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Empowering Organizational Alignment Across the Office of the Provost

October 12, 2021

Strategic Leadership

After serving as provost for a year, I have decided to make some organizational alignments to enable the best work and alignment of resources and strengths within and across the Office of the Provost. Fundamentally, these are steps forward that will be helpful in the implementation of our university strategic plan. Internally, these adjustments will allow our offices to work smarter and go further, faster, together in support of you – both in academic scholarly excellence and in student progress and outcomes.

One of the more significant steps in support of this alignment effort is the appointment of Dr. Thomas Jeitschko as senior associate provost. Dr. Jeitschko plays a central role on my leadership team, facilitating discussions on the administrative continuity of the Office of the Provost, ensuring smooth functions of the office, fostering effective communication coordination, and providing incident management leadership. Many of you know and respect Thomas for his leadership of our Graduate School and as the acting provost prior to my arrival. A university of this size and scope is well-served by a leader such as Thomas and I am delighted that he will continue to serve our university community with this new title.

With the retirement of Dave Byelich, the Institutional Research group and Facilities Planning and Space Management group (newly named the Institutional Space Planning and Management group) in the Office of Planning and Budgets will now report to Senior Associate Provost Jeitschko, with Bethan Cantwell and Barb Kranz both being elevated to assistant provost roles. Institutional Research and Institutional Space Planning and Management work closely and frequently across multiple areas of the university and Office of the Provost, providing critical support, data, and insights into routine operations and long-term planning. I am grateful for the outstanding work done by Bethan, Barb, and their teams and look forward to their amplified work across the university.

Another optimization is in Academic Services. You will recall that I selected Dr. Dave Weatherspoon as assistant provost for academic strategic planning after a wide-ranging search process earlier this year. This position is central to our university strategic plan efforts that are now transitioning to the implementation stage. With Dr. John Gaboury having stepped down from his role as associate provost for academic services, enrollment management, and academic initiatives and returning to the faculty in MSU Libraries on October 1, Dr. Weatherspoon has taken on the added portfolio of enrollment (Financial Aid, Registrar, and Admissions offices) and academic strategic planning. Thus, I have elevated the position from assistant to associate provost, with the new title of associate provost of enrollment and academic strategic planning. This position will continue its direct reporting line to me. Dave provides collaborative leadership with clear strategic objectives for university functions and shares with me the desire to have academic philosophy imbued in each decision we make throughout the academic services portfolio. Dave is a leader for our shared future and I look forward to the difference he will continue to make in collaboration with all of you.

Realignment of Existing Offices

Two additional decisions in support of clearer and more effective alignment within the Office of the Provost are related to name changes. These new names reflect accuracy in nomenclature and help our campus community more clearly understand the roles and responsibilities of these offices. As such, I hope they are received as welcome updates.

Firstly, to better reflect the nature and scope of the work of the Office of the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Academic Human Resources, commonly referred to as Academic Human Resources, I have approved a request for a name change to the Office of the Associate Provost and Associate Vice President for Faculty & Academic Staff Affairs, or more simply the Office for Faculty & Academic Staff Affairs. This new nomenclature aligns with the majority of our peer institutions in the Big Ten Academic Alliance and indeed most of higher education. I anticipate this change will decrease confusion between central Human Resources and the former Academic Human Resources (AHR). Additionally, in past discussions with the University Committee on Faculty Affairs, it became clear that faculty and academic staff may not recognize that the associate provost for academic human resources is the point person for faculty-related questions. I believe this new title will naturally lead to that recognition and understanding, and to greater awareness of the distinct roles and responsibilities of the Office for Faculty & Academic Staff Affairs. I am grateful for the continued leadership of Dr. Suzanne Lang who is serving as the associate provost and associate vice president for faculty and academic staff affairs and the team who diligently serves our campus.

The collective work of the Office for Faculty & Academic Staff Affairs contributed to the policy update I shared at the start of the semester. Their ongoing diligence continues to contribute to improving our university community and culture. Ongoing policy review continues, in support of fostering ethical, honorable, and respectful behavior and work environments.

