From the Provost's Desk

Initial input on five questions


At my LEAD session last week, I asked those in attendance to please provide feedback on five areas where their input is needed. That feedback has been received, and will help us move forward in each of the five areas.

This first update is to simply provide the campus community with all of the input that was submitted. Next month, in April, I plan to provide an update on which units, offices, or individuals I hope to have engage around actionable items in each of the five areas.

Should anyone in the MSU community wish to provide additional input on any of the five areas, please feel free to do so via email, sending your feedback to provost@msu.edu.

1. Our University is fortunate to have the new Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, and we have also long benefited from the MSU Museum. Historically, museums have existed to facilitate faculty research, with public engagement a secondary consideration. Over time, this relationship has changed. How might more of us engage more tangibly and creatively with our two museums?

New uses:

  • Host MSU Faculty and Staff Days to bring more of the MSU community into the spaces and expose them to the options to incorporate the museums in activities
  • Develop an event like “Art Prize” to draw the community into the spaces
  • Showcase more senior projects showcased in these spaces to draw more attention to the spaces and the projects.
  • What is the purpose and value of a museum on campus? Could the museum be a research and teaching tool in ways that it currently is not?
  • Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker, known as the hip-hop preacher. Student services uses him to help advance student success efforts.
  • There are existing efforts – like NSF’s dance your PhD or the data visualization efforts – we should promote.
  • Convert museums into creative engagement spaces of inspiration and creativity that can foster innovation and centers of idea generation. May consider converting some of the space into dedicated faculty staff dining/social areas where they can come together to share ideas in an informal setting.
  • We need a good makerspace on campus. Most other universities have one. Turn a portion of the museum into a makerspace or incubator. It would add much more to the current university needs and culture than the museum does. Now is the time to do it, when there is no director for the museum in place. No need to hire another one.
  • If MSU is interested in continuing with a focus on museums adding charity and social events is an option.

Collaboration:

  • Open the idea of “art” to include humanities, music, and theater.
  • Draw arts into research more deeply by looking at the areas in which we have robust research and scholarship activities.
  • Competition among departments for public exhibits at the Broad engaging art and the discipline—could be faculty or students; student competition, they apply with a concept then small number are selected for the competition and given a modest budget; consider faculty reward (how does an exhibit “count”?); have our own “science gallery” at the Broad
  • Are there “museum-like spaces” on campus or associated with our campus in which we could expand the museum into? Can we maximize museum activities by pushing the museum out to other places?
  • What about the Archives?
  • Network in common spaces rather than disassociated satellites. Identifying themes that pull people together and address the global challenges. E.g.: Flint crisis and only one of the museums represents it. Disseminate knowledge and generate new knowledge. Assess what other museums are doing and innovate. What does the museum of the future look like?

Barriers/Concerns/Problems:

  • Great places with great spaces—but the work done there is secondary to most faculty’s work—the work they want us to do with the museum doesn’t count towards my mainstream work. In general: MSU place where lots of things possible—but we need to direct that energy towards several transparent goals that faculty and staff can work towards
  • There are value systems in place that powerfully prohibit STEM faculty from engaging in activities like this.
  • There’s a big structural barrier to most professors (especially STEM) doing this. They are pressured to stay away from this sort of thing and instead focus on tenure.
  • Agree museums are considered as housing collections not as a facility for faculty research
  • I don't see the MSU Museum as adding much value (personally). It could be cut. I say that even though I love going to museums. This is the just the harsh reality that it is somewhat antiquated and the funds could probably be better spent

2. We’ve recently discussed many of the efforts going on around campus to promote diversity and inclusion. Overall, we have approached our efforts in terms of building a systemic climate for diversity – not creating a “program” that takes care of it, but rather fostering an inclusive climate across campus, seeking diversity and equity in all our activities (our work, our recruitment and retention, our student success work). Our efforts have sometimes fallen short, and there is still much work to do. But how do we CONNECT our efforts? What steps do we take to actually link together work that is being done, for example, in pre-college programs to Admissions to Neighborhoods to colleges? Or to hiring to professional development to faculty support to the tenure process? What process would you suggest that could help us weave together these threads of activities into a more holistic culture of inclusivity?

