Posted June 02, 2022
Featuring Birgit Puschner

In 2020, Dr. Birgit Puschner was supposed to be in Washington, D.C. for the Millennium Leadership Initiative, a leadership development program. Of course, it didn’t work out—but for Puschner, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University, it’s perfect timing.

Traditionally, the Millennium Leadership Initiative (MLI), hosted by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, is geared toward senior-level and high-ranking leaders who wish to continue advancement in higher education. But this year’s cohort of 22, which includes Puschner, is special. They will pilot a new dimension of the curriculum that focuses on a fair and equal experience for all—and especially underrepresented—students, faculty, and staff.

While Puschner says she was disappointed MLI had to be cancelled in 2020, she’s even more excited for this year’s program because the enhanced curriculum will speak to specific challenges and opportunities the veterinary medical field faces today.

“Right now, veterinarians and veterinary technicians are in incredibly high demand, but the vast majority of veterinarians in America are white. Veterinary medicine must become more diverse. Leaders in our field—and especially our educators and administrators who help mold future professionals—must take diversity, inclusion, and equity as seriously as the scientific principles in our curriculums,” says Puschner.

MLI 2022 began in April, and features a hybrid program with an entire year of virtual sessions. This month, however, Puschner will fly to D.C. for a six-day intensive with her cohort and program leaders.

“We’ve had two virtual sessions so far, and they’ve been incredibly interactive. Everyone is participating, and I can already tell that this will be one of the most important, valuable experiences for me as an administrator in veterinary medical higher education.”

Puschner’s words ring especially true after the College’s 2022 commencement ceremony. During her speech, Puschner specifically spoke to the importance of openness and drive in career development for veterinary professionals.

“I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. Did I ever come close? No. But I had an incredible, exciting career as a toxicologist, and through that, I discovered my own passion to help teach and lead our next generation of veterinary professionals. That’s what everyone needs, in my opinion—we have to be flexible and open to career shifts and opportunities, and that requires all of us to be fearless, lifelong learners. It’s what I aspire to, anyway,” Puschner smiles.

The MSU College of Veterinary Medicine congratulates Dean Puschner on this prestigious honor. Today's higher-education leaders face dynamic change; in particular, the face of veterinary medicine is set to change dramatically and rapidly. By participating in MLI, Puschner will help the College better approach current and subsequent opportunities and challenges in diversity, equity, and inclusion with more innovation and creativity.

Millennium Leadership Institute 2022 Press Release and Cohort Composite

About the Millennium Leadership Institute