The second naming update is for the Academic Advancement Network, which will become the Office of Faculty and Academic Staff Development. This title also aligns with academic peers. The Office of Faculty and Academic Staff Development will maintain its focus on providing professional development opportunities for our faculty and academic staff across all stages of their career and employment at MSU. While a great deal of professional development opportunity takes place within one’s specific field, within various disciplinary groups and organizations, MSU’s Office of Faculty and Academic Staff Development will provide the added focus on helping faculty and academic staff advance professionally within the university, both individually and as a member of our community of scholars. I appreciate the ongoing leadership that Dr. Marilyn Amey continues to provide as interim associate provost in support of this important portfolio of responsibilities.

Student Affairs and Services, Undergraduate Education

Last Friday afternoon it was announced that the Division of Residential and Hospitality Services and Student Affairs and Service will merge to become the new Division of Student Life and Engagement. Vennie Gore, senior vice president for Residential and Hospitality Services and Auxiliary Enterprises, who assumed the interim role as vice president for Student Affairs in September 2020, will become the senior vice president for Student Life and Engagement. The position of associate provost for student affairs and services, which was established in late 2018 by interim leadership, will be eliminated. The key components and responsibilities of the associate provost role now reside in the new senior vice president position held by Vennie Gore. This new vision for the Division of Student Life and Engagement aligns with the organizational structures of our peers and provides a clear path forward for the roles and goals of the new unit.

Over the past year, Student Affairs and Services has worked closely with the Office of the Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies under the leadership of Associate Provost and Dean Mark Largent, establishing stronger connections across units and improving programming and resources in support of student success. That partnership and synergy will persist. While the unique strengths and foci of each unit are different and distinct, their shared focus on student success will continue to keep them working in strong partnership, supporting the whole student and whole student experience, inside and outside of the classroom.

Enabling and Ennobling Teaching and Learning

One of the doors a provost traditionally opened was to the library. Our library is the center of campus and a place where our scholarship is housed and learning occurs. I was pleased to recently join Dean Joe Salem and members of our faculty who published books in the last year, books that will be placed in our Stanley C. and Selma D. Hollander Faculty Book Collection. Collecting new knowledge and creating a place for learning represents one of the key goals of our library. As we move increasingly into the digital world, the library is transforming again.

In support of this transformation, Dr. Joe Salem, dean of MSU Libraries, will expand his role to include leadership of our teaching and learning efforts as interim associate provost for teaching and learning innovation. Dr. Salem’s Ph.D. work was in evaluation and measurement, as well as teaching and learning. The former is why President Stanley tapped Joe to co-lead the campus through our strategic planning process; the latter is why I am now asking him to lead our teaching and learning efforts.

This move represents a deliberate effort to locate this fundamental support for educators at the very academic heart of the university, the Main Library, and to enable excellence and line of sight to the provost. Centrally located, and central to the lives of our faculty and instructional staff, the Library will take on this new role and added portfolio of services, bringing together the outstanding faculty and academic staff from across campus who guide and advance innovative teaching and learning methodology. Conversations about this transition are underway, and more information is forthcoming.

University Laude/Individual Honorifics

Since my arrival as provost, I have been aware of the need to increase awareness of the outstanding work of our faculty, and to increase our faculty’s participation in garnering recognition and awards, nationally and internationally. Creating and maintaining a culture that actively encourages faculty to apply and nominate others for external award opportunities is the primary goal of this work. Both the faculty and the university benefit from honorifics and awards that accompany a community of accomplished and internationally renowned faculty who have made significant contributions to their disciplines and to the general body of knowledge.

In June, I invited Nobel laureate Dr. Robert H. Grubbs to serve as a Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, contributing his expertise as the special advisor to the provost on honorifics. In this role he is providing guidance and leadership to advance our tactics associated with faculty nominations. Bethan Cantwell, assistant provost for Institutional Research, has been leading work on metrics of excellence to amplify MSU scholarship toward national prominence. I have established a committee to help identify ways the Office of the Provost can better facilitate both the university and individual metrics of excellence and I will share tactics with the campus community as this work progresses.

