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MSU president-elect Guskiewicz has 'mixed emotions' as he leaves UNC, envisions changes

December 8, 2023
<p>UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks at a press conference in Gerrard Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2023 regarding an incident involving an armed individual at Alpine Bagel Cafe. Image taken by Samantha Lewis and provided by The Daily Tar Heel.</p>

UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz speaks at a press conference in Gerrard Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2023 regarding an incident involving an armed individual at Alpine Bagel Cafe. Image taken by Samantha Lewis and provided by The Daily Tar Heel.

Michigan State University president-elect Kevin Guskiewicz has “mixed emotions” as he leaves the University of North Carolina campus behind.

“We’ve spent 28 years here, raised our children here and it’s a special place,” he said. “But, you reach a point in life where you’re ready for a new journey, and challenge perhaps, so I’m ready for that.”

Guskiewicz, a neuroscientist and administrator who’s been the chancellor of UNC Chapel Hill since 2019, was unanimously appointed MSU’s next president by the board at a special meeting Friday. His term will begin in March 2024.

He’ll be the sixth person to lead MSU in as many years.

Asked what he believes will give him a longer shelf-life than his predecessors, Guskiewicz said he brings a “wealth of experience” and a passion for “not only higher education, but really, public higher education.”

He thinks that makes him a great fit.

“I see MSU as being a passionately public institution, one that, I like to say, will be the university for Michigan,” he said.

In an interview with The State News on Friday, Guskiewicz said he was hesitant to commit to anything specific months before he begins his work. But he already has ideas.

He’s envisioning a statewide bus tour for fall 2024, similar to the Tar Heel Bus Tour he led at UNC, where he wants to “get out across the state, and touchdown in the communities students call home.”

“I’m a big believer in getting out and meeting people, meeting with the people there,” he said.

He’s also planning a campus junket. Deemed a “listening and learning tour,” he said he plans to meet with as many students, faculty and staff as possible early in his tenure, in hopes of informing his first big decisions.

“I want to learn what people are afraid I’ll do as president and what they’re afraid I will not do as president,” he said. “I talk about being strategic and bold, but always student focused. I end it with student focus, because they’re why we’re there.”

Guskiewicz was asked to meet with various campus constituencies before his appointment, but turned the invitations down.

The search that selected Guskiewicz was conducted in complete secrecy, with the board only promising to name their final choice, never publicizing the candidates or finalists.

That secrecy was shattered, however, by a Nov. 15 State News report which revealed that Guskiewicz was the lone finalist for the job.

After that report, MSU’s faculty senate, Black Alumni and Black Faculty, Staff and Administrators Association asked for opportunities to meet with and question the then-finalist.

When he turned their offers down, citing scheduling concerns, he was criticized by Faculty Senate Chair Jack Lipton who said “I don't know if it's really availability or if it's desire.”

Guskiewicz said Friday that he declined because “it would be very, very atypical that that would be done during a confidential presidential search.”

Now that he’s been appointed however, he said he would be “very pleased” to meet with any campus group that wants to ask him questions.

“I’m eager to meet with them,” he said. “The right time to do that would be in those first few weeks, upon my arrival in East Lansing.”

He’s said he aims to have more campus input across his decision-making as president. He said he envisions student, faculty and staff advisory committees, similar to ones he created at UNC, which could inform his administration.

He’ll also have to work with MSU’s embattled board of trustees, which has been accused of harmfully interfering in recent presidencies.

Guskiewicz said weeks ago that he would only come to MSU if the board promised to break that habit. Today, he’s confident they will.

“I’ve gotten to know each one of them … and I felt a real connection to them individually and collectively as a group,” he said. “That circle of trust is going to be really important to bringing the university forward. The board has given me a confidence over the past three or four months that that can happen.”

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