With its twentieth president at the helm, Lou Anna K. Simon, Michigan State University has embarked upon global awareness and global engagement of faculty, staff and students as an institutional priority. To illustrate how MSU is entrenched in initiatives to make the Lansing region great globally, what better way to showcase MSU’s focus on global awareness and global engagement than to ask key leaders on MSU’s campus?
Lou Anna K. Simon
It all starts with the top leader at MSU, President Lou Anna K. Simon. She portrays the exceptional picture of knowledge, diversity and impact that MSU has on the global fabric in the area: “Our region’s strong claim to global knowledge economy competitiveness could be said to hark back to the 1880s, when Michigan State University enrolled its first foreign student. We blossomed into a globally engaged powerhouse in the post-war years and today host some 5,000 international students and more than 1,000 visiting international faculty. Those groups contribute probably $150 million annually to the local economy. Together with MSU’s nation-leading study abroad programs and its far-flung research and engagement enterprise, our international portfolio gives the Greater Lansing region a deep reservoir of international knowledge, networks and experiences so valuable in today’s global society.”
This global story continues appropriately with Kim Wilcox, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and his focus on global partnerships. Ringing true across campus, Provost Wilcox crystalizes the importance of global partnerships by saying that: “Michigan State University has worked over the years to develop long-term relationships with a broad range of partners around the world. As the university purposefully expands its international reach, we continue to focus on developing deep and sustaining partnerships. The value of these global partnerships extends beyond the MSU campus, into the Greater Lansing community and across Michigan.”
Vice President for Governmental Affairs Steven Webster centers squarely on the globally focused human knowledge assets in the region and MSU’s important place in being a provider of such assets. He says: “Michigan’s capital region maintains a special blend of strong Midwest values with a growing global focus. We’re becoming a younger, smarter, globally focused place, and the world is taking notice. Our university and colleges, major employers and small businesses are attracting smart people from around the country and the world; the area is building upon anchor institutions present in our communities for over a century, leveraging these assets to shape a globally competitive region. The region’s assets are at once diverse and complementary; this bodes well for the region’s long-term future, if we continue to align our goals and our resources to achieve those goals.”
What is interesting about our region is the influx of superb students and scholars from more than 130 countries annually. Two of MSU’s campus leaders provide thoughts on this, albeit from uniquely different perspectives. Dean of International Studies and Programs Jeff Riedinger says that: “For more than 50 years the Lansing region has annually welcomed thousands of international students and visiting international scholars who come to study and conduct research at Michigan State University. The community has similarly supported MSU’s efforts to create opportunities for our students to engage in study, research, internships, service learning and experiential learning abroad. In doing so, the community has helped us forge long-term partnerships to better understand and address some of the world’s most pressing problems relating to food, education, the environment and health, here in Michigan and around the globe.”
Peter Briggs, director of the office for international students and scholars, adds: “One special feature of Greater Lansing is the richness of the international diversity we have at MSU. The world is changing so quickly and Michiganders have an extraordinary opportunity to engage the world right here. Not every community has this access to a personalized global resource. Interactions with people from around the world can be personally and professionally transformational. The talent that comes to MSU is impressive and a high number of MSU’s international students and scholars have strong professional contacts in businesses in their countries. Our international students and scholars enjoy the opportunity to engage deeply in our community.”
Staying closer to home, Patricia Paulsell, co-director of the Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR), proudly discusses one of CLEAR’s programs as a way to illustrate the “globalness” of the region: “The Greater Lansing area provides the perfect environment to host World Languages Day, an annual event welcoming students, teachers and parents from the entire state for a celebration of languages and cultures. Primary purposes of the event are to strengthen global awareness in high school students, to provide an exciting opportunity to explore languages and cultures, particularly those less commonly taught, and to awaken interest in studying them.”
Across these quotations so far, the notion of inbound and outbound global engagement takes center stage for the betterment of the region. Such engagement has significant business implications, as illustrated by Stefanie Lenway, dean of the Eli Broad College of Business, who says: “Global engagement permeates the fabric of the Eli Broad College of Business as a reflection of the Greater Lansing region. Our commitment to preparing students for careers in the global economy involves increasing study abroad opportunities in every program we offer. The engagement of local companies in the global marketplace makes the Greater Lansing region unique in its skill set to tackle new, complex and challenging global opportunities. The global mindset of our faculty and students will contribute to the Greater Lansing region’s reputation as a globally focused entrepreneurial capital.”
With some 1,400 faculty members currently involved in international research, teaching and service projects in more than 170 countries, MSU continually strives to be a world leader spanning the vast diversity of its multitude of programs. Such global leadership is not only important for MSU transitioning from a land grant university to a university focused on being the “world grant ideal,” but it also has significant implications for the international competitiveness of our region.
For example, the Eli Broad School’s Michigan Export Growth Program (global.broad.msu.edu/megp), a pro bono program to assist the Greater Lansing region and Michigan become more competitive globally, is just one of myriad examples of MSU’s global outreach at home. Embracing the world grant ideal makes MSU a global leader worldwide and our region a global knowledge capital always ready for the global marketplace.