Measures of institutional success include our AAU status, rankings in U.S. News & World Report and Times Higher Education, among other national and international views of our excellence. Another metric of our excellence is in the nature of the faculty. One viewfinder for this nature is associated with giving to the university.

Another important measure of success was demonstrated in the 2021 fiscal year, when 5,259 faculty, staff, and retirees contributed nearly $21 million to MSU. Every single degree-granting college and 27 non-degree-granting units on campus participated in philanthropic support for the university. In fact, 20% of employees within our degree-granting units, and 15% of employees across the rest of the university, have given back to Michigan State. Colleagues, you have placed MSU in the top two Big Ten universities and in the top ten most giving faculty among the 65 Association of American Universities institutions, according to a report by the Council for Aid to Education. I know you do not give to be honored. And I know that this year – among all years, has not been easy. Your giving is a vote of confidence that you have in this institution. I am proud to be a part of a university that gives and believes and works. And all over campus, the impact of your giving, your believing, and your work can be seen in the new facilities we have constructed, the new research initiatives we are pursuing, and the faculty members and students who are enabled to do their very best work because of financial support.

Your giving has been difference making to Michigan State University, and that is the most important metric of all. Thank you.

Arts, Culture, and Engagement Updates

A number of significant events related to arts and culture initiatives are taking place or are under way to integrate the MSU Arts Plan into the MSU strategic plan and academic implementation work. Preparations are being made to celebrate a year of MSU arts and cultural anniversaries in 2022. We will mark 100 years for WKAR, 40 years for the Wharton Center, and 10 years for the Broad Art Museum, along with the recent ribbon cutting for our magnificent new Billman Music Pavilion!

MSU was selected as a regional host in September for the Smithsonian National Youth Summit on Confronting Bias through Gender Equity. This work involves the MSU Museum, WKAR, and Broad Art Museum working in partnership and connecting with the Lansing Promise program in the Lansing school district, as well as MSU undergraduates. Science Gallery recently migrated to the MSU Museum as a programmatic division aimed at experimentation and innovation at the intersection of science and art. MSU’s Science Gallery is presenting Tracked & Traced at the Michigan State University Museum September 10-December 11. The exhibition and its supporting public programs examine the complex relationship between surveillance and ethics. Devon Akmon, our new MSU Museum director, is bringing new vitality and partnerships to the MSU Museum and we welcome visits to the MSU Museum during its weekday or weekend hours.

The Campus Natural Areas Classroom, Curriculum, and Conservation Committee spent the summer working with faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates to do updated bio-inventories of Campus Natural Areas. They are launching a new website soon that, along with updated use policies, will make the unique resources of each of these areas more visible and accessible for research, teaching, and community use. I visited the Baker Woodlot last Wednesday and I am pleased to learn that this special area, as well as other Campus Natural Areas, are being used extensively to teach and create unique learning environments for our students.

The Wharton Center for Performing Arts executive director search is beginning in fall semester. The search firm has been selected and the search committee will be chaired by Jim Forger, dean of the College of Music. In the meantime, the current season is simply outstanding, and I urge the campus community to consider including one or more events into your calendars.

The MSU Broad Art Museum recently opened six exhibitions exploring mass incarceration in the United States, created in collaboration with directly impacted individuals and with a focus on women and juveniles. The MSU Broad Frida Kahlo exhibition, to include her clinical files, will open on January 15, 2022, and be on view until August 7, 2022. The MSU Broad 10th anniversary gala will take place on September 17, 2022. It will be accompanied by a Zaha Hadid exhibition that will run from September 2022 to February 2023.

