What People Are Saying

Comments from the Search Committee

Deb Bittner, President, Coalition of Labor Organizations at MSU

What I like about Dr. Stanley is his belief in a collaborative or teamwork approach, his “communications is everything” guideline and the importance of moving forward in a strategic manner. His comment of paying attention to the fine details and the importance of creating and maintaining relations really resonated with me. He seems to be an authentic leader with proven experience in academics, athletics, medical schools, finance and fundraising, high level research and the importance of the land-grant mission and higher education. As we heard in the staff listening sessions, we need a leader with experience, who “walks the talk” and understands a collaborative environment, who respects all employees of the university. I believe Dr. Stanley is just that leader. He knows that MSU is not just a business but a diverse public institution that serves a higher purpose in the local community, statewide and worldwide. Our biggest strength is our people, and I think he demonstrates that understanding and commitment.

Pero Gaglo DagboviePero Gaglo Dagbovie, MSU Distinguished Professor of History and Associate Dean, MSU Graduate School

It has been a great pleasure and honor to serve on the presidential search committee. Beginning early on in the search process, it became clear to me that we (members of the committee) recognized the monumental nature of this search and viewed ourselves, above all else, as being representatives of the broader MSU community. I believe that we listened intently; learned much from each other, the search process, and our fellow Spartans; reached consensus; and gave vital assistance to members of the Board of Trustees. 

The candid feedback that the search committee received at the campus community input sessions and from numerous other members of the broader MSU community advised us and recommended that, among other values, the next president of MSU should advance a culture of empathy, inclusiveness, healing, engagement, academic excellence, care, accountability, integrity and transparency. A highly accomplished scholar and experienced administrator, Dr. Stanley has demonstrated a commitment to the aforementioned principles. Humble in his demeanor, he has a strong record of striving for excellence in higher education and supporting students, faculty and staff from various backgrounds. 

Prabu David, Dean, MSU College of Communication Arts and SciencesPrabu David

We had a remarkably strong pool of candidates, and it was the experience of a lifetime to meet some of the of the top leaders in higher education and hear their vision for our university. Equally remarkable was the camaraderie among members of the search committee, which was made up of a diverse group of individuals representing various constituencies. In the end, we were able to come away with a candidate who was a consensus pick, which is a miracle. By setting aside our differences for the common good, I believe we demonstrated Spartans Will.

From the input sessions, it was clear to me that we needed an experienced leader who would bring a fresh perspective. We needed both a healer and a visionary. Dr. Stanley checks all these requirements and more. I was particularly impressed by his nuanced understanding of the importance of humanities and social sciences in a land-grant university. I firmly believe he is an authentic leader who has the attributes to heal the past, confront the present and shape the future.

Mary FinnMary A. Finn, Director and Professor, MSU School of Criminal Justice

Appointed by the search committee co-chairs to represent the Faculty Senate, I joined a group of 18 individuals who were each committed to fulfilling our collective responsibility — to provide input to the board as it undertook the selection of the next president of MSU. The board was committed to designing a process that would generate the strongest candidate pool and to identify the best qualified candidate from within this pool. The university community was afforded numerous opportunities to inform the search committee of the qualities and characteristics it sought in the next president. This community input informed the position description and guided review of the candidate pool. The search committee undertook its work in a collegial, respectful and thoughtful manner. Meetings were facilitated to permit each committee member the opportunity to participate in interviews of candidates and to speak to the qualifications of candidates to serve as president. The board was present to listen to the search committee’s discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of candidates. The process was successful in yielding an outstanding finalist.

As I reflect on the statements of the faculty as to the qualities and characteristics they desired in a new president, I note several evident in Dr. Stanley. First, he has stellar academic credentials and is a highly accomplished researcher — one of the nation's highest recipients of support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He understands academia and its values. He has spent his entire career in academia as a faculty member and then assumed leadership roles as the vice chancellor for research at Washington University in St. Louis and then as the president of Stony Brook University. Second, faculty identified their desire for the next president to be a person of integrity and to be transparent and collaborative in decision making. Dr. Stanley has acted in ways that confirm this is how he leads. He has respect for, and values, the important role of academic self-governance and served on Faculty Senate for several years while at Washington University. Third, Dr. Stanley has been effective in advancing issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. Under his leadership, opportunities for first-generation and under-represented minority students to access quality education have been expanded. Further, Stony Brook has embraced the HeForShe: Movement for Gender Equality created by UN Women in 2014 – an effort to engage men and boys in removing the social and cultural barriers that prevent women and girls from achieving their potential. He expressed particular sensitivity to the need of the campus community to heal and to address the betrayal of trust experienced by the survivors of sexual assault. Dr. Stanley possesses the experience, the character and the ability to lead the transformation of MSU.