  • How can we address more inclusive environments in classrooms? Some faculty do this well others do not. We need to develop a more systematic process to incorporate inclusion in all classrooms. Why is universal design suggested not required? Costs are involved, should the costs be the burden of the unit that is trying to develop more inclusive facilities? Or should it be a University initiative? There needs to be better coordinated communication regarding all initiatives around diversity and inclusion. Develop a Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. 
  • Have we really figured out how to integrate our goals for diversity and inclusion across campus? Efforts don’t link up very well yet.
  • We care about diversity and inclusion, but in reality we send a very different message to junior faculty about how to earn tenure and promotion? How do you account for the innovative approaches you might include in your teaching that supports diversity and inclusion?
  • Few of the messages in point two are related well to faculty regarding tenure and promotion. How are we defining impact, such as undergraduate research?
  • Large disconnect regarding who thinks what matters and the messages we send to faculty via deans. 
  • How does important work get to the Provost’s Office?
  • Successful diversity and inclusion initiatives must be an institutional priority that is enabled to be enacted locally, in the colleges.
  • Lead by example to embrace diversity and inclusivity especially by senior leadership and Board of Trustees members
  • White boards removed from residential halls because of slurs – not a solution to a problem. Need better ideas to deal with biases and racism
  • One idea is to create an orientation that includes both support staff, academic staff and faculty.
  • There is an option to create a buddy or mentor system to support one another.
  • Creating university events and activities for all employees. The Women’s Networking Association is doing this but maybe there can be a broader group formed that includes men and women. 
  • To partner with students who are interested in learning about a specific career field, a program could be created to support student needs by offering job shadowing, panels, mentoring, student work experience, internships and leadership development programs. Some of this exists today but there is an opportunity to strengthen it and create a more robust program. 
  • Provide training to students regarding interacting with others from different backgrounds.

3. The Entrepreneurship and Innovation minor has taken off, with students from multiple majors enrolled. While the academic program is likely to continue to expand (with its emphasis on experiential learning), what are likely future initiatives related to entrepreneurship education? 

  • International student internships?
  • Student-run venture fund?
  • Faculty development focused on teaching entrepreneurship (e.g. lean startup)?
  • All-campus social venture project?
  • Others?

 The minor:

  • Encourage innovation and entrepreneurial thinking in regular curricula as well, not just in the minor, in Integrative Studies – plant a seed to make students more interested in taking the extra step of getting the minor, to come up with a project proposal to get an entrepreneurial option…Find ways to plant seeds in students to propose more innovative projects, and move toward innovation minor. A grassroots approach, in addition to a program offering.
  • Reduce prerequisites in the elective classes so students are introduced to interdisciplinary ideas in the entrepreneurship program

 New ideas:

  • Find out who entrepreneurs on campus are, get their insights and opinions on what helps engage, foster and facilitate entrepreneurship; what is needed to grow it/encourage it, and then to pitch their work to broader audiences? A mini-UURAF or exposition of student ideas to pitch to external audiences
  • More coordinated effort to bring the players together on a larger scale, beyond the academic programs to a culture of entrepreneurship “writ large.” Who could/should “own” such an effort and where can it reside? Start with the HUB, linking Science Gallery ways of working/innovating across disciplines, with the entrepreneurship initiatives.
  • Move the Entrepreneurship and Innovation program idea into graduate school. Partner with Business and grad students not in MBA to help develop grad students’ understanding of marketing ideas, business practices, etc. without doing an MBA on top of a PhD, maybe a certificate program, or some element of coursework offerings
  • Lack of awareness/portrayal of diversity in the program. Who is being served? Who is applying? Who isn’t applying? Who should be? Provide data on diversity within the E&I program; presenters except for the Provost at recent update were all white men; 2 women at the end. Assess diversity, identify elements and needs, and project for diversity.
  • Provide opportunities like something called Enterprise Social Greenhouses, in which students learn to take an idea, develop and incubate it, and develop a business plan. Also teach students to write apps for their entrepreneurial ideas.
  • It seems to me that teaching our students to write apps for mobile devices is one of the most straightforward ways to get them to produce products that they can market. I would suggest that our College of Engineering should put a much greater emphasis on teaching these skills and greatly expand existing classes and programs. Ideally, we could use Hive space at MSUT to provide an MSU app incubator, where our student entrepreneurs could also get just-in-time training on all the other soft and hard skills that it takes to translate an idea for an app into a business success story.

Scholarship:

  • There is practically no scholarship at MSU regarding entrepreneurship. We need scholarship in entrepreneurship to have more faculty buy-in.
  • We need scholarship in entrepreneurship to have more faculty buy-in AND to provide data on how/which entrepreneurships are successful, perhaps especially in Michigan.

