Editorial content and tone should align with the MSU brand positioning and reflect our brand essence.

When writing for MSU marketing communications and advertising, aim for clarity and impact. Avoid institutional language that is not meaningful to the audience.

Tone

When writing copy and headlines, use a tone that brings to life the MSU brand personality—genuine and bold; smart, but not pretentious; creative, but not overly dramatic; clever, but never cute. Aim for thought-provoking headlines that differentiate MSU and draw readers into the story. Include the words “Spartan(s)” or “Michigan State University” in headlines and text to maximize the impact of our name and personality.

Personality

MSU’s brand personality is the character of our brand defined in human terms. These attributes are essential characteristics of Michigan State University’s identity and should be considered when communicating the tone and attitude of MSU.

Genuine

Spartans are the real deal—elite, but never elitist. Within an authentic and congenial culture, we are driven not by fanfare, but by the desire to discover, create, and make a positive impact in the world.

Tenacious

Spartans never give up. We relentlessly pursue excellence and provide opportunity, working for the common good with uncommon will. No challenge is too big—or too seemingly insignificant—to tackle if it makes a real difference in people’s lives. To Spartans, if it’s worth accomplishing, it’s worth putting in the time and effort.

Diverse

Spartans value differences in a way that makes all the difference. We embrace and engage individuals with a range of backgrounds, experiences, and ideas to build community and unleash creative power that transforms research and education.

Open

Spartans are empowered with the freedom and flexibility to harness their passion and talent and pursue distinctive paths that lead to rewarding work and extraordinary outcomes.

Collaborative

Spartans know that working together is often the fastest, smartest way to get the best results. Our expertise and our collegial nature enable us to excel at making connections and forging lasting partnerships that make a positive impact in Michigan and around the world.

Bold

Spartans always have been pioneers, pushing the boundaries of discovery to solve the world’s toughest problems and rejecting the status quo to pursue and provide both excellence and opportunity.

World Changing

Spartans live and work by MSU’s land-grant values. We help individuals and communities achieve their potential and pursue the highest level of performance not in a bid for prestige, but to make the world a better place for all.

Spartans Will.

Using the SPARTANS WILL. tagline

Michigan State University’s official tagline is a uniting theme that communicates our value and purpose in a common language. It’s a call to action that differentiates MSU from other universities and speaks to who we are and what drives us.

The "will" carries a powerful double meaning. As a verb, it reflects action and the work that Spartans do every day to make a difference. As a noun, it describes the tenacious and indomitable spirit that exemplifies Spartans.

Who Will? Spartans Will.
  • The tagline may be used in advertising and marketing communications.
  • The tagline usually stands on its own or follows questions that begin with “Who will?” in headlines and text.
  • In limited cases, the tagline may appear in text, for example, as the closing statement in a letter.
  • The tagline is a strong statement or response to a challenging question. Always place a period after the word “Will.”
  • The tagline may appear in all caps or with initial caps, in either Gotham or Californian font, although various weights of Gotham are preferred.
  • The tagline should not be combined with other marks or phrases to create a new mark, graphic, or theme line.
  • The tagline may be MSU green, white, or black.

Telling Brand Stories

Our messaging helps capture the essence of Michigan State University: our individual strength, collective power, and extraordinary impact. These messages help tell MSU stories in a distinctive way and articulate how we deliver on the promise of our positioning. Consider them when writing copy and headlines.

INDIVIDUAL STRENGTH:

Our people set us apart.

  • We have an amazing work ethic. We are unpretentious and incomparably tenacious. No challenge is beneath us—or too big to tackle—if it makes a difference in people’s lives.
  • We turn talent to good. Talent is the essential element that drives us forward. We foster it, invest in it, recognize it, and turn it to the common good.
  • We excel on teams. We are skillful partners, and we celebrate one another’s successes.
  • We value differences. Our inclusive culture unleashes the creative power of diverse viewpoints and backgrounds.

COLLECTIVE POWER:

Our open, collaborative culture is built to power and empower.

  • We foster openness and flexibility. We empower individuals as they create their own paths of achievement.
  • We believe in partnerships. Collaboration is often the best way to achieve lasting impact. Getting the best results and building for the future is more important to us than getting all the credit.
  • We connect globally. We are globally networked, with decades of experience making a difference in communities at home and around the world in ways that advance us all.

