Funambulist (red velum) sculpture

“Funambulist” sits in the courtyard of Snyder-Phillips Hall and models a “juxtaposition between the heaviness of steel and the fleeting forces of the wind, creating a compelling visual and intellectual irony.” – MSU Today.

By Ann E. Austin

As we look toward the end of the semester, we usually feel growing anticipation for the celebrations of the season and the successes of our students. Furthermore, we may feel a sense of well-earned accomplishment for all that the year has involved, and some excitement about the change of pace and time to reflect, research, or adjust personal and professional balance that late spring and summer typically allow. Yet, this year is dramatically different for each of us in whatever roles we serve.

Everyone has pivoted rapidly to remote teaching, learning, and work. Some colleagues are homeschooling children, while also managing professional responsibilities. Others are encouraging young adult children or friends who are working on the “front lines” across the country or helping elderly family members cope. Some face research postponed, professional opportunities derailed, or economic uncertainties heightened. Everyone is facing sadness over special events that will not occur as envisioned. And some are facing health challenges or the tragedy of loss among our families, friends, and broader communities. No one is immune to the impact of this unprecedented crisis—and the impact is affecting members of the population in differential ways. What is sure is that everyone is handling more than ever imagined—and doing so with creativity, tenacity, grace, compassion, and dedication to our students, our colleagues, our research, our communities near and far.

As the Spartan community, we are living our commitment to making the world better through the work we do. Just as the buds on the trees continue their progress—even in the midst of cold spells, wind, and hail– toward the full, yet delicate, greenness that we will see in a few weeks, the faculty and academic staff of MSU continue their work as teachers, researchers, community partners, leaders. That work is making a difference in the lives of our students, in advancing the body of knowledge that tackles and erodes the power of seemingly intractable challenges, and in helping communities in the US and abroad manage, even thrive, more fully. In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, even as we acknowledge and handle stress, loss, grief, and uncertainty, we have much to celebrate and a future to create.

This AAN newsletter is, in fact, a newsletter of celebration—even as we recognize the challenging context in which we are all living and working. One impact of the coronavirus is that we cannot join together in a physical location, as we would normally do, to applaud our colleagues, express our respect and affection, and raise a toast of congratulations and good wishes for the next steps in their life adventures. Nevertheless, through this newsletter, we can highlight, recognize, and appreciate some of the many successes we see among us. In that spirit, we invite you to read about those who have served this year as Adams Academy Fellows and Lilly Fellows, each dedicated to deepening their knowledge and expertise around teaching and learning. The projects they have undertaken, in important areas such as inclusive pedagogy, curricular development, learning assessment, and organizational change, will have a major impact on students, departments, and the university as a whole. You will also read about those who participated this year as Big Ten Academic Leadership Program (ALP) Fellows, a prestigious honor that enables Fellows to learn about the complexities of higher education and expand and refine their leadership and administrative skills. MSU Fellows interact with colleagues across the Big Ten as they gain insights, cultivate creativity, and create collegial bonds. We also present the distinguished colleagues who have been selected as ALP Fellows for the coming year.

Our celebration also focuses on an individual who has lived fully the MSU commitment to “make a difference.” We are honored to offer a tribute to Terry Curry, Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources, who will be retiring in May. The AAN staff invited a number of colleagues across the institution to submit tributes to Terry for this newsletter. As the tributes you will read attest, Terry’s insights, mentoring, connections, and wisdom have supported countless faculty and academic staff in advancing their careers as effective leaders. While the anticipated May retirement party cannot occur in person, the strength of appreciation and applause for Terry that would have occurred is evident throughout the tributes in this newsletter.

So, in the face of the current challenge, we strengthen our resolve, our compassion, and our commitment to the reasons we chose to become a  part of the MSU community,  and we also take a moment to celebrate our colleagues whose work helps all of us be better. And this celebration includes each of you—each member of the Spartan community—whose daily efforts are making a difference! Raise a salute to one and all!