The first virtual visit for Michigan State University’s next provost was held Monday afternoon with finalist Wanda Blanchett — dean of the Graduate School of Education, special advisor to the chancellor for academic affairs, and distinguished professor at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
Moderated by Search Committee Co-chair Beronda Montgomery, Blanchett was asked a number of questions regarding her experience and plans for the provost position at MSU.
"My vision for Michigan State is for us to continue your upward trajectory in the areas of teaching, research and service," Blanchett said. "We will continue to invest in rebuilding trust, transparency and accountability with our students, our faculty, staff, trustees, donors and the general public."
Blanchett spoke on her hopes for diversity, equity and inclusion, her time as Rutgers's interim provost, and student inclusion.
She mentioned her admiration for MSU's current projects and strategic planning, highlighted her own track record in maintaining academic success as well as enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion, hoping she will get to be part of the university's efforts.
While at Rutgers, she said, she helped align the vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion with the appropriate structure and authority needed for the position.
"(We engaged) the community at Rutgers-New Brunswick around ... what it was they would envision that we would do around issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and it became very clear that we needed a different structure. So, part of my job as the interim provost was to build that structure and to envision a position that that included accountability measures," Blanchett said.
Blanchett said she hoped to increase student involvement in MSU's research.
"I believe everything we do should be in support of our students as they are the primary reason for us to exist. So, the student's voice, and the impact of the decisions that are made across the university will have on them, should always be first and foremost in our thinking," Blanchett said. "What makes our mission particularly unique is that we engage in all of those activities (education, research and service) with students at the center of that work."
Amid the spread of COVID-19 and its affects on universities, Blanchett said, similar to Rutgers, MSU is likely losing revenue with the disruption of services.
Additionally, if she were chosen, she said she would want to help give something to the graduating students, and make this semester meaningful for them despite the circumstances.
"I think I'm the best candidate ... I think I have the best experience, I have the skill, the expertise, but most of all, I know I have the integrity and honesty and transparency you desire," Blanchett said. "Regardless of how this turns out — Michigan State will emerge from COVID-19 and all of the other challenges that you've been dealing with, better than it was before ... (this) will help us see the opportunities that exist ... to bring access education to (preschool)-12 and higher education. ... I am committed to making sure that I do everything within my power to extend (quality education) to others."
The second finalist — Antonio Dwayne Tillis — is scheduled to virtually visit MSU Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
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