1) This interview in the Weekly Wisdom Series originally aired on May 24, 2021 as part of the University Innovation Alliance’s Innovating Together Podcast, appearing live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
2) This transcript is intended to serve primarily as a guide to the full conversation. We apologize for any inaccuracies and encourage you to listen to the podcast.
Click here to access our summary, along with helpful links and audio from this episode.
…their concerns about disrupting people’s lives; concerned about taking people away from comfort zones in terms of how they’re receiving their education; how that’s done. For our faculty, asking them to turn on a dime, essentially, and go from teaching in person to teaching remotely, without having provided necessarily the tools that are – that they would need to do that, or had the chance to experience in the past. So, I think trying to balance also those things was incredibly important.
Welcome to Innovating Together, a podcast produced by the University Innovation Alliance. This is the podcast for busy people in higher education who are looking for the best ideas, inspiration, and leaders to help you improve student success. I’m your host, Bridget Burns.
You’re about to watch another episode of Start the Week with Wisdom, which, for those of you who are at home, if you have not seen this before, these are our weekly episodes where we conduct an interview with a sitting college president or chancellor. And we want to talk to them about how they’re navigating the challenge of this moment. We’re in a really unique time, and we want to focus on their leadership and unpack how they are making decisions, how they’re navigating, and hopefully, it will leave you with a sense of optimism, a bit inspired, and give you a bit of hope.
This week, I am delighted to have a solo episode opportunity to have a conversation with a leader who has a depth of experience and a unique experience and expertise that I think is really going to add context to our conversation, and nuance. So, I’m so honored to bring to the stage the president of Michigan State University, President Sam Stanley, who was, prior to this, already has – this is his second presidency – he already was the president of Stony Brook University. But the other part that’s so interesting about him is that he’s an infectious disease expert. The National Advisory Allergy and Infectious Disease Council of N.I.H., and a member of the N.I.H. Director’s blue ribbon panel on the national emergency – emerging infectious diseases laboratory.
So, being a president and an expert in a pandemic, I have so many questions. So welcome, President Stanley. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Well, thank you so much Bridget. It’s an absolute pleasure to be here. You know, I’ve watched the show, I’ve seen some of the prior guests – it’s an honor to be part of the program. So, thank you.
Well, we’re delighted to – now we’re going to bring some – now, the question that I think is on everyone’s mind is do you know Fauci?
I do know Fauci. I do know Tony, as people call him, and – the person you see on television is absolutely the same person that you see in everyday life. And he’s been an extraordinary leader, essentially, for the infectious disease community. His real credibility with Congress and with the country was established well before the outbreak. He’s been someone who’s testified before Congress multiple times, and really has put forward the challenges that the country and the world faces in infectious disease in a very understandable way to people. So, he’s direct, he’s honest, and I don’t think we could have been in better hands for this pandemic, and I’m so glad that he was there, looking out for the American people, in the way he was.
Well, you are – I mean, we’ve had some celebrities on here, but I feel like this is pretty close to – that’s a pretty big celebrity moment for us. So that’s – it’s great to hear when someone’s really how they seem they are, so…
I’m – generally, we like to start the show in getting a sense of kind of how you’re holding up right now and just the context of what it’s like to be you in this moment. And so, we’re coming up at the end of the year – how are you holding up?
You know, it’s been – I think it’s been a year where you know the word unprecedented has been used an unprecedented number of times. So, this is like no time I think that any university president, or any universities, have faced. But I think there’s a common denominator, which is how well people across the country, and around the world, have really adapted to this. And I’m incredibly impressed by my colleagues and the thought and care they’ve put into the policies they’ve developed and the actions they’ve taken to try and improve safety during this time. And there’s been no playbook, of course. There’s been no ability to kind of anticipate ahead of time some of the things that we would be confronted by. But I think people have done it with empathy – as I said, care before and putting safety first.
