Michigan State votes to appoint UNC-Chapel Hill's Kevin Guskiewicz as president
Michigan State University has officially named UNC-Chapel Hill chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz as its next president. The school's board of trustees made the announcement at a meeting Friday morning.
Rema Vassar, a member of the MSU Board of Trustees, said she is confident that Michigan State has made the right choice in hiring Guskiewicz.
"Dr. Guskiewicz doesn't know it yet, but he has always been a Spartan in spirit," she said.
Guskiewicz will begin his tenure in East Lansing in March. His last day as chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill is January 12.
Wearing a dark green tie, Guskiewicz addressed the MSU Board during its Zoom meeting and vote, and said he was honored to be the school’s 22nd president. He did not state his reasons for leaving UNC-Chapel Hill and instead focused on how he will bring his experiences as a leader to his new role.
"I am aware that Michigan State has faced more than its share of challenges in recent years," he said. "Yet I see a strong university with an inspiring historical foundation that can reach new levels of excellence through its powerful commitment to student success, knowledge, discovery, and land-grant service."
After the announcement, Guskiewicz emailed the UNC-Chapel Hill community.
"Carolina has been my home for 28 years, and my family and I will always be a part of this community," he wrote. "I have been inspired and challenged by you, our students, faculty and staff. This community has made me the person I am today, and words cannot express the gratitude I feel. I will never forget the outpouring of love and support you have shown to me, from when I first started as an assistant professor in exercise and sport science until now."
UNC System President Peter Hans, who will be tasked with naming an interim chancellor, praised Guskiewicz.
“Chancellor Guskiewicz has led UNC-Chapel Hill with grace and goodwill through some very difficult moments, and he’s leaving the university in stronger shape than when he arrived," Hans said in a statement. "I join faculty, staff, students, and alumni at Carolina in deep appreciation for his leadership. Kevin is a brilliant researcher, a kind colleague, and a mentor to many young people. The Guskiewicz family have been good friends to me and I know that Kevin and Amy will remain devoted Tar Heels.”
At a UNC Board of Governors meeting in November, Hans acknowledged to WUNC the challenges of being the chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Being chancellor at Chapel Hill (is) such a complex enterprise,” Hans said. “So many people who care so passionately about the institution. It’s so high profile both within the state and the country, indeed in the world, in many ways. It’s a really difficult role. And I think that’s probably what Chancellor (Holden) Thorp, Chancellor (Carol) Folt, and Chancellor Guskiewicz have experienced.”
MSU’s student paper, The State News, first reported that Guskiewicz was on Michigan State’s short list back in November. Shortly after, Guskiewicz released a statement confirming the reports.
Guskiewicz has been the chancellor at UNC-Chapel Hill since 2019, first on an interim basis following the resignation of Folt. He was previously the dean of the UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, following his career as a neuroscientist and professor of exercise and sports science. In 2011, he was awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant" for his work on concussions.
During his time as chancellor, Guskiewicz navigated UNC-Chapel Hill through several high-profile challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the tenure saga involving Nikole Hannah-Jones, the Supreme Court striking down UNC-Chapel Hill’s affirmative action efforts in admissions, and an on-campus shooting that prompted a campus lockdown and left a professor dead.
The decisions Guskiewicz made around these and other issues often led to conflicts with members of the school’s board of trustees and the UNC System’s Board of Governors, especially as those boards became more and more conservative. He also drew criticism from faculty around some of the same decisions.
After Guskiewicz confirmed his interest in the Michigan State job, faculty and community members in Chapel Hill sent Guskiewicz emails, pleading for him to stay at the university.
Hans is expected to choose an interim replacement to lead UNC-Chapel Hill soon. Then, the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees will lead a search for a permanent chancellor.
"My hope is that President Hans will consider interim candidates with strong Carolina ties and stellar credentials who would keep the university moving forward on all fronts until a new chancellor is appointed," said John P. Preyer, Chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees, in a statement. "Given the challenges and opportunities the university faces, a steady hand through the transition will be important for everyone involved."