May 31, 2022: Vice President Bales to retire

I write today to share news that Merri Jo Bales will be stepping down from her position as Vice President and Strategic Director of University Communications at Michigan State University and re-entering the retirement life she generously gave up more than three years ago to help the university.

Merri Jo joined MSU in November 2018 after a long and successful career at Consumers Energy. Her time with us was never intended to be long-term – her initial contract was two years.  I appreciate that she came to MSU at a difficult time to assist with many initiatives within our communications efforts and across the university.  In November 2020, Merri Jo agreed to remain in her role beyond her initial contract to help provide stable leadership in the midst of the pandemic. Now, after 3.5 years, Merri Jo wishes to retire later this summer to return to her consulting business and enjoy time with her family.

She has effectively led University Communications, focused on helping restore MSU’s reputation and increasing levels of trust across the institution.  Her approach to responding to issues and her commitment to increasing communication frequency and expanding focus on internal and external audiences has made a positive difference. I can personally say that the most common compliment I receive from faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents is an appreciation for how well the university communicates with them through our monthly community letters, timely emails and other forums.

Under her leadership, University Communications has improved its approach to integrating strategy into daily communications decisions and its ability to apply analytics. The team has also increased and improved internal communications functions and coordination, through both the Strategic Partner network/model and also with additional outreach.  Through her commitment to aligning strategy, University Communications is wrapping up its own strategic plan that supports each of the three main MSU strategic plans, and Merri Jo was a key contributor to the MSU 2030 strategic planning effort.

Merri Jo’s retirement is effective August 1. University Communications is in a strong place because of her leadership and with two strong leaders under her in Emily Guerrant and Heather Swain. Moving forward, both Emily and Heather will report to me in their existing roles and University Communications will continue to operate as one MAU.

Please join me in thanking Merri Jo for her dedication to her alma mater, and offering well wishes in her pending retirement.


Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D.