4. The Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology has been embraced as a source of support for innovative ideas around teaching and learning. Often, our colleagues also have big ideas that may involve research, innovation, or new initiatives. Imagine an entity on campus that could provide support for the “Big Idea.” What would it look like? How would it be staffed? What kinds of help might it provide?

 Possible organization:

  • Think about tying together #4 and #5; #4 may be more programmatic but #5 operational
  • Build on VPRGS research collaborations idea. Perhaps some of the VP offices have structure to do this?
  • Instead of creating something new, point 5, is there a way that the VP for Research could function differently? They serve as roles of gatekeeper and resource allocator, but not create innovation. Maybe a way of thinking differently about purpose of VP for Research. Could they innovate like the HUB? How do we have collective big idea that brings together people to work together? Need different approach to interdisciplinary work.  
  • You need entrepreneurs-in-residence in each college. Or several credentialed entrepreneurs in The Hub who could service academic units.
  • Rather than having a single entity for all types of Big Idea, it probably makes more sense to offer some service to help in early stages, thinking about goals and metrics. Thinking about connections between research and outreach. This unit could be helpful to help identify ways and people with whom people should connect. It might offer coaching on how to intensify networks.

Cultural issues:

  • Office of Big Ideas:  We aren’t thinking about the big ideas. It’s a cultural issue. Is there a way to create a bank of good ideas? Do we need to generate more ideas? Incubate good ideas? Provide institutional support for risky adventures? Is this an issue of learning how to scale? Or, is this an issue of learning how to think big?
  • To some extent, the Hub already offers this. We had examples of times when a meeting or two with people at the Hub was helpful, even though the project wasn’t focused on teaching and learning. Some of this may also happen as a first stage through AAN, VPRGS interdisciplinary wine and cheese gatherings, etc. But beyond a first stage, the variety of work at MSU may mean that no single unit could get beyond a first stage for all Big Ideas.
  • Difference between rhetoric and reality—interdisciplinary work valued at MSU, but it’s based on individuals and their networkings. But if you’re trying to launch a new idea (esp. if you’re new to MSU) how does one launch such an idea? We’re a difficult place to navigate. HUB is teaching focused—not research focused. 
  • Need better ability to coordinate. 
  • How we think about our work is very compartmentalized
  • Teaching is less valued than research productivity in how faculty are rewarded
  • Energy is not invested in teaching and learning when the reward system makes it secondary to research
  • Faculty are judged by the quality of their research
  • Change the reward structure
  • Imbalance in reward system
  • There has been some change in the reward system for excellence in teaching – reward in base salary for excellence in teaching awards
  • BIG IDEA--Beyond the meeting: Consider a BIG idea = mental health and general societal wellness. What are the large issues that are contributing toward an unstable world and their impacts on mental health? Can we bridge individual research thru collaborations, similar to what is being done for BRAIN research?
  • MSU already has mental clinics and research and currently growing support for student counselling. What other factors contribute to creating a healthy world to live in? I could argue that virtually every college could contribute to the efforts. What may be missing is the collaboration of all of the efforts to assist in more successful treatments, diets, law, medicines, societal changes, etc. How do we triage the issues more quickly to get successful results for individuals? And more.

5. Should we consider launching a Reinvestment Challenge? The Challenge would be open to the entire campus community, asking faculty and staff to suggest/recommend ways the University could, for the purpose of reinvesting in the academic work of the University, become more efficient, reduce costs, save money, or generate revenue from non-traditional sources. If we were to launch such a Challenge…

  • How might we go about it?
  • What language could we use to explain its purpose and rationale?
  • What series of processes might be useful to establish the Challenge, help it gain traction, and encourage ongoing participation?

Rationale:

  • Isn’t the 1% we return each year from our budgets our form of reinvestment? 
  • To explain the need for a Reinvestment challenge, the university could focus on the strategy (i.e. Bolder by Design) and create specific business goals for each department that support the strategy. There is opportunity to improve the communication of the strategy and goals so that every university employee understands and is working towards a common direction.