EXTRAORDINARY IMPACT:

We boldly live our values as we pursue our land-grant purpose to make the world a better place.

  • We affect lives in extraordinary ways. It’s in our DNA to shape a better tomorrow, helping individuals and communities achieve their potential in Michigan and around the world.
  • We are visionaries. Our research pushes the boundaries of discovery to solve the big problems of our time.
  • We deliver excellence and opportunity. We are an elite research university, but never elitist. We are competitive at the highest levels of research and scholarship while enrolling and supporting the success of a globally minded, diverse population of learners.

MSU Boilerplate

The MSU boilerplate is standardized language that briefly describes Michigan State University and its priorities. Both short and long versions may be used by all units.

Long Version

Michigan State University has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 160 years.

The nation’s pioneer land-grant university, MSU was founded as a bold experiment that democratized higher education and helped bring science and innovation into everyday life.

In communities from East Lansing to East Africa, MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery and forges enduring partnerships to solve the world’s most pressing problems—from ensuring safe food and water supplies and developing lifesaving vaccines to exploring alternative energy and preparing a new generation of urban educators.

One of the top research universities in the world and a member of the Association of American Universities, MSU offers nationally ranked and recognized academic, undergraduate research, residential college, and service-learning programs and is a leader in study abroad among public universities.

A diverse and inclusive academic community, MSU enrolls more than 50,000 students from all 50 states and more than 130 countries, employs more than 2,000 tenure system faculty members, and offers more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

An indication of MSU’s excellence and impact is its selection by the U.S. Department of Energy to design and establish the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams—a $730 million facility that will advance understanding of rare nuclear isotopes to fuel breakthrough applications as it provides research opportunities for scientists and students from around the globe.

Short Version

Michigan State University has been advancing the common good with uncommon will for more than 160 years.

One of the top research universities in the world, MSU pushes the boundaries of discovery and forges enduring partnerships to solve the most pressing global challenges while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.

MSU Creation Story

The story of MSU's beginnings reflects its history and destiny as the nation's pioneer land-grant university, its reason for being and its purpose.

Right before America tore itself apart in civil war, a revolution was brewing that would change this nation forever.

There was a political movement afoot to create agricultural colleges all over the United States—institutions of higher learning that would promote both the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes. In short, the country needed colleges to educate the nation’s young to become farmers, engineers, educators, and scientists: people who would build the nation.

In 1850, the Michigan Constitution called for an agricultural college. It was established in 1855. And by 1862, what is now known as Michigan State University stood as the pioneer land-grant university in the country, where it would serve for decades to come as the model of what a land-grant university can and should do. As a university of, for, and by the people, Michigan State University began a long tradition of empowering ordinary people through education “good enough for the proudest yet open to the poorest.”

Today there are more than 100 land-grant universities, and Michigan State University remains in the upper echelon. It is among the top 100 universities in the world. It is the eighth largest public university campus by enrollment in the nation. It is one of the undisputed global leaders in higher education.

Michigan State University’s achievements are as diverse as they are consequential: the university developed hybrid corn, the process for the homogenization of milk, and a cancer-fighting drug that has saved millions of lives. And it has educated hundreds of thousands of thinkers, from Nobel laureates and U.S. senators to ordinary people who affect our lives in extraordinary ways.

Despite the economic challenges facing the state of Michigan and the world, this is an exciting time for Michigan State University. President Lou Anna K. Simon has called us to be the global model leader for land-grant institutions. With a revitalized brand, we can narrate the next chapter of the Spartans and their accomplishments. With a global reach, vast capabilities, and a community and culture dedicated to advancing the common good, the epic of Michigan State University continues.

Editorial Style Guide

The MSU Editorial Style Guide is for use by anyone writing and editing print or electronic text pertaining to Michigan State University (other than materials created specifically for use by the news media, which follow the most current edition of The Associated Press Stylebook). It is based on the philosophy that punctuation and style should follow function and clarity. The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition, and Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, are primary style and spelling references for MSU copy creation, unless superseded by entries in this guide.

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