A letter to the MSU family from Dr. Vance Watson

April 4, 2008

Dear MSU Family:

Three days ago I became interim president of this great university that I have loved and served for more than 40 years, and I could not be more grateful or more honored by the opportunity. Some of you have been my friends and colleagues for decades. All of you, collectively, have my utmost appreciation for what you do and my highest confidence in your abilities and commitment to the institution and state. To cap a long MSU career as your advocate, coach, and leader is the culmination of a dream for Jo Ann and me. We promise to work hard, shoulder to shoulder with you, to move The People's University forward.

Mississippi State has been a profoundly important and positive force in the life of Mississippi for 130 years. To a greater extent than most institutions can claim, MSU understands and fulfills its purpose as a comprehensive land-grant university in a state with unique challenges and opportunities. Despite periodic changes in emphasis and terminology, our primary goals and priorities have been predictably consistent through several presidential administrations, and we will continue to focus on high quality learning, research, and service tailored to the needs of our students and our state. Like other institutions, we have experienced ups and downs, including periods of rapid growth and times of constraints and contraction. But I encourage all of us to look at our past, and our future, with a long-term perspective, and to see that our direction has and will continue to trend upward.

My immediate predecessors, like talented and dedicated leaders before them, have helped build a strong foundation and generate momentum in important areas that we will maintain as we map the future of MSU in keeping with its historic strengths, campus culture, and vision for excellence. As we look ahead together, you should know what you can expect from me and what I expect from you.

My first priority is to listen. As one of the longest-tenured members of the MSU community, and having been a graduate student, faculty member and administrator here, I think I have a good understanding of who we are and who we want to be as a university. But I realize that I have much to learn in my new role about many aspects of the institution, and I look forward to hearing from as many of you as possible in a variety of formal and informal settings. Your opinions matter.

I will make mistakes. When I do, I expect you will let me know about it, and my goal will be to acknowledge it, learn from it, and fix it.

I plan to be patient, as I hope you will be with me. Patience, in my opinion, is an under-appreciated virtue in our fast-paced society, and one that should not be confused with lethargy or indecisiveness. Our emphasis will be on making good decisions, rather than quick ones. We will take time to listen, learn, and collaborate on issues important to us all.

I will work to keep the university engaged with our students and alumni, with the community and state, and with the many constituencies that look to MSU for expertise, leadership, and service.

I will depend on you--our faculty, staff, and administrators--to know your jobs and do them well, offering support where I can and guidance or course changes where required. My philosophy is that if you cannot trust the folks you hire, you didn't need them in the first place.

Let's work hard, cooperatively and collegially, and have fun doing it. I look forward to visiting with as many of you as possible in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, you can tell me what's on your mind by writing to president@msstate.edu.


Vance Watson, Interim President