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MSU presidential search accepting candidates, releases last update

February 7, 2019
Members of the Presidential Search Committee gather with members of the Board of Trustees at the meeting on the update of the presidential search process at the Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 22, 2018.
Members of the Presidential Search Committee gather with members of the Board of Trustees at the meeting on the update of the presidential search process at the Hannah Administration Building on Aug. 22, 2018. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Over the past few months, Michigan State's presidential search committee has been accepting applications from “many interested candidates." 

The committee has also assembled a diverse pool of candidates for consideration, according to a presidential search update sent to the university community Thursday evening by Trustees Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster, co-chairs of the committee.

Byrum told The State News that interviews with candidates will begin soon. 

In what Byrum said could be the last update sent out to the university community before the permanent president is announced in June, the co-chairs wrote that the pool of candidates is “diverse and includes individuals with demonstrated accomplishments and experiences and who hold high-level leadership positions.” 

“These were the characteristics most commonly identified in our MSU community input sessions as what participants wanted to see in our next president,” the letter said. “With that in mind, we are confident we will have the strongest possible pool of candidates from which to select our 21st president.”

Addressing transparency in the presidential search process

The presidential search committee is making an effort to conduct the search “as transparently as possible,” Byrum and Foster said in the update.

The committee decided last semester that the presidential search would be closed to the public in order to "draw the strongest pool of candidates," Byrum and Foster noted in a previous letter to the community. 

Activist organizations like Reclaim MSU, news outlets like the Lansing State Journal, and other members of the community have expressed concern with the presidential search being closed to the public. 

“The confidentiality of the search is of the utmost importance. These high-caliber candidates will not remain in the pool for consideration if their identities are made public,” the latest update said. “All members of the search committee and the Board of Trustees have signed confidentiality statements."

From the beginning, Byrum said she and Foster wanted to ensure the search would be driven by community input and opinion.

"As the board was looking at putting together a presidential search, the challenge and the commitment that both Melanie Foster and myself made to the MSU community is that we were going to be transparent in the process," she said. "Sharing information as we went along the process, keeping the MSU community involved and getting their input."

Keeping candidates confidential will allow the search committee and the Board of Trustees to hire the best person, Byrum said. She said individuals who are currently employed in high-level positions will not put their name into a candidate pool if their confidentiality cannot be guaranteed.

"What we heard very clearly from the MSU community was they wanted us to assemble the strongest possible pool of applicants in order to hire the best person out there to be the next president," she said. "We need to have a confidential search. Otherwise, the pool will evaporate overnight."

Entering the last phase of the presidential search process

The presidential search committee conducted more than 22 input sessions in the fall, where students, faculty and other members of the university community gave input on what qualities and characteristics they believe the university’s next president should have. 

The committee compiled notes from these sessions and will use them to evaluate candidates.

The search committee also used the MSU community’s input to create the presidential prospectus — a 39-page document meant to introduce candidates to the university community.

Byrum said she would encourage members of the community to check the presidential search website for updates and to look at the presidential prospectus.

"At the end of the prospectus, it talks about the opportunities and the challenges and the characteristics most valued in a president for Michigan State University," she said. "That's the criteria by which we're going to be evaluating candidates, and that criteria came directly from the input sessions."

Although Byrum said Thursday's update to the community will most likely be the last update until the presidential announcement, the committee will inform the community if anything outlined in the timeline changes.

She said the search committee is still on schedule to announce the university's next president in June.

According to the presidential search timeline, the committee will be collaborating with the Board of Trustees from now until May to review applications and conduct interviews with candidates. 

Once interviews are completed, the Board of Trustees will choose — and the committee will announce — who the university’s next president will be.

Byrum said it's her hope that the chosen candidate will be able to begin acting as MSU's next president by June or at the start of July. 

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