And so, I think that’s made a huge difference. So, I feel that at M.S.U., you know, we’re making great progress as the country is making progress. Obviously, we’re, you know, totally linked with what’s happening in our community. And I think cases are going down significantly in Michigan. For a while, we were leading the nation which was, you know, not the place we want to be, but we’ve really recovered quite a bit since then. And I see us as getting closer to a fall – this fall that look like our fall in 2019, and I think that that’s something, a goal, that all of us are seeking. And I think the tools are there, it’s just a question of applying those appropriately to get to where we need to go. So, I’m feeling optimistic. I’ve been optimistic really for some time. Once I saw the early data from Pfizer and Moderna trials, that was – that was really I think a game-changer for me. I’d been hopeful that a vaccine would be good; I didn’t think it would be as good as it was.
And I think that really changed my outlook. So, I think there’s lots of reasons for optimism, but also reality that we’re not out of the woods yet; we still have significant parts of the population that’s not vaccinated. So, all in all to say, Bridget, I’m feeling pretty good about where we are. I’m feeling good about what we’ve gone through at Michigan State, but I know there’s been tremendous loss around the country. I know the impact of this pandemic has been extraordinary. So, we need not forget about that, but we need to think how we recover as a nation and bring everybody along. So that’s how I’m thinking about this right now.
Well, good. Yeah, I – things are feeling a little lighter and more up – more optimistic; I definitely agree. So, I’m curious about what it was like to balance those two hats. So being an expert, having this medical background, knowing what you know, and also needing to lead people with the level of transparency that I know that you are – that you’re known for, when actually, it’s pretty scary, given your expertise. So, can you share what that was like to kind of hold both those spaces as a leader for the last year?
Yeah, and you know I think time will tell, you know, how well I did but – it was a conflict sometimes. Because you know, as an infectious disease doctor, I was really very narrowly focused on treating that disease or in trying to find ways to prevent that disease and other concerns were just not part of my life. I was really focused on the patient, what had to be done for them. In this instance, there’s a broader set of concerns. And so there are concerns about disrupting people’s lives; concerns about taking people away from comfort zones in terms of how they’re used to receiving their education, how that’s done. For our faculty, asking them to turn on a dime essentially, and go from teaching in person to teaching remotely, without having provided necessarily the tools that are – that they would need to do that, or had the chance to experience in the past.
So, I think trying to balance those things is incredibly important. I will say probably I did tend to err on the side of trying to avoid people getting infected with the diseased. That to me was probably the ultimate goal, was safety on campus. And so, finding ways to preserve and protect that. Even in economic costs to the university was a difficult decision, but one I felt was best. And I think, hopefully, it worked for M.S.U. Other institutions may have been in different environments, because of political issues and so on. That’s one of the challenges I think we’ve had with this outbreak is how politicized it’s been. But I think we tried to do what was right for M.S.U. And I had great support from my board. So that’s worth noting, that every decision I made, I did not get second-guessed essentially from the board.
They were very supportive of what we were doing. And we talked about it in terms of the safety and long-term reputation of the campus. You know, these institutions, you know, universities, are the longest – some of the longest-existing institutions in the world, and part of that is based, as you said, on transparency and trust. That people actually trust that we’re going to do the right thing for the students, faculty, and staff of the university. So, trying to maintain that trust, particularly with faculty, staff, and students, was very important for me during this time. But I think, again, I had assistance from the board, and great assistance from my senior leadership team and the decisions we made. They weren’t all my decisions alone; there was a tremendous amount of consultation that took place. I had a lot of experts in a number of areas, so even though I felt comfortable doing some aspects of the infectious disease components of it, I still needed to talk to many other people about the impacts of my decisions that I might make from an I.D. perspective on what they were trying to accomplish and get done from the educational perspective; from the housing perspective; from the safe campus perspective.
So, it was really very much a team effort. But it was kind of a struggle at times to balance those two components. But I – I hope we did – we did a good job with the overall.
