It is not possible to step twice into the same river according to Heraclitus, or to come into contact twice with a mortal being in the same state. (Plutarch)
With great enthusiasm, I will take office as the interim Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education (APUE) and Dean of Undergraduate Studies on September 1, 2018. I am inheriting an amazing team that Dr. R. Sekhar Chivukula has assembled in APUE, valuable partnerships across campus, and an increasingly reform-minded campus culture. Combined, these things are helping us reshape MSU, and I am deeply appreciative of Dr. Chivukula’s leadership in APUE and across many student success efforts.
As Heraclitus told us long ago, the world is constantly changing and so are we, particularly because we are coming back to campus after the worst crisis in MSU’s history. The 2017-18 academic year was a time of reckoning, soul-searching, guilt, and frustration for Spartans. Along with other deans at MSU, I have committed myself to keeping the lessons of the crisis in front of us, to help interrogate and redress all unjust structures, and to help create a culture of shared, empathetic leadership at MSU.
This fall we are welcoming the largest and most diverse group of first-year students in MSU’s history. They begin college just as many of our efforts to remove barriers to student learning and success are beginning to show positive results, particularly our work with the MSU Colleges and the Neighborhood Student Success Collaborative (NSSC). Math reform is a fine example. For generations of MSU students, MTH 1825 was a barrier to success. In recent years, the College of Engineering's Engineering and Science Success Academy (ESSA) and a cross-college collaboration on the Dow STEM Program set examples for addressing the math learning needs of STEM students who placed into MTH 103 or 103A (ESSA) or MTH 1825 (Dow STEM), with high percentages of program participants advancing one or more math classes before the start of their first year. Many more MSU students will now benefit from the reformed gateway mathematics courses, which will eliminate the troublesome MTH 1825, provide a math pathway through MTH 101 and 102 for students whose majors are not calculus-based, and expand the number of seats in these courses. Combined, these efforts help insure that every student MSU admits has navigable pathways to graduation.
Rebranding the old “No Major Preference” (aka “undeclared”) as the “Exploratory Major” gives us even more new opportunities to continue to support undergraduate student learning and success. Students entering in Fall 2018 will have the option of declaring an exploratory preference, and NSSC advisors will focus on working with them to construct course schedules and co-curricular activities to allow them to explore the wide variety of programs available at MSU. In addition, over the next academic year, “no preference” majors within college programs will be renamed to emphasize the ability of students to explore multiple options, and advisors from across MSU will work to enhance our ability to support students to develop their purpose and passion.
Along with new opportunities with the colleges and the NSSC come new challenges for our campus this year. Chief among them is the implementation for fall 2019 of block tuition at MSU. MSU is one of only two Big 10 institutions that is not currently using the block tuition model (the University of Nebraska being the other). Moving to block tuition provides a great number of potential benefits, however MSU and its students are very well adapted to the per-credit tuition structure. So, we need to begin addressing MSU’s policies and practices (sooner rather than later) so that we can mitigate any predictable difficulties the implementation of block tuition will cause our students and take advantage of opportunities that block tuition affords them. We are in the process of establishing working groups to collaboratively examine next steps, and I expect doing so will occupy a great deal of our time this year.
As we start the fall semester, I look forward to connecting with many of you around the excellent work that you are doing and exploring ways to build on it together. I hope to see you at our September 17, 2018 Student Success Launch, and I hope you will join us in cultivating a community in which everyone in it has the opportunity to be heard, to feel valued, and ultimately to learn and succeed.