Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

New MSU president: I’m ready to move beyond scandals, get along with board

Kevin Guskiewicz posing for a picture
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz will be the next president of Michigan State University. He plans to visit East Lansing over the weekend. (Courtesy photo: Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)
  • MSU President-Elect Kevin Guskiewicz starts the post in March 2024
  • MSU remains under scrutiny for how it handled a sexual harassment investigation that led to the firing of football coach Mel Tucker and is in the process of upgrading security after a February shooting 
  • He says he’s confident board members won’t meddle in day-to-day operations

Michigan State University President-Elect Kevin Guskiewicz says he plans to usher in a period of positivity following years of scandal at the school.

“My goal is that people can feel really good about Michigan State University,” he told Bridge Michigan on Friday.

Guskiewicz —pronounced Gus-kuh-witz —  spoke not long after Board of Trustees members voted unanimously to approve his hiring. When he starts in March, he will inherit a host of challenges, including a board that is often so deeply divided that Guskiewicz sought assurances he could do this job “without undue interference.

Guskiewicz comes to MSU from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where the neuroscientist and concussion researcher has served as chancellor since 2019. He is married and has four children.

He said one goal at MSU is to “place more emphasis on the great things that are happening there,” while also addressing concerns related to how the school handles instances of relationship violence and sexual misconduct.  

Guskiewicz, 57, will travel to East Lansing over the weekend and hopes to meet with students, faculty and other employees. He also plans to have a listening tour that he anticipates will take two months once he is the president. 

When it came time to vote on Guskiewicz’s hiring, members went above and beyond, with trustee Brianna Scott saying she is “so excited to say yes” and Board Chair Rema Vassar adding “yay! Yes. Yay.”


Just two months ago, the two were so far apart that Scott sent a letter to fellow trustees accusing Vassar of being a bully and calling on her to resign.

His five-year contract calls for a base salary of $975,000, $150,000 a year in deferred compensation, university housing, country club memberships and a onetime $75,000 payment for moving expenses.

Bridge talked to Guskiewicz not long after the vote. Here’s what he had to say about key issues:

Working with the Board of Trustees

Guskiewicz said he is not worried that board members will interfere in the day-to-day operations of the university, and that he’s coming into the role “optimistic.”

“I have gotten to know the board collectively as a group, I've gotten to know them independently, have had conversations with them and I know they are committed to this,” he said.

Under the state Constitution, Michigan voters elect board members at MSU, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University, while the governor appoints board members at the other public universities. 


While some critics have said the in-fighting at MSU shows why the state needs to change how board members are selected, Guskiewicz told Bridge he needs to know more before forming an opinion.

He said schools where state legislatures appoint university board members also have challenges, especially in the “partisanship that takes place today and the world we’re living in.” 

Preventing sexual violence

MSU is still dealing with the aftermath of the Larry Nassar scandal, the former sports doctor at MSU who is imprisoned for sexually abusing his patients. 

The university also faces criticism for how it handled a sexual harassment investigation this year that that led to the firing of football coach Mel Tucker. 

At North Carolina, Guskiewicz said, the university added two violence prevention coordinators and a senior team leader in an effort to ensure there is “a really safe place and space for students” and there is “more of a willingness to report where in the past they may not have.” 

He said he wants to see what is in place at MSU.

“I know that Michigan State's put a number of things in place and to see if there's something like that, that might even enhance safety for all of our students. So, but again, I still have a lot to learn, and I'm looking forward to building that into the listening and learning tour.”

Ensuring school safety and security 

MSU is upgrading its school security systems after a gunman shot and killed three students and critically injured five more in February. 

At UNC-Chapel Hill, a professor was shot and killed on campus in August. 

Guskiewicz said he appreciated that MSU leaders reached out to North Carolina leaders after the shooting. 
He said “there is never a perfect response” to a situation, but UNC-Chapel Hill  made changes to its communication protocols for communicating with people in real-time. 

In East Lansing, an MSU sergeant was on the scene of the shooting two minutes after the initial call, but it took another 10 minutes for the university to alert the campus community about the threat. 

MSU announced over the summer that outdoor speakers typically used for tornado sirens will be used to make audio emergency announcements. 

Expanding college affordability

Surveys show that many in Michigan don’t feel a four-year college degree is worth the investment. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made it a goal to increase the percentage of adults with college degrees or skills certificates from 50.5 percent to 60 percent by 2030.


“One of the issues that higher ed is facing right now is the growing debt of graduates of universities and colleges,” Guskiewicz said. “And so I think it's important for the president to get over to the Legislature and to talk about the importance and the return on investment of those taxpayer dollars that go towards state appropriations, so that we don't become too tuition-dependent.” 

For first-year in-state students, the MSU sticker price for tuition, fees, food and housing is about $27,800 in MSU. Those expenses are listed as about $31,700 for the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, about $25,000 for Grand Valley State University and $26,300 a year for Central Michigan University. 

MSU recently launched a tuition-free promise for students whose families make up to $65,000 a year. Guskiewicz said he looks forward to fundraising around scholarship efforts. 

That guarantee was possible because of a new state scholarship that provides up to $5,500 a year for students who attend a four-year in-state public university like MSU. The high school class of 2023 is the first class to be eligible for the state scholarship, titled the Michigan Achievement Scholarship.

How impactful was this article for you?

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now