Following a national search, Michigan State University Interim President Teresa K. Woodruff, Ph.D., announced today Laura Rugless has been appointed the university’s vice president for civil rights and Title IX education and compliance, effective July 1.
“This role is a key leadership position in our collective focus to create a safer, more welcoming and respectful university community for current and future Spartans,” said Woodruff. “Laura has spent her career advancing equity, civil rights and sexual violence prevention efforts, and her decades of experience in these areas will further our strategic goals. I am excited to welcome her to our team and look forward to her successfully guiding our strategies and bringing a fresh review and perspective to our efforts in preventing and responding to discrimination and sexual violence and misconduct.”
Woodruff also noted her gratitude to the search committee and its co-chairs, MSU Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar Bennett and MSU Department of Police and Public Safety Deputy Chief Andrea Munford, for identifying highly qualified candidates ready to move this important work forward. “Jabbar and Andrea have vast experience in this important area, and I appreciate the time, energy and commitment they and our esteemed search committee have dedicated to this selection process.”
In this newly elevated role, which was transitioned from an associate vice president to a vice president position, Rugless will be responsible for leading the institution’s civil rights and Title IX compliance, serving as the university’s Title IX coordinator and building upon MSU’s efforts to cultivate a university community free of discrimination and harassment. The position will oversee the Office of Institutional Equity; the Prevention, Outreach and Education Department; the Resolution Office; the Office of Support and Equity; the equity review officer; and the Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator.
“MSU’s determination and continuous improvement to deliver on its civil rights and Title IX commitments drew me to this exceptional opportunity,” Rugless said. “I am humbled and excited to lead the dedicated OCR team and work alongside campus partners as we do this important work together.”
Rugless, an Army veteran, has spent much of her career in public service, with more than 15 years in higher education and state and federal compliance work. Most recently, she served as the associate vice president for the Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX, and formerly as the university Title IX coordinator at Cornell University. Prior to her time at Cornell, she was the executive director of equity and access services and Title IX coordinator at Virginia Commonwealth University.
“Laura Rugless is an exceptional leader with a wealth of experience in civil rights and Title IX compliance, having overseen these efforts both within and beyond higher education,” said Bennett. “I look forward to working with Laura and am confident that she will leverage other institutional partners and existing resources to help ensure the safety and well-being of all members of the Spartan community.”
“Laura is a thoughtful leader with a people-centered approach to her work,” said Munford. “In her discussions with the committee, she keenly understood the needs of our community for a supportive structure and approach to create a safer and more respectful environment for Spartans. And she understood the impact this work can have on all individuals involved. I look forward to working with her and seeing the continued progress of the office.”
Throughout her career, Rugless has led civil rights offices and Title IX programs for Division I institutions and developed and implemented Title IX, ADA and other civil rights policies to address evolving state and federal requirements.
She earned her bachelor’s degree and Juris Doctor from the College of William & Mary. Rugless went on to practice law in Virginia, specializing in employment law and employment discrimination.
Rugless’s appointment is subject to board approval at its June 16 meeting in Grand Rapids, Michigan. To learn more about MSU’s Office for Civil Rights and Title IX Education and Compliance, visit civilrights.msu.edu. To see the progress and improvements MSU has made to its prevention and response to relationship violence and sexual misconduct, visit msu.edu/ourcommittment.