“How to Organize”:

  • Reinvestment Challenge—we don’t mind the idea, but please don’t call it that. What about a 1-800 number/email address where folks can email suggestions and then get rewarded if those ideas save the university money? Specific ideas:

- focus on incentivizing out of the box ideas

- Ohio State sold campus parking to a private entity, invested proceeds $500M in discovery themes; new hires to be funded half by the unit/college and half by the proceeds

- Redesign SIS, work arounds in the current system create so much wasted human time and yet presumably cost of creating a new system (plus transition costs) are significant; at some point we need to bite the bullet and do it

  • Establish a mechanism to share all ideas and have people vote for them to identify the most impactful ideas
  • Some incentive to generate ideas – dollars saved could go to person/team that suggested it or a percent of money saved
  • Crowd source for cost saving ideas - Develop a mechanism/channel for all MSU community to submit potential cost saving ideas
    • The “mechanism/channel” alluded to might find some inspiration from the _We the People Petitions_ offered by the White House https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/.
  • Incentivize people to submit ideas and vote for ideas by offering gifts in return
  • Establish cross-functional project team to execute/implement top 3 ideas over a 6 month period
  • To create a culture on continuous improvement the university could create a Lean Process improvement team that implements process improvement such a process mapping, process re-engineering, 5-S events, etc. A challenge could be created to support these type of events and the results communicated across the university (The State of MI has a program for this called LPI (Lean Process Improvements). It would also be helpful to have a unit that drove these type of processes.
  • Opportunity: When I worked for IBM, there was a program that encouraged employees to make suggestions that saved money. They were evaluated by the people running the affected department. If they were implemented, the employees got a percentage of the savings. Why not have something like that at MSU?
  • GVSU and many other institutions have Sustainability Reinvestment Fund programs programs.  https://www.gvsu.edu/sustainability/sustainability-reinvestment-fund-233.htm. While this example has a very limited scope to fund projects, what if we turned it around so that efficiencies created collected in a fund for reinvestment in MSU academics and research. With your lead, academic leaders could be incentivized to participate in creating cost savings, efficiencies, etc. In my current vision for community engagement around sustainability, creating a stronger connection between academic/research departments such as supply chain, engineering, economics, etc. with operational counter-parts on campus could be the catalyst for participation.

Ideas for review or exploration:

  • More education and strategy around carry-forward, investments over 3-5 year windows vs. 1 year windows
  • Take a look at distribution of faculty teaching effort across the schedule as a means better use research vs. teaching faculty time to achieve both research goals and student success goals; maybe a better focus on good citizenship? Saying no balanced with being a team player.
    • Are we investing in faculty productivity the way we want to?
    • Aligning our reward systems for the high-performance culture
  • Explore efficiency around routine, time-intensive activities such as RPT, merit, admissions – understanding reporting, etc. – look at moments when data travels up to points of aggregation
  • Create a culture for rewarding performance instead of seniority. 
  • Measure and demonstrate cost savings over a defined period (1 year) of time
  • Online degrees – generate revenue
  • There needs to be a major shake-up in the way performance is rewarded. The use of electronic PageUp System for Performance in future years could be beneficial.
  • The seniority system is antiquated and detrimental to high performance.
  • The creation of career paths (lateral and/or promotional) for employees could add to the effectiveness of the workforce and allow for highly motivated individual to flourish, thus leading to a high performing organization.
  • Having said that, no doubt accommodating legislation takes an enormous amount of overhead and some of it may be unavoidable. 
  • The President needs to continue to support business process re-engineering for all HR/Finance-related systems and processes. Some of the current HR processes could be eliminated if there was leadership at the top willing to take the risks to make it happen. (This would require union negotiating.)
  • If a process is automated, then the alternative processes (paper-based) must be killed at the same time, otherwise instead of getting the benefits of automation we’ve added complexity to business operations.
  • It seems to me that your item 5 is very close in spirit to an effort that the Office of the EVPAS has been pursuing for the last 3 years. Perhaps we can partner with your office to get this effort more visibility and effectiveness. In September 2013 we partnered with GE to conduct a “treasure hunt” in the BPS building and the Engineering building. GE had modified a methodology invented by Toyota and added their own spin to it. We assembled a group of GE and MSU-IPF experts (about half of the treasure hunter team) and faculty, staff, and student representatives from the two buildings. We then tried to find energy and resource savings in the buildings during a two-day meeting. Satish promised that we would implement all findings with ROI time less than 5 years, and that the academic departments occupying these buildings would share in 50% of the savings after the initial investment is paid off. We all felt that this pilot effort was a great success, and that we should extend it to other buildings. Ann Erhardt and her team have taken over this effort now, and we are calling these events “Spartan Treasure Hunts.” It would be fantastic if we could continue these treasure hunts and get a lead from the provost’s office to jointly run these events with Ann in the future.