MSU taps University of Virginia leader in search for next president

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News
Teresa A. Sullivan

Michigan State University has hired University of Virginia President Teresa A. Sullivan to aid in the search for the school's permanent president. 

The Board of Trustees announced Tuesday that Sullivan would serve as an adviser to the board. 

Sullivan will be resigning from her job as president in July after eight years in that role. 

“Identifying a new president for Michigan State University is an extremely important process and as a respected, accomplished member of the academy and collegiate administrator, Dr. Sullivan is well positioned to offer insight and advice to the board,” MSU Board Chairman Brian Breslin said in a statement.

“The appointment of an adviser to assist the board in designing and implementing a presidential search is an important step forward that will ensure the input of all stakeholders is garnered and considered.”

Trustee Dianne Byrum said Sullivan’s contract won’t be effective until after she retires from the University of Virginia at the end of the July.

MSU will pay her $1,000 a day based on an eight-hour day. There is no end date for Sullivan’s contract, but Byrum said the university will need less of her services when it hires a search firm later this year.

Byrum said she expects the board to communicate with Sullivan primarily by phone, and she will not be required to travel to East Lansing.

Sullivan faced controversy in 2012 at the University of Virginia after differences with the Board of Visitors forced her to resign in a secretive move. The board later reinstated Sullivan after students and faculty rallied behind her. 

Also under Sullivan's presidency, the university endured fallout from what would become a debunked and retracted account of an alleged gang rape on campus by Rolling Stone Magazine.

The article roiled the university community, sparking protests at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house and a wrenching period of soul-searching by the university. The Charlottesville police department said it had found no evidence to back the claims of a woman named Jackie, who said she was raped by seven men at a fraternity house in September 2012.

Despite its flaws, the article heightened scrutiny of campus sexual assaults and prompted Sullivan to extend the suspension of Greek social events.

Prior to joining the University of Virginia, Sullivan was provost at the University of Michigan and held multiple leadership roles at the University of Texas. 

Sullivan received her undergraduate degree from MSU's James Madison College and her doctorate from the University of Chicago. 

She is also a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, chair of the Council of Presidents for the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and chair of the Council of Presidents of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities.

Byrum released a statement in support of Sullivan. 

“The search for a new president to lead Michigan State University must be transparent and inclusive of all university stakeholders, and Dr. Teresa Sullivan is highly qualified to advise the MSU Board as we develop this search process," Byrum said. "I am excited to get to work holding our initial listening sessions yet this summer and look forward to working with Dr. Sullivan.”

MSU is currently under the leadership of interim President John Engler, the former Michigan governor. 

Engler was appointed in February to replace Lou Anna Simon who resigned amid widespread criticism of how MSU handled the Larry Nassar controversy.