I think you did, but just as you’re talking, I’m thinking about one of the other challenges that you – I didn’t realize this until right now, that you know, you came in on the heel of a lot of transition, and your role was to kind of be, you know, this, not just this new chapter leader, but also to heal and to be – to calm. And then in like year one, you have a pandemic? I mean, I just - that had to be incredibly challenging for you to strike the right balance. And I hope – I don’t know, did you take up yoga or meditating or stuff – like how do you handle that in the midst of [unintelligible 00:09:30] –
I do a lot of exercise actually, so that is helpful to me. It’s not always yoga, but it’s tennis and cycling and running and lifting weights – all that kind of stuff. So, I do that pretty regularly. But I think in this case, you’re right. I mean, I think part of my responsibility when I came to M.S.U. was to really help what’s been an amazing trajectory of M.S.U. continue on that path. So, Michigan State University has done some amazing things really, you know, since the ‘60s, essentially, it’s been on a great growth parameter – set of growth parameters. And I think part of my job was really to, you know, restore trust essentially in the administration, and put us in a place where people felt as though we were really fulfilling our mission, which is, you know, as the pioneer land-grant institution, which is really to provide access to excellence, and do the kind of science research and scholarship that has both long-term benefits, but is impactful for people, right in their daily lives. And that’s our extension component.
And you know very well, from your experience with public universities. And so that was part of my job. And so, I think maybe in some sense, it was a difficult additional challenge, but at the same time, I think it gave people the opportunity to see me confront a crisis, how I would handle it, how I would keep the university engaged, how I worked with shared governance to move things forward, how I consulted with students. And I think, hopefully, [they] got a feel for the kind of transparency that we talked about in the administration when we actually had to prove that we would be – that we were able to do that. So maybe it was helpful in trying to regain trust. And trust takes a long time to regain. There’s still much work to be done, and I would never say that everybody at the university feels the administration has their best interest in mind. I think that takes a while to achieve. But I think we’re moving in the right direction, and I think some of the decisions we made in terms of putting faculty, students, and staff first, I think were helpful in people accepting the idea that I was there to help the university.
That’s great. And I – I definitely have – I work closely with a lot of members of your team, and I definitely sense a level of calm and peace and just sense of like, stability. That definitely came forward early on, despite the last year. Which I think that’s pretty remarkable, so…well –
And I think, just to add to that – you know, one of the things about being a physician is that, you know, when you consider decisions, you cover yourself with, well, at least it’s not life or death. Because when you’re making decisions as a physician, often it is life or death, it’s potentially life or death. So that adds a tremendous amount of gravity to one’s decision-making. In this case, there were elements of life and death in the decisions we were making as university presidents. So I probably had a higher degree of comfort in that area of dealing with some of that uncertainty and the high consequences and high impact potentially of my decisions, because of my experience as a physician, and I think that’s one of the things that maybe helps me stay relatively calm in these kind of situations, because I have been in these situations before, and you have to develop an ability to kind of look objectively when things are looking very confused and sometimes uncertain around you.
You have to be able to cling to the science you have; cling to the data you have; and make decisions accordingly, and that’s something I think came from my medical experience that was helpful.
That’s great. I – so I want to shift to hearing about the things that have been really serving you as a leader. Now you – two institutions, built on this other incredible career that you’ve had. And I want to understand what has been the best advice that someone ever gave you that has served you in your career.
Well, I’ve been really fortunate to have a number of outstanding mentors and people who are really helpful to me. I look at Mark Wright, and when I was at Washington in St. Louis, was one of the longest serving – 23 years as the Chancellor at Washington in St. Louis – was someone, I really learned a lot about in terms of the importance of building a team and listening to people and getting input and advice. But then ultimately, having accountability for the decisions that are made and being able to take that responsibility. And then Larry Shapiro, who was the dean there, talked to me a lot about understanding the decision-making process, and you know, who needed to be involved, who did you need to talk to, and how to do this widely. And he was very much attuned to transparency. They have an interesting structure there, where the dean essentially reports to department chairs in some sense, which is you know, different than any other medical school I’m aware of in the country.
