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Opinion | MSU is filling Michigan’s teaching, nursing, engineering ranks

In 1949, Michigan State President John Hannah stood before a crowd of graduating seniors and reminded them of the university’s great legacy. “Always remember that Michigan State College stands as a great memorial to a great idea fostered by a great system of democratic government,” he said. “As a living mechanism for service to the people of Michigan, this nation and the world, it has great, exciting tasks to perform.”

Teresa Woodruff
Teresa Woodruff, Ph.D., is interim president of Michigan State University.

MSU’s great and exciting tasks began 168 years ago, when people in the young state of Michigan had the foresight and resolve to meet the competitive challenges of a fast-changing society. They conceived an experiment in creating and disseminating knowledge not only for the elite, as was the practice of the day, but for everyday people and the benefit of all. 

MSU’s mission to democratize practical advanced education is just as urgent today, with workforce shortages in key areas. Meanwhile, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has challenged the state to increase the proportion of Michiganders with educational credentials beyond high school from today’s 50.5 percent, according to the Lumina Foundation, to 60 percent by 2030. MSU supports that goal and is proud to play an active role in helping to reach it. 

Fortunately, this state is blessed with excellent colleges and universities, with the three top research institutions (MSU, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University) constituting Michigan’s University Research Corridor. We compete with the nation’s best regional education and research clusters. Each URC institution, additionally, has been recognized with the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University designation by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. 

As for how MSU is working to answer workforce needs, let’s look at three vital and in-demand areas: teaching, nursing and engineering.  

With the nation’s top-ranked elementary and secondary education programs for the last 29 years, MSU’s College of Education already leads the state in graduating teachers and educational leaders and awarded 685 degrees at all levels in 2021. The college moved recently to accelerate its Teacher Preparation Program and increase its accessibility by shifting from a five-year model to one graduating well-prepared students in four years. MSU offers programs focused on recruiting under-represented individuals into teaching and developing skills to thrive in urban, global and under-resourced districts. We are deeply engaged with school districts to develop their leaders as well as help prepare their students to continue their education. 

Nursing is another area of need that higher education can address to develop and advance the careers of more nurses. MSU’s College of Nursing is working to expand enrollments as well as make its BSN degree program more accessible to working nurses who hold associate’s degrees. We also offer a 15-month accelerated BSN option for those holding bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines and will double the number of accelerated nursing students we are educating in the Detroit area next summer. In addition, we are enhancing simulation experiences to better prepare nursing students for clinical work while easing the burden on practicing nurses who work with them.  

The nursing college is also forming partnerships with a growing number of community colleges, discussing innovative educational pathways such as allowing their students to complete an associate’s degree and pursue an MSU BSN degree in a timely and seamless manner. And a planned health sciences facility on campus will allow MSU’s nursing and medical colleges to increase enrollments with new spaces for training in state-of-the-art simulated healthcare environments.  

Engineering is another area of growing demand, and our surveys indicate 98 percent of responding 2022 engineering undergraduates started their careers or continued their educations within six months of graduation. Michigan is by far their top choice, with auto industry positions leading the way. With an eye on emerging fields of demand, Spartan engineering students are signing on with Michigan corporations for internship and co-op electric vehicle opportunities through the state’s Michigander EV Scholarship program, which continues to grow.  

But there is a growing need across a range of engineering disciplines, areas Michigan needs to harness to retain its manufacturing and mobility leadership and ensure opportunities for our children. An engineering and digital innovation center MSU is planning will support more students in computer and computational sciences and digital literacy disciplines. It will respond to industry needs and student demand, support economic development, leverage opportunities for testing integrated chip-based systems and support growth in materials research and emerging initiatives such as semiconductor research.  

This facility will also support the planned addition of an engineering technology program and will allow MSU to educate 2,000 more engineering students over the next five years to work in semiconductor and quantum science research. We are grateful for the financial support included in this year’s state budget and will continue to seek investment from public and private sources for this $250 million building. 

MSU’s 21st-century pursuit of its land-grant mission of education, research and outreach is fulfilled in such fields as these, as John Hannah would have it, still “a living mechanism for service to the people of Michigan.” 

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