Flint, MI— Michigan State University has had a presence in Flint for about the past 100 years and MSU President Samuel Stanley said there’s still work for the university to do in the city.

Last month he toured the MSU College of Human Medicine campus in downtown Flint, where he talked about the university’s current and upcoming initiatives in Flint through the MSU Extension program. 

“This has been, I think, a very great opportunity for me to see not only the work that’s being done here, but to talk to people that it’s having an impact on,” Stanley said. 

MSU Extension’s goal is to help communities address issues by bringing the university’s research and resources into the public sphere. A land-grant institution, MSU was established in the early 19th century to teach agriculture, science, and arts to the industrial class, and has long has long impacted it’s surrounding community.

“Having an extension, this notion that we provide, essentially, the knowledge we generate on campus, we work to transform and get out to the community work and make a difference,” Stanley said.

Programs by MSU in Flint include Flint Kids Cook, a cooking series that teaches families to prepare lead-mitigating meals, and the Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions, which has worked throughout the pandemic to identify racial disparities in COVID. 

Stanley said Flint has been a focal point MSU’s work because it has encountered many complex issues.

“Safe and secure water is fundamental to communities and people’s health and safety. (Flint) has had a challenge with abandonment, where you’ve had companies basically leave the area and create a brown space that needs to be dealt with. And then there’s problems like everywhere else. Health disparities arise because of poverty, and poverty is a problem in many parts of the United States,” he said. “So those require multiple approaches.”

Primarily, MSU’s goal is to educate which extends to K-12 schools in Flint. But more importantly, Stanley said, is providing equal access to education.  

“Access to excellence is really important. … So, the son or daughter of a banker gets the same kind of access to high quality education as the daughter or son of someone who works as an Uber driver,” he said.

While there are not official plans yet, Stanley said the university is in talks about programs to address blight and expand existing K-12 outreach programs. 

“We’re excited about going forward. … MSU has been in Flint for 100 years or more and we’re really proud of the work we’re doing together and we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to stay engaged.”

Carmen Nesbitt is a journalist with diverse experience in news reporting and feature writing. She wrote for Hour Detroit and SEEN Magazine before joining the Flint Beat news team as an education and public...