And how one manages that, and how one gains peoples’ trust and leads without necessarily having the veto or all the decision-making power, but help build consensus in decisions, and I think that was an important thing for me to learn. Because, as you know, at a university, you know, there’s only so many things I as president can dictate. I don’t tell faculty what to teach, and I’ve had faculty tell me, “You’re not my boss,” and they’re right. I’m not really their boss. You know, if they have a boss, it’s their department chair, or someone else, but it’s not me. So, I think the ability to kind of recognize and the advice that people gave me was to realize that you occupy the chair in this, you know, ongoing institution for a short period of time. The job is not about you; the job is about the institution.
It’s about the university. The impact you’re going to make is the impact you make on the university, and that’s by the people you bring in, and by the change you institute. Hopefully, that’s for the good. But it’s not – the job’s not really about you. And so, I think that to me was very important and something I try and remember. I’ve never said, "I’m going to do this," so later on, people will think about what Sam Stanley did for this or that. What I want to do is make sure that Michigan State University is moving forward, and moving forward in the right direction, and we’re including everybody in that forward motion and leaving no one behind. And that we’re doing things that really will matter for the state of Michigan and the world, and I think if we’re having that kind of impact, and we’re doing our job and the UIA, for example, is a helpful component of that, thinking about graduation and the end results – and I want to come back to that in a second.
But I think that to me, that advice is, "It’s not about you; it’s about the institution, and you’re the president there to facilitate the institution." That’s probably the most helpful advice I’ve had.
That’s great. I’m curious about if you had to start over, probably day one of your presidency at Stony – your prior presidency –
Yes, Stony Brook, yes.
What advice would you give yourself, if you were starting over? Like, if you could reach back in time and say something to yourself that would have – that you’ve only now learned, by going through what you’ve gone through in the past few years, what would that be?
Wow, that’s hard to say, because so many things happened during those ten years that were wonderful. I think most – I have mostly positive memories, so I’m not sure. I guess probably that it would be to be patient; that ultimately the goals we set, we’re going to get achieved; that you know, the work we were doing was going to lead to real progress. But probably I think it would have been maybe to set some of those goals earlier in the process, so that – I think if I had the ability to say, "You need to change some of your attitudes about what constitutes success." So, I think when I first came to Stony Brook, I had a little bit of the, you know, private university, or just generally elite university mentality, that one judges a university in the quality of the people that it turns away.
And that I think was ingrained in higher education, I think, still to a large degree at that time, so in 2009 when I came in. And that was kind of the operating principle, is that, "Well, we’re among the most selective universities in the country and therefore one of the best universities in the country." And what I had to realize, and again, UIA, A.S.U., and others helped me kind of recognize this, was that was the wrong metric. The correct metric was how many people are you graduating? How many Pell-eligible students are reaching the finish line? What’s the gap in graduation rates between economically disadvantaged students and students who don’t have the – that barrier? What’s the difference in graduation rates between people of different races and ethnicities? And how do we eliminate those gaps?
And that’s something that probably took me two years into the job to really realize how important that was. So, I wish I’d started that work earlier. We ended up achieving those goals of eliminating the gaps, which was really a concerted effort, and I think some demographics had helped in some ways, too. But we did it. And I think I would have rather started that earlier, instead of, you know, two to three years into the process before I really recognized that. But I think that’s probably one thing I would have told myself – get going on this particular thing earlier, because it’s really going to be transformational for me as an institution, I think.
Yeah. And I know that that’s something you’re working on at Michigan State, your team is actively underway, you know, advancing a variety of initiatives that are groundbreaking in many cases. And – but you’re also coming in midstream. They’ve been – they were working on that before, so that’s got to be a nice gift that you have – the right team assembled, you have interventions in places, they’ve already got plenty of great promising practices, and the data trends are positive for your institution.