Thomas Glasmacher, Director, Facility for Rare Isotope BeamsThomas Glasmacher

I appreciate the integrity, seriousness, diligence and open-mindedness with which all search committee members have approached their assigned duty to help the Board of Trustees name a new president. The search committee members openly shared their opinions, impressions, concerns and considered each other’s arguments acting in the best interest of the university.

Dr. Stanley is an experienced sitting president from a research-intensive university, who is an empathetic leader and who knows how to run a large university with a team. His commitment to the less fortunate, his strong record on diversity and his demonstrated record of closing the graduation gap impressed me. His values and the commitment he made to the survivors give me strong hope that he can lead the needed culture change at MSU.

Linda HubbardLinda Hubbard, President and Chief Operating Officer, Carhartt, Inc.

The presidential search committee took our duty to provide the trustees with outstanding presidential candidates very seriously. We were moved and inspired by the passion for MSU that we heard during the university-wide listening sessions last fall. Although the diversity of the committee provided different perspectives on the best way to move the university forward, we were able to easily align on the leadership behaviors and skills that were necessary in our next president. I have great respect and appreciation for all members of the search committee, and I am confident we have identified a tremendous leader for our university. 

Dr. Stanley impressed me in many ways. During both our background investigation and interviews we repeatedly heard that he wanted students to have access to excellence. He articulated many unique ideas that would promote MSU’s excellence in academics, research, student success and diversity and inclusion. Most importantly, when asked how he would conduct his first year as president he expressed that healing across our community was his first priority. He indicated he would be intentional and make changes quickly in areas to improve accountability and develop robust policies and reporting protocols to protect our students.

Leo Kempel, Dean, MSU College of EngineeringLeo Kempel

Participation as a member of the search committee was a fantastic learning experience for me. I was able to interact with colleagues from the MSU family who bring different experiences and perspectives to the search committee. I especially learned from colleagues outside the STEM colleges, alumni and students; their insight helped me in doing my work on the committee and will help me in future endeavors. I also got to work more closely with the trustees than in the past. The trustees did a wonderful job in constructing the committee.

Our next president has the most important qualities necessary in our leader for the coming period: proven leadership experience, compassion, integrity and a vision for MSU having a greater impact in the state and nation in the coming years. It is important to heal the present-day wounds, regain the trust of the MSU community and to become a model for other institutions. At the same time, we must grow the research and scholarship enterprise to enhance the value of degrees that we confer and have conferred. Finally, he will be an effective leader and partner in growing the endowments and other gifts so necessary to achieve excellence in the coming decades.

Bonnie KnutsonBonnie Knutson, Professor, MSU School of Hospitality Business

Of all the committees on which I’ve served, the search committee was, by far, the best. The co-chairs brought together people with different backgrounds and different perspectives. Everyone respectfully listened, discussed and in the end came to consensus based on what is best for the future of the institution – not their own agenda. We all adhered to the integrity of the process because we knew the choice of our next president would be the most important decision MSU will make for the next decade. 

Above and beyond Dr. Stanley’s academic and leadership credentials, there were three qualities that “hit me” as making him the right choice for our university. First, he will be able to tell MSU’s narrative in a compelling and honest way. Second, he will be a great standard bearer of our Spartans Will mantra because he isn’t afraid to roll up his sleeves and work together to get the job done – the can-do, land-grant philosophy. And third, his visionary style seems to be akin to Red Skelton’s Gertrude and Heathcliff seagull characters that would sit on a high wire and look down to see how things move and relate to each other. That, to me, is a valuable and rare ability that will help Dr. Stanley guide MSU to a bigger and brighter future.

Wanda Lipscomb, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, MSU College of Human MedicineWanda Lipscomb

The presidential search committee consisted of faculty, staff, alumni, students and trustees who had not worked closely together before. Each person brought a different perspective and view of the university that was important. We sought input from the broad community through the listening sessions and used this input to collectively shape the job description and the qualities and characteristics we concluded would be important for the next president. I enjoyed working with the committee members and the Board of Trustees. I felt that each committee member was respected and valued. We had open and honest discussions and kept our focus on our task to identify the best candidates possible for the position of president. 

Dr. Stanley is an experienced and highly respected leader in higher education. He is a stellar academic  scholar, internationally known researcher and seasoned university administrator with experience in  management, collegiate athletics, high level NIH funding, fundraising, alumni relations, faculty relations, student relations, government relations and community relations. Dr. Stanley has demonstrated a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.  During his tenure at his previous institution there was  much evidence of change: development and implementation of an institutional diversity strategic plan; establishment of a chief diversity officer position; expansion of support for the Equal Opportunity Program; increase in the academic success of marginalized students; strengthened efforts for women in STEM; partnership with the HeForShe Impact to promote gender equity; expansion of support for graduate student diversity and to increase faculty diversity. Dr. Stanley has the desired qualifications and personal characteristics identified by the search committee as ideal for our president.

