Community input sessions held as search for next MSU president continues

The committee searching for Michigan State University's next president is holding a public meeting on the topic from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in the Lincoln Room at the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center in East Lansing. (WWMT/FILE)

The search continues for the next president of Michigan State University and the 19-member search committee is seeking input from the community.

After holding listening sessions on campus with various departments, residential colleges, faculty and staff, the committee will hold a session open to the public.

“Because we want to hear from the MSU community the qualities they would like to see in the next president; have a discussion about the challenges here on campus; and also, the opportunities and the strengths,” explained MSU Trustee and Search Committee Co-Chair Dianne Byrum.

Byrum said MSU has not had a presidential search in 25 years, so the committee is using this opportunity to "write the book" on how to conduct a national search.

Interim President John Engler was chosen to lead the university after Lou Anna Simon resigned as president in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal. These challenges as Byrum described the Nassar case, are part of the reason input sessions have been scheduled.

“We wanted to be as transparent and open about this process as possible,” she said.

One criticism of this process and the search committee itself is there are no survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse on the committee. Byrum said everyone on the committee has received special sensitivity training and “every member on the search committee has compassion for survivors of sexual abuse.”

“We’ve included that [relationship violence and sexual misconduct] work group in all of our input sessions where we’ve had safe spaces and counselors available for all of the input sessions,” Byrum said.

So far, Byrum said, there have been similar themes brought up in the different listening sessions held, which not every member of the search committee has attended, but "every member has been to at least one session."

“They want someone who has bold leadership, this isn’t a position where you can have on-the-job training. They want someone with experience and someone that is going to be interactive on campus and be very visible,” Byrum said.

If people want to share ideas or comments, an online portal has been set up and all submissions are anonymous, Byrum said. The next session is Thursday, Oct. 11, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Kellogg Center, Lincoln Room.

The committee, along with adviser and former University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, will craft the job description for the next president following these sessions and announce it by the end of October.

“I am very optimistic that we are going to be an attractive place for candidates for this position," Byrum said. "There’s a lot of strength here at Michigan State."

According to the university’s timeline, a new president is expected to be selected by June 2019.

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