Greeting from Provost Woodruff

Dear MSU community members,

I hope you and your families are healthy and that you have enjoyed a productive summer. My summer included a move to East Lansing and getting to know the leadership of this great institution, especially President Stanley. As each of you know, President Stanley is a remarkable leader who is guiding MSU through the COVID-19 pandemic using the best public health information available. Importantly, many of you have provided critical input to President Stanley and other campus leaders through 21 committees, each of which is asking the right questions, working with changing inputs, yet solving with determination each problem as it is identified in order to enable the best success for students, faculty, and staff. Your work is impressive, and I look forward to engaging with you from behind a Spartan mask, through online engagement, or by waving at 6-foot distances. In the midst of this difficult and important work, many of you have sent me words of welcome and your insights about the university and surrounding communities. I have much to learn from each of you, so keep sending me your thoughts about MSU and ways we can further enhance this great institution. And thanks for making my summer start a good one!

Sadly and critically, this summer was also a time of profound pain, anger, and reckoning for our nation and each of us as individuals as we witnessed the senseless killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans who have died because of police brutality and structural racism. I am committed to working with each of you to develop the MSU that every individual deserves, and to uphold the mission and values of the Black Lives Matter movement and affirming that Black lives matter here and to the world. The Office of the Provost is fully engaged in efforts to identify and eradicate policies, practices, and behaviors that create barriers to success for students of color. Some of these agenda items include a review of the admissions process, general education reform, curricular analysis, and the expansion of the first-year seminars program.

Students benefit from leaders and faculty who are diverse, who conduct research at the edges of knowledge, and who teach students to ask questions and build new knowledge. Importantly, I will be reviewing the processes associated with faculty recruitment, retention, promotion, and tenure and will be consulting our deans and faculty leadership across campus who will join me in this effort. MSU has some of the most superb deans in the nation and there is great underlying strength in each college. I’ll be working with the deans to develop times that I can meet with each college to learn more about their area goals and ambitions, and to develop the review process.

Change will require strategic investments that positively contribute to the academic success of our diverse and traditionally underserved students. I will report back on our efforts and on tangible change over time. I ask for your partnership in these endeavors, but I do not ask for your patience. Change must come to MSU and we have our clarion call to action, so change must also come with alacrity. I am determined to work collectively and communally to listen to, consider, and develop meaningful approaches to immediate and long-term change.

Just as we continue to work on the many ways to maintain the physical health of our campus community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the provost’s office has also been investing in ways to enable the best intellectual health of our students, research community, and the creative arts community. At its most basic level, intellectual health is the foundation of student success and academic excellence, the twin pillars of our academic mission. I believe that structure informs function and my role as provost is to make sure the academic infrastructure of MSU supports student success and world-changing scholarship. I plan to be an effective champion of each discipline and every individual. I will also work with our deans to recognize student and faculty success through a new Provost’s Office Honorifics Program that elevates the stature of the intellectual work to national and global prominence. I will be working on these and other building blocks of intellectual health to enable the success of our community of learners, teachers, scholars, inventors, and leaders. 

Finally, I am grateful to follow after Teresa Sullivan who served with distinction as interim provost to her alma mater during the last academic year, and to Thomas Jeitschko, for his diligent work over the past month as your acting provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Thomas will remain in the Office of the Provost through the end of this year to enable the best possible continuity and engagement for you with the provost’s office. 

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made physical modifications to the ways we teach, conduct research, pursue scholarship, and interact, but MSU’s land-grant mission and purpose are strong and persistent. During my transition to this new role, I have found that you, the MSU community, are similarly strong and persistent. The coming academic year will be like no other in some ways. But I am confident it will be just like others in how we uphold Michigan State University’s commitment to student success and academic excellence.

Feel free to email me directly at provost@msu.edu with your thoughts regarding the roadmap I lay out here, and any goals you believe will enable a better MSU. 

Sincerely,

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D.
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor