Members of the campus community,
I hope you are enjoying your summer, and are able to find time to rest and recharge. Over the past two and a half years, many of my campus messages have dealt with the exigencies of the pandemic, or urgent social or political issues. It is important that we discuss such things, but today I hope to brighten your summer with some positive and hopeful news as we prepare for the fall semester.
First, today Gov. Whitmer signed the state budget, which had been approved on a bipartisan basis by the State Legislature. Within that budget are an annual 5% increase in funding to Wayne State and $100 million in capital funding for a new medical school facility that we will create in concert with Karmanos Cancer Institute. We feel this is strong validation of the important role Wayne State plays in education, research and care in our community, and we are grateful to the State Legislature for recognizing the value of higher education in general, and research universities like Wayne State in particular.
With the $100 million approved, we can accelerate the process of imagining a new complex for medical education and cancer research and raising additional funds to build it. Soon we will be forming a project oversight committee consisting of leadership from both Wayne State and McLaren Health to augment the work of subject-matter experts that has already commenced.
Though not awarded directly to Wayne State, the state budget also includes $100 million for the University of Michigan to lead the creation of an “innovation district” in Detroit, and Wayne State will collaborate in this enterprise. I have spoken with Interim President Coleman regarding this collaboration, and I look forward to working with the newly announced president, Santa Ono, on this district once he begins his tenure at U of M. A few weeks ago, three members of our Cabinet met with Stephen Ross (a U of M and Wayne Law alumnus, and the primary funder of the project) and his company, the Related Team, which is working on the larger development and Innovation District. I have also had multiple conversations with Chris Ilitch, the other principal funder of the project, about Wayne State’s involvement. Based on these discussions, we are optimistic regarding this collaboration and believe that substantial benefit will accrue to our community. We will share more as this initiative takes shape.
Last month, our Board of Governors approved Wayne State’s budget, which was the culmination of the most collaborative process I have experienced since my tenure began nine years ago. Many members of the Wayne State team worked tirelessly alongside Board members to get this done, and we should all be grateful for their collaborative efforts. There are too many people to thank, but I cannot overstate the leadership exhibited by the Board, both individually and collectively. The most difficult decision the Board makes when approving the budget is setting the tuition rate, which our current budget situation constrained us to raise. Thankfully, we were also able to increase financial aid significantly so that our mission of access remains uncompromised.
As we have often stated, student enrollment is at the core of our mission and critical to our success. The uncertainties and changes wrought by the pandemic have created many challenges to maintaining or growing enrollment, here and across the nation. Many universities continue to struggle; some have nearly succumbed. Wayne State, however, has held its own throughout this challenging time. Thankfully, we have maintained our focus as a university of opportunity and a strong team committed to our students. As of today, we are about even on new undergraduate students and are seeing significant growth in new masters students. Given the overall national and state enrollment trends, this is a sign of our strength and the value that we offer our students. New leaders in several colleges are arriving wtih strong credentials and experience in growing both undergraduate and graduate enrollment, and we are optimistic about longer-term enrollment for the university.
The combination of state funding, our approved budget and a potential growth in fall enrollment is propitious for meeting our strategic plan goal of financial stability, which underpins all our efforts. Though there is more to be done, I recognize and appreciate the hard work and sacrifices made over the past several years; I am hopeful that next year we will be able to more adequately reward the yeoman’s effort of so many.
There are other events on the horizon that can add to our positive outlook, including the completion of the Hilberry complex and State Hall renovation, and, most importantly, anticipation of a full and lively campus. In this regard, I enthusiastically await the resumption of the Baroudeur cycling event, which starts and ends on our campus. Fall seems like a long way off in these hot summer days, but the new semester begins next month. I am excited to get back to campus — and get the campus back to “normal” — which means the activities, traditions, people and spirit that make Wayne State a special place and keep us all Warrior Strong.
Please enjoy the rest of your summer.
M. Roy Wilson