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Dec. 8, 2023

Board of Trustees appoints Kevin M. Guskiewicz as MSU's next president

Kevin M. Guskiewicz, an accomplished neuroscientist, sports medicine researcher and academic leader, has been named the 22nd president of Michigan State University.

The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to appoint
Guskiewicz, the 12th chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, during a special board meeting in East Lansing on Dec. 8. He will begin his term on March 4, 2024.

“I am eagerly looking forward to working with all Spartans to build on this great university’s strong historical foundation,” said Guskiewicz. “I intend to foster a culture of collaboration and, by working together, we can propel MSU to even greater eminence through its powerful commitment to student success, knowledge discovery and land-grant service.”

The board also approved his appointment as a professor with tenure in the College of Education’s Department of Kinesiology.

Guskiewicz’s appointment followed a comprehensive national search led by Trustee Dennis Denno, chair of the presidential search committee, and Trustee Brianna Scott, search committee vice chair, in partnership with executive search firm Isaacson, Miller. The process began in April 2023.

President-elect Kevin Guskiewicz
President-elect Kevin Guskiewicz. Photo by Derrick L. Turner.

“The board and I are excited to welcome such an experienced leader as Kevin Guskiewicz to the Spartan community,” said Denno. “We are confident that he has the intellectual vision, broad worldview and personal integrity to inspire our university community to new levels of excellence. And we look forward to working alongside him to foster a climate of community, engagement and mutual respect.”

“Kevin Guskiewicz will assume the presidency of Michigan State University with a wealth of experience and the vision required to advance the university along its trajectory of excellence," said Board of Trustees Chair Rema Vassar. "His extensive background in higher education positions him well to champion our strategic initiatives, and the board and I look forward to working with him.”

Since May, a 29-member committee appointed by the board that represented the full spectrum of the Spartan community — from faculty and staff to students and alums to university and community leaders — solicited input through seven public forums, numerous listening sessions and an online submission form where community members shared their ideas on the characteristics desired for MSU's next president. The committee, board and search firm used those comments as the basis for the Presidential Prospectus and the criteria by which the candidate was evaluated.

“The student and other Spartan voices, the commitment of the search committee and the expertise of the Isaacson, Miller search firm all were essential in selecting our next president,” said Scott. “We are so grateful for all the effort that was contributed to get our top candidate.”

MSU men's head basketball coach Tom Izzo served on the search committee.

“I’m very excited to have Kevin Guskiewicz come to Michigan State and lead our great university, and welcome him and wife, Amy, to our Michigan State family,” said Izzo. “Through the search process, and in speaking to people who know him, I’ve found him to be very relatable, placing an emphasis on building relationships with those around him. Those relationships will be crucial, as a president must connect with many different constituencies across campus. Just as important is his passion for fundraising, as evidenced by his success in major fundraising efforts at North Carolina. Kevin began his professional career as a collegiate athletic trainer and later worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers before pursuing a career in higher education. I appreciate that he values the role athletics can play in helping advance the university’s greater mission, something he’s experienced firsthand at North Carolina. Finally, I think he will be a difference-maker who will gather all Spartans back together to accomplish our common goal of making Michigan State University the best institution in the world.”

Search committee member Hannah Jeffery, president of the MSU Council of Graduate Students, said that she believed the process to be inclusive and effective.

“I would like to acknowledge the Board of Trustees for making an effort to build and maintain a very diverse presidential search committee,” said Jeffery, who provided remarks at the special board meeting on Friday. “At all times during the search process, I felt listened to and respected when I gave my opinion. I believe that the MSU Board of Trustees made the best possible decision when selecting Chancellor Guskiewicz to be the next president of MSU. When I reviewed his credentials, he stood out to me as a thoughtful, qualified individual with a great attitude toward higher education and leadership. I am very happy to begin working with him to create a great environment for graduate and professional students at MSU.”

Guskiewicz, 57, founded the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center and is a nationally recognized expert on sport-related concussions. His groundbreaking work has garnered numerous awards and has influenced concussion guidelines in the NCAA and the NFL.