Yeah, no, absolutely. And I think, you know, M.S.U. was, you know, along with a number of other universities in UIA, was really ahead in this. I think, from the beginning, M.S.U. has talked about, you know, being the university that more students who graduate in Michigan attend than any other university. You know, number one in that statistic, you know, since, you know, forever essentially. And so, I – I think those are really important things for me, is that we really are serving students from every corner of Michigan. Our extension involves us in 83 counties in Michigan. So we really define ourselves as a state university I think in all the right ways. Again, that to me is very important in terms of our mission and what – how we talk to the state.
That’s great. I’m – so, I’m curious about you and – as a leader, and what your career – what it’s been like to travel this unique road. Can you share what – if you look back on your career and what you – what has helped you evolve as a leader, what has been the most surprising to you about your experience?
Well, just one, that I’m here. That’s pretty surprising, because, you know, I really had a great career as a – at least I felt a great career as a faculty member, and I did research that I really enjoyed, in emerging infectious diseases, some of which, again, is relevant to today. I start – I led a gigantic center for – Midwest Center for Regional Excellence in Biodefense and Emerging Infections Disease Research, which was a 32 million dollar grant essentially from the federal government to develop ways to prevent the next outbreak of emerging infections or a bio-terrorist event. And so that was wonderful, a chance to lead something like that, a chance to administer that. And I had fun seeing patients; I had fun teaching. I really enjoyed that career, and I was – really, when I got that grant though, that I discovered something about administration: that administration was a place where one could actually have a very positive impact. And I discovered that other people’s research was sometimes even more interesting than my research was. I would read it and say, "Wow, that’s really exciting. You know, that’s, yeah, that’s better than some things I’m doing right now."
And so, it made me think about how do I find ways to encourage that? So, when I got the job – I applied for and got the job as vice-chancellor for research at Wash U, it really opened up, again, even more how impactful administration was. And I had a great person, Denise McCartney, who was my number two in that position, who really taught me how to be an administrator. I never saw myself as an administrator; I saw myself as a faculty member who occasionally was supported and occasionally oppressed by the administration, depending in what was happening any given time. But I never thought that I would do that for a career. And so, I think to do that and then become a university president – which you know, I never was a dean, I never was a provost – was a huge jump.
And so, I think that jump is kind of surprising to me, but I think it was made possible by the fact that I had great people along the way who were helping me. So, I mentioned Denise McCartney, I mentioned Mark Wright and then Larry Shapiro already. Jack Marburger, when I came to Stony Brook University, Jack Marburger had been the president of Stony Brook University one removed from me, and had been head of Brookhaven National Laboratory, and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy under the Bush administration. So, Jack was an incredible mentor for me, and I actually hired him as my vice president for research at Stony Brook. So, he was – he had finished his work for the federal government; he was free; I hired him to actually be my vice president for research. I had the former president of Stony Brook working for me as the vice president for research.
And so, I think to work with him and to learn from his was incredibly exciting. So, I think the biggest surprise to me is the pathway I’ve had. And I think one thing that I think has been consistent is people who are interested in helping me and who I tried to listen to, because they really did have good advice on how to manage and how to be successful. And I think the willingness to do that, the willingness to try – again, it would have been easy to – I told Ellen, my wife, when I took the job at Stony Brook, I said, "I’ve never been a university president. I think the average life – you know, the life of one is like four and a half years or something. If I get fired, that may happen, but at least – I promise you this, I’ll get fired for the right reason. If I get fired, I will get fired for standing up for something I think is right or for trying to change something I think needs to be changed, and not because I didn’t do things; not because I was just – you know, happy to be a caretaker, but because I did things that you know, eventually had some consequences, but I think were for the good of the institution."
So that’s been a mantra for me – a mantra for me from the beginning is that I really do care about trying to do the right thing, and in general, I think that is the best way to lead and be willing to stick your neck out sometimes for things you think are important for the institution.
