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MSU Provost Teresa Woodruff named as interim president in unanimous vote

October 31, 2022
<p>Teresa Woodruff at the Board of Trustees special meeting on Oct. 31.</p>

Teresa Woodruff at the Board of Trustees special meeting on Oct. 31.

Photo by Devin Anderson-Torrez | The State News

The Board of Trustees appointed Provost Teresa Woodruff to interim president in a unanimous vote at a special meeting on Oct. 31. 

Woodruff was appointed interim president less than three weeks after President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. resigned. In a video sent to the MSU community on Oct. 13, Stanley gave the board a 90-day notice of resignation, citing a loss of confidence within the board. Stanley wasn't present at the special meeting because he was speaking at another event, deputy spokesperson Dan Olsen said.

Following Stanley’s announcement, the board released a statement that said the search for interim president would begin immediately. The statement also said the board expects Stanley to remain in his position for the full 90 days. 

At a university council meeting on Oct. 18, Stanley said he intended to “cooperate with the board on a transition to an interim president and ensure as much stability” as possible. 

Weeks of miscommunication culminated in a tension-filled board meeting on Oct. 28, where trustees said they have had problems communicating and trusting each other. During the meeting, Trustee Brianna Scott called Stanley’s resignation “collateral damage” from the trustees’ ongoing problems.

Several trustees said they hope communication between each other and with the MSU community can improve in the future.

Board chair Dianne Byrum said leading up to the decision, the board spoke with the Associated Students of Michigan State University, the Council of Graduate Students, Residential and Hospitality Services, Council of Racial & Ethnic Students and Council of Progressive Students, the Faculty Senate, the Union of Non-Tenure Track Faculty, deans, the associate provost and research teams about what they are looking for in an interim president.

"We heard that the criteria should be internal to campus, someone who could step in immediately and had a working knowledge on the complexity of the university," Byrum said. "One name emerged overwhelmingly: Teresa Woodruff."

Woodruff said she plans to work with the community and the board to continue creating a safe and inclusive campus and implementing the strategic plan.

"Please know that I stand by all of you, students, faculty, academic staff, staff, alumni, trustees and members of our entire Spartan community," Woodruff said. "Each of us plays a unique and significant role. And my request is that we be all in for MSU. I look forward to engaging with you all through an upcoming listening tour and plan to provide frequent updates on the state of the university."

ASMSU president Jo Kovach said they feel very hopeful that the board listened to the MSU community and appointed Woodruff. They said they are hoping that the president search will be open and have at least five students on the search committee.

"Provost Woodruff has always been, for ASMSU, like a breath of fresh air," Kovach said. "It's really easy for administrators to be a little bit more cold, be a little bit more matter-of-fact, but Provost Woodruff has always put her heart and soul into things when we speak with her."

ASMSU vice president for internal administration Carl Austin Miller Grondin said he is happy that now Woodruff will be the one signing his diploma.

"She was the one administrator who consistently worked on behalf of every single student, she cares about every single student, she wants every single student to thrive," Miller Grondin said. "Her office is one of the only offices that is consistently asking for student input. In my time being student body vice president, I've never had another group ask me to come to their office and talk to them."

Following the meeting, Woodruff hugged Kovach and Miller Grondin, who both congratulated her. Woodruff said the community she and her family has created at MSU has been warm and welcoming. She said she has consistently had a great relationship with ASMSU presidents, including Kovach.

"Their leadership has been extraordinary over the last several months," Woodruff said. "They've just been really a constant champion for Michigan State, for the Michigan State that they want to see."

Byrum said the board plans to conduct a "competitive, robust search" for the next permanent president. She said when a search process is finalized, it will be shared with the campus community, but that there are no details at the time.

Woodruff is eligible to submit her name and application for consideration, Byrum said. Woodruff said she hasn't decided if she will put her name in.

"My head is spinning a bit now, just after the last several days," Woodruff said. "Those are questions that I'll be asking myself and others and so, right now, I'm really focused on the job ahead, and I'm excited to do it."

The details of the transition from Stanley to Woodruff are still being discussed, Woodruff said. According to the board resolution passed at the meeting, her appointment to interim president is effective Nov. 4, 2022.

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Multimedia editor Devin Anderson-Torrez contributed to the content of this article.

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