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May 28, 2019

Katherine Rifiotis: Empowered to speak

May 29, 2019

Katherine Rifiotis is a recent graduate with a degree in political theory and constitutional democracy. She is the past president of the Associated Students of MSU and was a member of the MSU presidential search committee that selected Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. as the university’s next president.

As it pertains to the search process, I was impressed by how the over 22 input sessions, which took place last fall, were used. The community input that came from those sessions served as our touchstone. From them, we composed the university prospectus packet that was handed to each candidate — the qualifications and criteria for our next president, as well as a list of challenges and opportunities, as envisioned from our community.

Throughout these past months, the members of the committee empowered me to speak up and represent the students of Michigan State to the best of my abilities. At every point in our conversations and every time a new discussion item arose, committee members deferred to me, ensuring that the student needs were prioritized.

I was also pleased at the stance the board members in the search committee took throughout our deliberations. They opted to listen before sharing their perspective, taking a back seat and allowing the committee’s thorough deliberation to unfold without influencing it.

Dr. Stanley’s accomplishments with student success truly impressed me. He worked comprehensively to effectively eradicate the retention and graduation gap across students of different backgrounds. Dr. Stanley has a proven record of prioritizing student input and fostering good relationships with student leaders to address pressing needs of the campus community.

But most importantly, he truly grasps what it means to foster accountability and work to earn the trust of a community, understanding that integrity and other institutional values must emanate from the top. When he was asked to outline his vision for MSU, Dr. Stanley’s first point was focusing on the healing that this community will undergo. He aims to do that through listening, being a present and accessible leader. I look forward to seeing the community embrace him and his leadership style.