I think that – I think that’s right. I’m curious about what it’s like to be led by you in terms of, if I was, like, briefing someone or thinking about possibly coming to work for you, what – do you have – some people are like, you know, they say [servant] leader, but really, it’s no surprises. Don’t ever surprise me, you know? Like are there any – any insights you can offer about what you’re like as a leader for –
Yeah, you know, it’s always hard because, you know, I don’t know exactly. I will say that I really value the people who work for me. Their dedication is extraordinary. And again, COVID showed that. We were working, you know, 18, 20 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Nobody took a summer off, the summer before this past fall, and so I really do appreciate that kind of dedication. So, I – and I hope I let them know that; I try and let them know, pretty much every chance I get, that I appreciate the work they’re putting in, and the effort they’re putting in. And when they’re doing a good job, I really want to call that out. The most important thing I’m going to do for Michigan State University is the team I recruited here. We have new leadership in almost every part of the university right now, and I think they’re an outstanding team. But that is going to be my legacy, more than a building or anything else, are going to be the people I brought to M.S.U., and how they continue to move the institution forward, and how they train their successors in the important work that M.S.U. can do.
And that’s something I emphasize a lot, is succession planning at the university. And so, I think what you’ll – what you’ll get from me is my willingness to listen to you. I really like to hear people’s opinions; I like to listen to what they have to say as I make decisions. I think that’s incredibly important. But then at the end of the day, I do expect them to go along with the decisions, go along with the decisions. And that’s something I tried to do when I was vice chancellor for research at Wash U was I didn’t always agree with the chancellor’s ideas on some things. I felt sometimes that I had different approaches that would be better, but the minute he said, "You know, Sam, this is what we’ve decided," that was it. I owned that decision and I [made – worked] out to implement it. There was no question, I never said, "I’m doing this because, you know, Chancellor Wright told me to do it." I was doing it because I owned that decision, because this is what the vice president for research office was going to do. And I expect – I don’t expect blind loyalty at all – people who just say yes are not useful to me.
It’s not useful to have people tell me my ideas are great all the time. I really welcome people saying here – that’s not – here’s why I think we should consider another approach – that’s music to my ears, and I think that’s what I want people to do. But at the end of the day, if we make one, then I expect people to go along, and I think that – I think people understand that. So, I think listening, respecting, and valuing of them, you know – finding ways for them to advance. I’ve had, you know, three provosts – two provosts – go out and be presidents at universities – University of Delaware, University of Minnesota. I have another provost who I think is going to be a great president somewhere at some point in time. She’s very, very good. I shouldn’t probably say this publicly, because people will try and recruit her. But she’s outstanding.
And I think hiring people of higher quality – my chief of information technology, I realized early on, was such a good administrator, that I appointed her to the executive vice president for administration at Michigan State University. So, she runs IT still, but also runs the rest of the administration – so HR, facilities, are all under her leadership. And she showed me that she could deliver in these areas. So I try and find pathways for people to advance and grow their responsibilities. And I’m trying to do that now as we do the strategic plan for the university, for the entire university. I want people at every level at M.S.U. to feel as though "I have the possibility of moving in my job; there’s a possibility or doing more, and taking on more, and I have to demonstrate I have that capacity in my current position." So I think getting that kind of attitude, where people see opportunities either now, within the university, or maybe later to leave the university and have a better job.
I’m never disappointed if someone leaves my university to have – to take a job op. So, if someone goes from provost to president, that’s a victory. When someone goes from an associate vice president to vice president somewhere, or when someone goes from dean to provost, I consider those victories for M.S.U. – or SBU when I was there – and I think that’s something else I care about [unintelligible 00:27:01] – I want to see people continue on their careers and advance. As I said, I had people helping me do that along the way, so I feel it’s very responsible for me to give back on that.
