From the president’s desk

Introducing Wayne State’s Prosperity Agenda

President Kimberly Andrews Espy, Ph.D.

Thank you to all who organized, participated in and attended last month’s presidential investiture ceremony. I was honored that so many members of our Warrior community and partners from across Michigan — and beyond — joined us to celebrate this new chapter in Wayne State’s history. I look forward to what we will accomplish together to make our university, our campus, our city and our state stronger.

It was fitting to have this milestone moment in the Detroit Institute of Arts, a beloved institution that celebrates the city’s rich culture. It served as a tangible reminder of Wayne State University’s long partnership with Detroit and underscored our continued commitment to our city, its residents and its distinct sensibility.

Urban research universities have unique and powerful relationships with the cities they call home. WSU’s students gain important career experiences alongside Detroit’s executives, lawyers, health care providers and more — and 8 in 10 choose to remain in Michigan to work and live, bolstering the state’s workforce, leading in their communities and mentoring future Warriors. The work done by our researchers in collaboration with local hospitals, businesses, nonprofits and other partners has a tangible effect on our neighbors’ well-being. Wayne State’s support of startups and local entrepreneurs has invigorated our local economy and contributed to Detroit’s remarkable resurgence over the last decade. As I’ve said many times before: Wayne State is truly in our community. We work for our community. And we do so with our community.

Prosperity Agenda graphicThat’s why it was appropriate to take the time during investiture to unveil an agenda to drive prosperity for our community. This is not simply a set of goals or ideas that live on paper; rather, it is a living promise and a commitment to action for all who Wayne State touches. It is a focused purpose for our collaborative work to further a prosperous future for our students, our graduates and our community. Our Prosperity Agenda is an organizing framework that bridges directly to our community and supports our progress toward achieving our strategic plan goals. It will guide us as we fulfill our shared promise to better the lives of our students, support our faculty in pushing the boundaries of knowledge and innovation further, and strengthen the bonds that interconnect Wayne State and our community. If the strategic plan is our compass, the Prosperity Agenda is the purpose that propels our work every day.

Three pillars make up Wayne State’s Prosperity Agenda:

  • Accelerate Mobility for Our Students.
  • Empower Health for Our Urban Neighborhoods.
  • Fuel Innovation for Our Competitiveness.

This post is to further explicate the three pillars. In the coming months, I will dive more deeply into each one, to elucidate how we can contribute to a healthier, more vibrant and more prosperous future for our students and those throughout Detroit and Michigan.

Accelerate Mobility for Our Students

Fundamental to 21st century commerce is the use and application of knowledge. And that’s why most estimates indicated that 70% to 80% of tomorrow’s jobs will require college-level competencies. It is imperative that we do all we can to make college accessible and affordable so that more can gain the skills they will need to succeed in the 21st century knowledge-based economy.

The first pillar of WSU’s Prosperity Agenda, Accelerate Mobility for Our Students, capitalizes on the reputation for opportunity that has been synonymous with Wayne State University for more than 155 years — and aims to take it to even greater heights. The mobility that results from a Wayne State degree creates generational change, altering the life trajectory of our students and spawning a legacy of future impact and benefit. With unity in purpose and actions, we can lift this legacy higher, accelerating mobility for every student, from all backgrounds, to achieve their life dreams. We commit to providing each student who walks onto our campus access to the training and preparation that will help them accomplish their personal and professional goals.

WSU has always opened its doors wider for students who are underserved or marginalized. Our students have overcome many challenges to seize the opportunity for a high-quality education, and to take every advantage to prepare for what’s ahead after graduation. We have kept these doors propped through programs that knock down financial barriers to access, such as the Heart of Detroit Tuition Pledge, the Wayne State Guarantee and robust financial aid offerings. We will continue to do that, and to build on these programs so that the doors can open even wider.

College to Career logoEnabling access to higher education is only the beginning. Once here, we must provide students with a top-tier academic experience from world-class faculty and with the “learning by doing” opportunities that allow them to put knowledge to work in real-world settings and prepare for the rigors and challenges of their future careers. This includes internship and mentorship experiences with partners throughout the region as well as opportunities to conduct, publish, and present research in journals and at symposia; clinical experiences in local hospitals and health care centers; performance experiences in Detroit’s vibrant theatre district; and more. This is part of our College to Career initiative, which was announced last November and seeks to provide every student with the hands-on opportunities that allow them to encounter the world, learn by doing, gain deeper insights and new perspectives, and prepare for prosperous careers.

We want to show our students that a Wayne State education can take them to a different place than where they started and ignite a legacy of future impact for generations. This is more than just words — we are known for putting this commitment into action. We have been placed in the top tier of social mobility rankings by Third Way, a nonprofit public policy think tank, the only Michigan top-tier research institution to make their list. Our graduates are proof that a college degree can lead to generational change, helping individuals prosper, making our communities better and causing change that ripples through generations.

Empower Health for Our Urban Neighborhoods

The second pillar of our agenda for community prosperity affirms our commitment to Empower Health for Our Urban Neighborhoods. More than just a collection of buildings in the heart of Detroit, WSU is a caring, collaborative community that is intertwined with the life, growth, well-being and progress of our city.

