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Dec. 8, 2023

President-elect Kevin Guskiewicz remarks to the MSU Board of Trustees


I want to start by thanking the board and search committee members for your clear dedication to this university and its mission, and for your confidence in me. I intend to fully justify that confidence in the days and years ahead.

I also want to thank Interim President Woodruff for her enthusiastic and compassionate leadership of the university over the past year. I am grateful to her and so many others for the warm welcome to the Spartan community.

Aligned with MSU

I would like to begin by sharing a bit about what brought me to MSU.

I have spent my entire professional life in higher education. I have seen it through the lens of a junior faculty member striving for tenure, a department chair and center director, a dean and chancellor, and a proud parent of four children, including three college graduates.

What I have taken away from each experience is the transformative power of higher education to prepare the next generation of citizens and leaders, not only to solve the grand challenges of today but also to identify and address the grand challenges of tomorrow.

This is something MSU does very well. And I’ve learned that over the past several months and I greatly admire the vital role MSU plays in the lives of those who call Michigan home — and so many others — through exceptional educational opportunities, research and engagement across the state and world.

I’m especially inspired by Spartans’ commitment to advancing the success of students. I often say that my favorite place on a college campus is in the classroom with students. And I have tremendous respect for the outstanding faculty and staff at MSU supporting them on their journey to reach their full potential.

I also appreciate MSU’s rich history of research discoveries and innovation serving the common good. I am a researcher myself — a neuroscientist by training. And I am proud to have made contributions to advance my field, work that has influenced concussion guidelines in both the NCAA and the NFL.

As chancellor, I have maintained my research portfolio to always remind myself that research and scholarship work hand in hand with cutting-edge teaching and learning.

And I look forward to upholding MSU’s important role — and fundamental responsibility — as a global public research university focused on giving back to the residents of Michigan and the world.

A culture of collaboration

As MSU’s next president, I pledge to build on the university’s storied legacy of academic and research excellence through a culture of collaboration and servant leadership.

In holding faculty appointments in both a College of Arts and Sciences and a School of Medicine for the past 25-plus years, I have been part of building a culture of collaboration that I believe is unique and has prepared me to work across disciplines and departments, and that I will make certain will happen at Michigan State University.

For example, I helped develop Carolina’s Institute for Convergent Science to bring researchers from across disciplines together to address our grand challenges. I want to be clear that the humanities, arts and social sciences are vital to help us understand how people interface with the outcomes of our research. I call that “synergy unleashed,” and that’s been an approach we’ve been successful with here, and I know it can be at Michigan State are well — an approach that brings together the arts, humanities and sciences.

I was encouraged by the emphasis placed on interdisciplinary initiatives in the MSU 2030 strategic plan. We need to prepare our students to view the world through different lenses to identify the most pressing challenges, process all the inputs of our diverse, connected world and exercise informed, critical reasoning to support our democracy.

For that reason, I also believe fervently in the integration of the arts and humanities into educational programs and campus culture. I am very pleased to see that MSU feels the same, as reflected in the new Arts MSU framework.

Inclusive culture, servant leadership

For similar reasons, an inclusive culture is critical to the success of any great research university aspiring to be exceptional. A diverse community is imperative to attracting and retaining the best students, faculty and staff.

That is why as chancellor, I led a reimaging of our Office of Diversity and Inclusion and held community-building forums to identify priorities and the programming and services to address them … and why before that as a dean, I formed the first-ever Faculty Diversity Advisory Committee at UNC to help with recruitment and retention of underrepresented faculty.

I was pleased to see how MSU’s work developing strategic plans for DEI and for relationship violence and sexual misconduct form valuable foundations for this university’s 2030 strategic plan.

As the strategic plan emphasizes, a university’s greatest asset is its people. Nurturing our people must be at the heart of what we do as an institution. And, as a servant leader, I will work tirelessly to support the aspirations of all Spartans and help create a culture where everyone feels safe, welcome and valued.

True north

Let me conclude by saying I am aware MSU has faced more than its share of challenges in recent years. Yet, I see a strong university with an inspiring historical foundation that can reach new levels of excellence through its powerful commitment to student success, knowledge discovery and land-grant service.

I look forward to working with all community members and partners — the board of trustees and our colleges; students, faculty, staff, coaches; Spartan families and alums; Academic Governance and labor unions; local, state and federal officials; and our many other stakeholders.

I commit to working alongside all of you to identify what I like to call a “true north” that will lead us to provide the very best education and workplace culture for Spartans — and bold service to the public.

As we embark on this collective journey, I invite you to join me in charting the way forward by considering the following questions:

  1. What will it take for MSU to maintain its position among the top-tier research institutions in the nation?
  2. How will it contribute to the great scientific, medical and social challenges of our time?
  3. And how will MSU continue to prepare students for careers and jobs that don’t yet exist?

Answers to these questions will help determine Michigan State University’s “true north,” and I will start my tenure with a listening and learning tour to hear from the community about how to ensure a bright future for our university.

Thank you again for this wonderful opportunity. I can’t wait to begin working alongside all Spartans as we strive to motivate excellence, inspire innovation and serve as a welcoming community for all.

Go Green!

Want to learn more?

Watch video: MSU Board of Trustees selects next president