Mark A. Murray, Vice Chairman, MeijerMark Murray

The members of the committee ensured that different perspectives were part of all aspects of our deliberations. Although it was a large group, we remained positive and cohesive throughout the entire process. Our focus was consistently about the overall good of MSU. It was an honor to be involved.

I’m very pleased that we could attract Dr. Stanley as MSU’s next president.  He is an experienced administrator, an acclaimed scholar, a proven fund raiser and a person of integrity. He has a clear record of improving student outcomes. He was the best fit among the many solid individuals considered. I am confident he will build on our strong foundation, honor the victims of the university’s failures in responding to Dr. Nassar’s crimes and lead us to further successes as a campus community.

David PorteousDavid L. Porteous, Director, Board of Directors of Huntington Bancshares Inc.

Having been involved in numerous searches during my 40-plus years as an attorney, along with presenting programs on corporate governance, I had serious concerns about the chances of a 18-person search committee being successful. My concerns were misplaced with this committee. The members were collaborative, collegial, attentive, open-minded and engaged, with an abiding commitment to selecting an exceptional president for MSU. It was my honor to serve with the distinguished members of the committee.

Katherine Rifiotis, Past President, Associated Students of Michigan State Universitykatherine rifiotis

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.

Gregory J. Spray, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, MSU College of Communication Arts and SciencesGreg Spray

I feel as the search committee worked collaboratively to advocate for the faculty, staff and students who call MSU home. Furthermore, the committee used the information gathered during the input sessions to guide our decision-making process. This group of individuals ensured the voices of students at the undergraduate, graduate and professional level were heard, along with the voices of survivors. During each meeting, the co-chairs and other members of the Board of Trustees refrained from providing comments until each committee member had had an opportunity to speak, which allowed us to engage in dialogue. During these discussions, members of the committee repeatedly focused on what they heard from students during the input sessions and frequently would pause the meeting to reflect on the information sessions to be sure all voices were being heard —  from the Ph.D. candidate who believed “MSU should address rape culture immediately,” to the law student who stated that he wanted “a president who would live on campus,” to the student who said it’s “not a great campus for people with disabilities,” to the grad student who felt the next president needed to “strive to make education accessible to all…regardless of SES, ethnicity, and/or race,” to the student who reminded us that “students need to see faculty that look like them,” to the many individuals who stated that an external candidate who would be willing to engage with students, faculty and staff in collaborative decision making was needed. Finally, the committee consistently reflected on what makes Michigan State University unique: family; passion; diversity in ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status; and above all else, the land-grant mission. With these aforementioned viewpoints in mind, I believe that the committee selected an individual who will treat all individuals with respect; hold each person within the university community accountable, including himself; challenge us to increase our research productivity; and grow deeper roots that connect with the land-grant mission, while also allocating time, resources and energy to increasing the diversity on campus and ensuring the graduation rate between under-represented communities and white students is reduced, and hopefully, eliminated.

With that being said, I hope I have represented the Council of Graduate Students (COGS) and all graduate and professional students to the greatest of my ability and have inspired a renewed confidence in Michigan State University. The next decade for Michigan State University is critical; however, I believe that Dr. Stanley will be able to ensure the safety of students, engage in collaborative decision-making processes and prioritize the needs of students, all while maintaining our current research profile, increasing NIH funding and enhancing our status as THE pioneer land-grant college.

Felicia WuFelicia Wu, Professor of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, MSU College Agriculture and Natural Resources

We were intrigued upon reading Dr. Stanley’s application and then delighted to meet him in person. Dr. Stanley fit perfectly the profile of the individual we would like to see leading MSU: experienced in university leadership, caring and sensitive to the needs of our healing community, actively committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion, and having an outstanding academic background with particular experience in NIH extramural funding.

At first, I had apprehensions about serving on a 18-person presidential search committee, both because of the scope of the responsibility to our community and because of the sheer size of the committee. Would we all get along? Would we ever reach agreements? As it turns out, I need not have worried; we got along amazingly well and blended professionalism with collegiality throughout the process. I am grateful for the leadership of co-chairs Dianne Byrum and Melanie Foster in making this such a smooth and worthwhile experience. The sign of a group that truly gets along is if you have spent three intense days together in Chicago conducting interviews and group meetings and, at the end of it, still feel a bit sad to leave each other. I’ve made friendships that are likely to last for a long time.