Among his accolades, Guskiewicz was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (often referred to as a “genius grant”) in 2011 for his innovative work on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of sport-related concussions. In 2013, Time magazine named him a Game Changer, one of 18 “innovators and problem-solvers that are inspiring change in America.”

Guskiewicz joined UNC’s faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Exercise and Sports in 1995, where he spent 28 years moving up the ranks as a professor and chair. He was named interim chancellor in February 2019 before being appointed chancellor in December 2019. Prior to those roles, he served as dean of UNC-Chapel Hill’s largest academic institution, the College of Arts & Sciences, from 2016-19, where he made interdisciplinary research and experiential learning cornerstones of his tenure.

In addition to maintaining an active research portfolio throughout his career at UNC-Chapel Hill, he has proven himself an exceptional administrator, leading the school to a top-four ranking among public universities by U.S. News & World Report this year, jumping seven places to No. 22 in the country overall among public and private institutions.

Throughout nearly five years as chancellor, Guskiewicz led UNC-Chapel Hill’s $1.2 billion research enterprise, implemented its strategic plan, opened a hub to support the university’s networks of innovators and entrepreneurs, created a Campus Safety Commission, and appointed a special commission examining the university’s 230-year history with race and recommending ways to reckon with its past, among many other accomplishments.

Notably, he led the university community through challenges similar to those faced by MSU, including broadening in-state student access by increasing financial support, operating during the COVID-19 pandemic and comforting the campus community following a fatal shooting.

“Dr. Guskiewicz brings with him a wealth of experience, scholarly accomplishments and a proven track record of exemplary leadership,” said Jerlando Jackson, dean of the MSU College of Education and search committee member.  

“Serving as the chancellor of an Association of American Universities institution, he has navigated the complexities of higher education with a strategic vision that has led to institutional growth and success,” said Jackson, who spoke at Friday’s board meeting. “His ability to inspire, innovate and guide an academic institution through the dynamic landscape of modern education is a testament to his exceptional leadership. I am confident that his decisive leadership will guide MSU with the same clarity and purpose.”

As the nation’s premier land-grant university, MSU’s East Lansing campus comprises 17 degree-granting colleges and more than 400 areas of study, along with maintaining an active presence in all 83 counties in the state of Michigan through MSU Extension. MSU has a 93% placement rate for recent graduates and the six-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduates is 82%. MSU is No. 28 among public universities and No. 60 overall in U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Colleges 2024.

Guskiewicz joins MSU following a year that marked $759.2 million in research expenditures, the university’s highest number to date. Home of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, MSU is first in the nation in Department of Energy expenditures and is also a top recipient of funding from the Department of Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense.

In addition to more than 51,000 students that attend the university, the MSU community includes approximately 13,500 faculty and academic and support staff. Shawn Starr, who represents approximately 850 of those employees in his role as president of Local 1585, said he looks forward to building a cooperative working relationship with the new president that “continues the open lines of communication between the staff and the administration.”

“It was a privilege to participate on the presidential search committee,” Starr said during his remarks on Friday. “Dr. Guskiewicz’s 28 years at UNC and in higher education have positioned him well to take on such an important role here at MSU — at time when our university needs stable leadership. I believe Dr. Guskiewicz is an outstanding hire and a great step in moving Michigan State forward.”

Carol Folt, president of the University of Southern California, worked with Guskiewicz for several years during her prior tenure as chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill. She affirmed his commitment to community-building and ethics.

“I’ve known Kevin for more than a decade; he’s one of the most talented, visionary and ethical leaders in all of higher education,” she said. “He leads with compassion, decisiveness and integrity; he builds consensus across differences; he lives opportunity and equity every day; and he puts students at the center. He is always looking for bold ideas to build the future, and the community will love working with him. As a proud Midwesterner myself, whose own career was launched as a postdoc at MSU, I am so excited for Kevin, for MSU and for the people of Michigan.”

Born and raised in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, Guskiewicz earned a bachelor’s degree in athletic training from West Chester University, a master’s in exercise physiology/athletic training from the University of Pittsburgh and a doctorate in sports medicine from the University of Virginia.

Guskiewicz and his wife, Amy, have four children: Jacob, Nathan, Adam and Tessa.

By: Sydney Hawkins

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