students enrolled (ranging between 41% and 71% between 2016 and 2019). The graduation rate for Asian students was 87% in 2020, 6 percentage points above the average.

We must continue striving to ensure we are an engine of opportunity for every student admitted to MSU and that each learns, thrives and graduates. We will focus investment on effective student support systems, particularly for first- and second-year students, to put them on a positive trajectory toward graduation. This includes comprehensive and seamless advising from admission through graduation, redesigning gateway introductory courses to ensure strong learning to launch students’ academic careers and providing comprehensive, holistic support for students’ physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.

The past decade saw our total research expenditures rise from $431 million to nearly $726 million in 2019. MSU now ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 2 nationally in expenditures from the U.S. Department of Energy and No. 2 in the Big Ten and No. 9 nationally in expenditures from the National Science Foundation. Our research, scholarship and creative endeavors generate new knowledge to address the most complex societal problems and lay the groundwork for future generations to tackle the yet-to-be-known challenges of tomorrow. To continue to lead, we must aggressively pursue external resources and partnerships that give us the platforms necessary to develop solutions to the big problems that confront us globally. We will elevate visibility of the arts at MSU, enriching the student experience and deepening learning with opportunities for creative expression and engagement with cultural experiences. We will seek like-minded partners to expand our scope and reach, support multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary grant proposals that span the sciences, arts and humanities, and forge new partnerships with industry to commercialize MSU inventions and enhance economic impact.

During the past 10 years, we also continued to invest in community partnerships both near and far, expanding academic program offerings, research opportunities and outreach and engagement efforts in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids and through our membership in the Alliance for African Partnership. Building on the strengths of these efforts and MSU’s more than 100-year legacy of work through Extension, which works in every county in Michigan, we will continue to support initiatives that produce problem-based solutions in real-world contexts at the regional, national and international levels, working in partnership with those communities most affected. We have a unique opportunity to build upon our strengths across health, business, education, communications, the sciences and the arts to enhance quality of life for people by improving health and the systems that affect health, specifically by addressing disparities in access and quality of health care.

Underpinning our work in each of the aforementioned areas is a commitment to people. We must continue to build a campus environment that is vibrant, welcoming, respectful and safe for all and supports individuals in conducting their best work. Diversity of thought and ideas is a prerequisite for tackling the great societal challenges we face, and an inclusive and equitable campus culture where we foster an ethical framework for teaching, learning and leading is necessary to ensure that diversity of thought is celebrated and heard. By investing in mentoring as well as professional, career and leadership development, we can make MSU a workplace of choice that supports an innovative, creative and diverse faculty and staff.

Our progress over the past decade has been supported through careful institutional stewardship of resources as well as the generosity and support of our alumni, supporters and friends who donated more than $1.8 billion during the Empower Extraordinary campaign. To achieve our aspirations, we must provide exemplary stewardship of institutional resources to foster the long-term sustainability of MSU. This includes aligning our fiscal, physical, technological and human resources through comprehensive Financial and Budget, Facilities and Land Use, and Sustainable Information Technology plans, along with launching our next capital campaign to provide the margin of excellence necessary to remain a leading global research university making a significant difference in the lives of the citizens of Michigan and addressing critical issues for people everywhere, today and tomorrow.

Finally, the past decade has been marked with challenges. As an institution, we have reflected deeply, learned, and become better and stronger today. We have committed to continue to listen and learn from our students, faculty, staff and all stakeholders in all aspects of our mission and operations. The strategic plan and its implementation provide an avenue to structure continued engagement around the university’s priorities.

Impact for Michigan

MSU is often called Michigan’s State University, and for good reason.

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