Skip to Main Content
Michigan State University

A Curious Leader

Guskiewicz Portrait

A Curious Leader

Kevin M. Guskiewicz, MSU's 22nd president, reflects on his new position and what it means to be a Spartan.

Kevin Guskiewicz is a lifelong learner. 

“I'm a very curious person in general,” he said. “I think the best leaders are those who will always be curious.”  

The accomplished neuroscientist, sports medicine researcher and academic leader joins MSU as the university’s new president following a 28-year association with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was appointed chancellor in 2019. He’s known for his well-rounded educational leadership vision and  believes in the necessity of the arts and humanities—as well as sciences—to develop fully engaged citizens and tomorrow’s leaders.

“I think he will be a difference maker who will gather all Spartans back together to accomplish our common goal of making Michigan State University the best institution in  the world,” said Men’s Head Basketball Coach Tom Izzo, who was a member of the 29-person committee tasked with finding MSU’s new leader. 

We sat down with Guskiewicz to discuss his future as both MSU’s 22nd president and a Michigander. 


What drew you to this position and when did you know you wanted to be a Spartan?

The search firm reached out back in mid-September. At the time, my wife, Amy, and I were headed to a wedding near Frankfort, Michigan, driving up from Grand Rapids and stopping in some small towns along the way. It felt like home in a lot of ways. 

We flew into East Lansing on a Friday afternoon in early November. I went for a jog the next morning and there was a lot of energy on campus. We bought a few tickets to the football game and watched MSU beat Nebraska and then walked downtown for dinner. There was just something about it that felt good, and I think that was an important step in the process.

When I started talking to campus leaders to get their perspective on the mission of the institution and the road forward, I learned it’s a passionately public university that feels a commitment to the state of Michigan. I like the fact that it’s stayed true to the rich traditions and land grant mission, but has pursued contemporary thinking. It speaks to that commitment to serve the people of Michigan and the nation, and I’m going to make certain that Michigan State is the university for Michigan.

Kevin M. Guskiewiscz, MSU’s 22nd president, snaps a selfie with Sparty in December.

Why is it important to you to have an active and engaged alumni base?

As a university president, there are a lot of constituents that you need to be connected with and I’ve always believed that alumni are a key constituency. I want Michigan State alums to always be proud of their alma mater. I recognize that there have been some challenges over the past decade, but I sense an immense love for this place. That is so important, and it’s something that drew me to the position and to continue asking questions.

I’ve got a lot of learning to do, and I think the more questions you ask, the more ideas about how we think about the future will arise. To embrace rich traditions while also helping lead the institution in new directions, you have to engage your alumni—and that’s what I will do. I want to be sure all those voices are at the table. 

We’re putting together a Spartan bus tour to get out across the state, but I do realize with 500,000 living alums, many of them live outside of Michigan. I look forward to getting to meet them and invite them back to campus. I want it to be a campus that alums will always feel proud to be a part of.


What are you looking forward to during your Michigan bus tour?

With about 70% of undergraduates coming from the state, I think that it’s important to touch down in the towns and communities that our students call home. I’m going to put together a team of faculty, who will join us on the trip, to help us map out what this will look like. I want to stop in these communities so we can all learn more about the impact our research has in a particular area. I want to stop in the hometowns of our legislators so we can introduce them to our faculty and staff and hear what’s important to them—what Michigan State should be doing to help drive the economy of their region. It’s about building trust and reinforcing the importance of the tax dollars that come to Michigan State. It’s important they see the great return on that investment. And if we do this right, I think there will be future commitments to help support the university.

As one of my goals, I want to be careful that we don’t become too tuition dependent. This is a concern across higher education right now. A lot of institutions are becoming overly reliant on tuition for running the institution.

Guskiewiscz with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Tessa.

What makes you excited to become a Michigander?

I grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburgh, which has a Midwestern feel to it. I know a lot of people from Michigan, and I’ve talked to a number of people who are passionate about the state and the impact it has on solving some of the great challenges of our time. I’ve already had a chance to meet with a couple legislators who talked about the importance of Michigan State in the agriculture industry, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about agriculture and MSU Extension across Michigan. 

I also know it’s a beautiful state. That trip from Grand Rapids up to Frankfort was on a perfect fall day. There’s a lot of beauty in Michigan, and I look forward to getting out and seeing that, which is another reason why it’s so important to connect to the alumni base—to hear what’s important to them about our great global public research university and also to help me better understand the state of Michigan.

And cold weather doesn’t bother me. I can assure you that. 


“I’m a very curious person in general. I think the best leaders are those who will always be curious.”


What hobbies and interests drive you outside of academia?

I’m a huge sports fan. My own research is in the area of sport-related concussions, and I’ve been part of developing a lot of concussion protocols for the NCAA and the NFL. It’s all about improving health and safety in sports, so I spend a lot of time out and about watching pretty much any sport. 

As a family, we love the arts. Performing arts, museums, music—that’s a big part of the culture at Michigan State. Amy sits on the Playmakers Advisory Council at UNC, which works with the repertory theatre company, and we love going to events like that. 

I’m also an avid runner. I start most of my days with a jog around campus or on the treadmill. It might be more treadmill during the winter months, but exercise is  important. With my background in sports medicine, I’ve always said exercise is medicine. 

I enjoy playing golf as well. Latrobe is Arnold Palmer’s hometown. Unfortunately, I’m nowhere near the golfer he once was, and in my role, you don’t have much time to work on your game. But I have heard that Michigan is a great golf state, up there among the best in the country.



Author: Tim Cerullo, '08

More Alumni Stories