Moving forward as Provost

04-23-2014

It is with great enthusiasm that I assume the position of Provost at Michigan State University.

I have some advantage, having previewed the post as Acting Provost over the last 15 months. And yet I am keenly aware of the transition from one role to another, aware of the shift from “the familiar” to the “to be discovered.” While my first six months will not be spent getting to know my way around campus, the next few months will include a combination of activities aimed at results and re-discovery. My interest in engaging in these activities arises not from a desire to change direction, but from a curiosity about how to create some new pathways. 

I am fortunate to know so much about our institutional assets and processes. Knowing who and how to get things done will allow a fast start, and some fast results. By fall, we should be well into planning our “pilot” teaching and technology laboratory, and have commenced serious planning for a new campus integrated science building. In the next six months I will begin the coordination of activities around our “healthy campus” initiative and a Work Life Office. I’ve asked Dr. Greg Holzman, formerly with the CDC and the Michigan Department of Community Health, to help. I will immediately seek advice around the reorganization of the Office of the Provost, to better serve our campus. And by next fall, in consultation with faculty, I should have identified at least three new deans.

But time in these next months will also be spent in re-discovery, listening to the campus community. Under other circumstances, there might be a series of “meet the new Provost” events. Instead, I hope to host a series of “connect with campus” events. Time in May will be set aside to get out of the office and around campus. I intend to devote time to listening and reflecting on what I learn. In the fall, I hope you will invite me to some of your scheduled events. Also, this is fair warning that you may see me wandering your halls or poking my head into your classroom. Our faculty and their activities are much too dynamic and capacious to assume that one could ever know all that goes on at MSU. I look forward to rediscovering our campus from a new perspective.

Nowhere will this practice of “using what I know to accelerate what we do” be more important than in our development efforts. With the leadership of President Simon, I intend to work aggressively with deans to pursue our Capital Campaign goals. Many of our plans depend upon the philanthropic support of our alumni and friends, so there is no time for hesitation.

In the next few weeks, I’ll move from the office of the Senior Associate Provost some 50 feet east, taking up residence in the Provost’s office. Although not a significant geographic move, the perspective is very different from that corner office. The transition of a university’s chief academic officer is, in some ways, a transition for the university, too – a shared kind of new beginning. I hope to be able to combine a fresh perspective with the lessons learned from 31 years of experience as a faculty member and university administrator. Going forward as Provost, I commit to:

  • Making academic excellence our daily work, driving all decision-making,

  • Building our success with the contributions of a diverse, inclusive community, and

  • Assuring that mission and purpose distinguish how we do all that we do.

It is my privilege to work with all of you as we move forward, guided by these commitments.