Oct. 25, 2019 report to the MSU Board of Trustees

Remarks as drafted

I want to thank those who spoke this morning.

A safe, respectful and welcoming campus

I’ve often said since I arrived here almost three months ago that my highest priority is to make our campus as safe, respectful and welcoming as it can be.

This is a broad imperative. I often talk about it in the context of starting a planning process to address diversity, equity and inclusion on this campus.

Safety includes being able to feel safe, respected and welcome.

Recent events have made it clear that many students do not feel that way when confronted with acts of bias or when they hear about them. I discussed this in an email I sent to the MSU community Tuesday. In the message, I acknowledged reports and concerns of bias incidents on campus and described how seriously we take them.

During the past week, I’ve also had conversations with student leaders — including the student liaisons to the Board of Trustees who are seated here at every meeting. I look forward to continuing these conversations as we work together to address these issues.

And as I mentioned in the email, I also will continue to work closely with the campus community as we start strategic planning processes and give particular focus to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Sexual assault prevention planning

Survivors of sexual assault and family members participated in three meetings I held this month. I learned a great deal and answered as many questions and concerns as I could at that time. I listened carefully and I heard concerns, questions and requests for action. I want to reiterate my appreciation for each of the survivors’ willingness to engage with the conversations.  

I want to make sure we are doing everything we can to prevent sexual assault, and to assist those affected by it in a trauma-informed and supportive response. I’ve asked the RVSM Expert Advisory Workgroup and presidential advisers Rebecca Campbell and Andrea Munford to take that input — with the results from the campus climate survey and their own expertise — to draft a plan to address the concerns we heard and to better prevent and respond to RVSM issues.

Along those lines, we have posted a website showing actions needed to comply with reviews conducted under the Federal Clery Act, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Those interested can find it at the Track Our Progress tab on the MSU website’s Our Commitment pages.

Leadership changes

An agenda item before you later this morning is confirmation of the appointment of Dr. Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. to the newly created position of executive vice president for health sciences. In doing so, Dr. Beauchamp will step down as dean of the College of Human Medicine and another capable administrator, Dr. Aron Sousa, will once again step in on an interim basis.

These actions are part of a reorganization of the administration of the colleges of Human Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine and Nursing — and our health clinics — which we announced Oct. 11. The new organization and leadership structure will improve the alignment of MSU’s patient care, medical research, and medical and nursing education. This kind of reporting structure is viewed as a best practice among leading universities operating medical schools, hospitals and clinics. I am confident it will help make Michigan State’s health care activities more accountable and more effective.

Earlier this month we said goodbye to Rob McCurdy, our chief information officer. We wish him well as he moves on to a global accounting firm. I am looking forward to welcoming Melissa Woo as our new senior vice president and chief information officer Dec. 1. I hired and had worked with her since 2016 at Stony Brook. I was impressed with her work at the University of Oregon, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Illinois.

Since the board last met we saw Satish Udpa depart his position as executive vice president for administration to return to the College of Engineering and his laboratory. He is at heart an educator, and the college and his students will be the chief beneficiaries of his attention now.

We are grateful for his leadership at a difficult time for this institution, which Dr. Udpa served as acting president from January through July.

I also want to welcome our interim provost. Teresa Sullivan joined us this month. I’m looking forward to tapping her experience in this important post, and to her engagement in the search for our next provost.

It’s a critical position, and I want to find a provost who shares our priorities for campus safety; student success and academic excellence; diversity, equity and inclusion; world-changing research; and developing the right culture.

I plan to establish a committee to conduct a national search and will engage a search firm to assist. We will expect finalist candidates to come to campus to meet the community. I’ve been taking a lot of input about the composition of the search committee, which will be as broadly representative and inclusive as we can make it.

Most of you know Terry is an alumna of the inaugural class of James Madison College. She was a Wharton Presidential Fellow at MSU, which you might have read about in a profile on her in last spring’s Spartan alumni magazine. She held faculty positions at the University of Chicago, Texas, Michigan and Virginia and has earned five major teaching awards. Her administrative CV includes executive posts at the University of Michigan, the University of Texas and, most recently, president of the University of Virginia.

She also assisted MSU’s presidential search as adviser to the Board and the search committee. Her dedication to her alma mater is as impressive as her experience in higher education.

I’m grateful to her for accepting this post, and I’m pleased to extend an official welcome to interim provost Teresa Sullivan.