Well, I feel like people just got a very strong sense of your enthusiasm as a leader and your commitment and your – just how much you value the people around you. And I think that’s wonderful. So, I just would wrap with: what has surprised you the most about Michigan State since you got there? I have a feeling – you seem like you are –
– when I engage with you, you seem more delighted than you expected perhaps on the outside, and so I’m just curious.
It’s incredible the passion people have for M.S.U. So that, you know, there is really a deep-down commitment on the employees who were here; on the students who attend; and very much so in the alumni. Something I haven’t experienced really before – their commitment to being a Spartan is incredibly strong. Their identity as a Spartan is a key part of their lives, and how they think about themselves, and what they do. That’s something – you know, I know other institutions have that, I think other institutions can have it, too, but it is really very, very strong at Michigan State University. So our ability to kind of harness that pride in being a Spartan, this notion that "Spartans Will," we get things done, I think that translates very well to an environment where people are going to be attuned for success.
And so, I think that’s unique for M.S.U. – at least it’s very, very strong here, and I think it’s something that I don’t think I really appreciated till I got on the ground and really met the Spartans, that I really appreciated it.
That’s great. Well, I think that’s the perfect note to end on. So, President Stanley, thank you so much for spending this time with us today. We have a great deal of comments that are online. People were very delighted by what you had to share. So, for those at home, I hope this had been inspiring to you, and given you a little bit of grounding perspective to head throughout the week and remember to come back to us next week, same time, same place, and we look forward to having another conversation. So, everyone, have a great week.
Bios of Guest and Host
Guest: Samuel Stanley, President, Michigan State University
Samuel L. Stanley, Jr., M.D., became Michigan State University's 21st president on Aug. 1, 2019, moving decisively to ensure that M.S.U. is a safe, respectful, welcoming place. His top priorities are student success and well-being; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and growing M.S.U.’s extraordinary regional and global impact. Dr. Stanley's infectious disease research background has informed the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has overseen changes to improve the institution's services, operations, and accountability. A researcher, patent holder, and former technology transfer executive, Dr. Stanley supports academic and industry collaborations to leverage economic impact and contributions to society. He is a past and active member of numerous regional and national boards. Born in Seattle, he earned a B.A. in biological sciences from the University of Chicago and a medical degree from Harvard. After completing resident-physician training at Massachusetts General Hospital, Dr. Stanley went to Washington University in St. Louis for a School of Medicine fellowship in infectious diseases, becoming a professor of medicine and molecular microbiology. The National Institutes of Health funded his research on enhanced defense against emerging infectious diseases. Prior to becoming M.S.U.’s president, he served as president of Stony Brook University (Long Island, New York), where he focused on improving campus diversity and student success, supported a new institute for artificial intelligence, and chaired the board of Brookhaven Science Associates, which manages Brookhaven National Laboratory on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy. President Stanley’s wife, Ellen Li, M.D., Ph.D., is a distinguished biomedical researcher and gastroenterologist. Dr. Stanley and Dr. Li have four adult children.
Host: Bridget Burns, Executive Director, University Innovation Alliance
Dr. Bridget Burns is the founding Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA). For the past decade, she has advised university presidents, system chancellors, and state and federal policy leaders on strategies to expand access to higher education, address costs, and promote completion for students of all backgrounds. The UIA was developed during Bridget’s tenure as an American Council on Education (A.C.E.) Fellowship at Arizona State University. She held multiple roles within the Oregon University System, including serving as Chief of Staff and Senior Policy Advisor, where she won the national award for innovation in higher education government relations. She was a National Associate for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, and has served on several statewide governing boards including ones governing higher education institutions, financial aid policy, and policy areas impacting children and families.
About Weekly Wisdom
Weekly Wisdom is an event series that happens live on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. It also becomes a podcast episode. Every week, we join forces with Inside Higher Ed and talk with a sitting college president or chancellor about how they're specifically navigating the challenges of this moment. These conversations will be filled with practicable things you can do right now by unpacking how and why college leaders are making decisions within higher education. Hopefully, these episodes will also leave you with a sense of optimism and a bit of inspiration.
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