Since our founding as a medical college in 1868, Wayne State has always played a vital role in the health of Detroiters. Our position as a top-tier urban public research university offers opportunities to understand and confront real urban health challenges facing the same people we learn, live and work alongside. Approximately one-third of our students are enrolled in health-related programs, and 40% of all physicians in Michigan received all or a portion of their training through WSU; we see similar numbers in many of our other health-related training programs and associated professions.

Laurie Lauzon Clabo
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Lauzon Clabo, Ph.D.

Our health sciences faculty, students, researchers and providers learn, work and deliver care in every one of our major health care systems to improve access to treatments for metro Detroiters. They also enter the community to provide care in churches, recreation centers, grocery stores, community hubs and more, addressing asthma, preterm birth, addictions, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other issues overrepresented in our urban neighborhoods. From the Taylor Street Primary Care Clinic — which opened at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and delivers care to local residents, many of whom are uninsured — to our partnership with local faith-based networks through the CHECK-UP program, to our Wayne Health Mobile Unit, Wayne State is actively improving the health, well-being and quality of life for individuals and families throughout Detroit.

Despite our efforts, there remains much unmet need in Detroit and throughout Michigan. We must put our research into action to accelerate health and drive prosperity for our community. We must embrace the opportunity to be embedded in and with our community to positively alter the trajectory of lives around us through innovative partnerships and collective thinking. We have already begun these actions, starting with the initiative to establish a community-focused school of public health, led by Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Laurie Lauzon Clabo. By unleashing our outstanding faculty, committed deans and university leaders to engage meaningfully with our community partners, we can expand cutting-edge care and address health disparities to build healthier, more resilient urban families and neighborhoods in Detroit and beyond.

Fuel Innovation for Our Competitiveness

In a rapidly changing world, the motor of progress continues to be a spirit of innovation and creation. As part of our third pillar, Fuel Innovation for Our Competitiveness, Wayne State will be at the forefront of this spirit, fostering an environment where ideas can bear fruit, entrepreneurship is encouraged, and our area can thrive as an innovation hub for 21st century business and commerce. It is our duty to arm the next generation with the competence, tools, and spirit of innovation and competitiveness that they will need to lead.

WSU has shared the ups and downs of Detroit over many years, and we have worked together in harmony to ensure that our city is a place of opportunity economically, artistically and in education. Where people are excited to come to work or school or open a business. Where connections with businesses and organizations help students find careers, help companies find talent, help startups “start up,” and help people unleash their innovative and creative ideas for their benefit and the development of their community.

As a top-tier research university, Wayne State supports the discovery of new and unexpected advancements by our faculty and students and the targeted development of solutions to current human challenges. Many of these challenges are endemic to urban populations, from improving health outcomes to clean air and water to the evolving opportunities of modern mobility and deeper understanding of ourselves as social beings through the arts, humanities and social sciences.

TechTown logo

TechTown — WSU’s research and technology park for small-business incubation and acceleration — is a hub of entrepreneurship that has supported more than 6,000 businesses across Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park since its opening in 2004, and has resulted in more than 2,200 jobs and raised more than $400 million in startup and growth capital.

One example of this is Patrick Hines, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in Wayne State’s School of Medicine. In 2014, motivated by his work in the clinic and based on his research in the laboratory on red blood cells, Dr. Hines founded Functional Fluidics LLC, with permission to license his research as a startup company from

Wayne State’s Board of Governors. Functional Fluidics is a biotech company that specializes in reliable biomarkers that objectively monitor the well-being of red blood cells, which are key to sickle cell disease. Located on the fifth floor of TechTown, the company has more than 30 employees, three testing labs and last year announced an expansion into Nigeria. It started with one person: a Wayne State faculty member with an idea and a place who nurtured that idea into a reality that now helps people all over the world.

This is a crucial time for the state of Michigan, where support of entrepreneurship and innovation is needed more than ever. A recent report by Michigan Future Inc. revealed that our state ranks 39th in the nation for per capita personal income. The report, along with a similar one from Business Leaders of Michigan, strongly recommends that Michigan commit to creating more knowledge-sector jobs, support a spirit of entrepreneurship and strengthen its support of higher education to remain competitive and witness economic growth.

Our state needs WSU’s expertise to translate research insights and innovations into new technologies, medicines, programs and practices that change the future. We need to include and support those with the talent and drive throughout the innovation ecosystem, regardless of their background, and nurture their ideas into ongoing concerns, build on Detroit’s and Michigan’s legacy of remarkable doers and makers, and fuel our 21st century future.

This will involve better engagement with our business community to foster, support and connect our innovative faculty and students to opportunity. We have taken some initial steps to move forward on this path, including evaluating and realigning our tech commercialization functions. We want to be a campus community that is open for business; where Detroit’s business, nonprofit and governmental sectors and leaders can easily engage our faculty and students; and where our students and faculty are fully supported from beginning to end to bring their ideas to reality. A seamless campus where university and community artists, entrepreneurs and social innovators mix, collaborate and change the world.

WSU’s Prosperity Agenda is not just my vision — it is our shared commitment as a university to our communities. The call to action is for each of us — to our students, our faculty, our staff and our alumni. Every day, we will work shoulder to shoulder with unprecedented dedication and enthusiasm to create a Wayne State University that stands proudly as an engine of opportunity that drives prosperity for our community.

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