I appreciate the good work of Dr. Judith Stoddart, associate provost for university collections and arts initiatives, in advancing the breadth of programming and advancements in these areas, especially their academic focus and roles as living and learning laboratories. It has been a uniquely demanding fall semester as campus continues to repopulate, and the efforts required to get our arts programming up and running have no doubt been greater than during the start of a typical academic year.

I also want to acknowledge the outstanding scholarship and recent recognition of Dr. Laurie Van Egeren, interim associate provost for university outreach and engagement. Dr. Van Egeren was recently elected as the next president of the Engagement Scholarship Consortium, an international academic association that focuses on the advancement of scholarship-based university-community engagement as part of a continuing dialogue on the nature of knowledge and the role of academic institutions in society. Dr. Van Egeren also has co-authored a publication that appears in Science, on Innovation, entrepreneurship, promotion, and tenure. Kudos to her for these accolades, and for all of her good work as a scholar and leader in support of outreach and engagement here at MSU.

Literally Opening the Door to the Apple Developer Academy

On October 7, Senior Associate Provost Jeitschko joined President Stanley and Michigan Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist on a tour of the newly opened Apple Developer Academy in Detroit. Dr. Sarah Gretter, director of the Apple Developer Academy, accompanied them, along with representatives from Apple.

The Apple Developer Academy in Detroit at Michigan State University, the only developer academy in North America, is embedded in the launch of Apple’s Racial Equity and Justice Initiative projects to challenge systemic racism and advance racial equity nationwide. Designed to educate and prepare a new and more diverse generation of developers, tech leaders, and entrepreneurs – and support them with the skills and resources to pursue careers in today's digital workforce – the Academy is designed to empower Detroit entrepreneurs, creators, and coders, helping them cultivate the skills necessary for jobs in the rapidly growing iOS app economy. Under the leadership of Dr. Gretter and with MSU academic staff serving as mentors, the Academy is the latest endeavor supporting the university’s Detroit strategy.

The Academy will impact 1,000 students per year while strengthening Detroit and Michigan as a Midwest hub for technology and entrepreneurship. At Apple’s other developer academies, about 70% of graduates move right into the labor force. Academy graduates will be positioned for employment in Michigan and across the country as developers with deep knowledge in the iOS platform – adding value to companies ranging from tech startups to auto. We look forward to the many positive outcomes that will be realized as a result of this new venture, for MSU, for Detroit, and for the state of Michigan.

COVID-19 Guidance

I wish I could remove from every member of our university community the burdens of the past 19 months, but we were each given this particular time in human history. We have been jarred by the ways in which health, and work, and liminal spaces alter the narrative of our relationships, one to another, of ourselves to our students, and to the university writ large. As a proxy for every student whose future is being shaped by you as an educator, thank you. As a proxy for the value proposition of your research, scholarship, performances, and creative output, thank you. As a fellow human, traversing this time with you, thank you. A new resource for students and educators has been created to provide COVID-19 guidance on what to do if you have symptoms, receive a positive test result, or are identified as a confirmed close contact. Shared on the Together We Will site, it provides step-by-step directions for students and classroom leaders on how to proceed for each of these potential scenarios. Please reference this new resource and share it with others as needed.

New Website and Contacting Our Office

I encourage you to visit the new Office of the Provost website, especially as academic strategic plan implementation continues and new information related to that process becomes available.

As always, I welcome your feedback, input, and questions related to any topic or aspect of the work of the Office of the Provost at

Expanding Access, Enabling Excellence

Each day as I unlock the door to my office, I think about the Office of the Provost as opening the many metaphorical doors of MSU as wide as possible to greet and welcome every learner, educator, researcher, scholar, administrator, and academic staff member. Access is one key commitment of MSU, and one we continue to expand – broadening our reach to include and benefit an increasingly diverse community of learners and educators. It is my anticipation that the new alignments outlined above work to do just that. And, it is the hope of everyone working for you within the Office of the Provost that these changes are a few of the helpful keys that will contribute to your ongoing success.

Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D. (she/her/hers)
Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs
MSU Foundation Professor