Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Third provost finalist virtually visits campus

April 2, 2020

The third and final virtual visit for candidates seeking to be Michigan State's next provost was held Wednesday afternoon with Teresa Woodruff — professor, dean and associate provost in the graduate school at Northwestern University.

Woodruff was asked a number of questions from the MSU community, moderated by co-chair of the provost search committee Ron Hendrick.

In the forum, she said that she believes what makes a good provost is intellectual curiosity, an ability to listen and learn and actional accountability to diversity, equity and inclusion.

"A great university ... creates two things; great people and great ideas," Woodruff said. "Collectively, we face a high degree of disagreement. ... The success of Michigan State over this period of time will depend on three things. First, to support excellence in teaching. Second, to support ambitions and the research enterprise and invigorate service that shares knowledge. ... I would strive to be the kind of provost — one who listens carefully and acts ... in the interest of the mission of the people who make up the institution over time."

She described some of her roles as the dean of the graduate school at Northwestern. Woodruff said she initiated Northwestern's graduate school's "Vision 2025" strategic plan.

"I took on the role of dean at a time when Northwestern's leadership was addressing financial and bond rating issues," Woodruff said. "My first priority was to create a new unit to coordinate external and internal communications to ensure that these actions had broad input."

She said within this role she created the first diversity, equity and inclusion council for the graduate school in order to recieve input from students, staff and faculty. She was then asked how she would take the role of provost in these terms.

"Lead by example. Someone who brings one's whole self," Woodruff said. "Diversity, equity and inclusion have been the bedrock values that have been part of my career for 25 years, and it is ensuring that we open the gate as wide as possible."

Additionally, she was asked how the role of the provost would be used as we come back from the pandemic.

“The role of the provost is to ensure the right minds are looking at all the different aspects of what the 'ifs' and 'thens' will be going forward," Woodruff said. "We don't have that prismatic view of what will happen with the current virus, nor do we understand how the economics of the virus will play out across the globe with governments and with individuals. I think we have to continue to develop with the best minds possible, all of the different scenarios and be able to implement them with the least impact to our students."

Amid the recovery, she expresses her hopes in future innovations that will help MSU continue to their education.

"I do think that it is incumbent on us now, the academy, each one of us are lifelong learners, and we are now going to have to learn and teach differently and some of these new technologies ... are going to be those kinds of assets that really allow us to change the way we engage with teaching and learning," Woodruff said. "If MSU gets this right, you will be in the lead for decades to come and those students of Michigan, of the midwest and of the world will be best served by your investment in this time."

The other two finalists — Wanda Blanchett and Antonio Tillis — had their virtual visits to campus earlier this week.

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