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Western Michigan VP Terri Goss Kinzy Named ISU's 20th President

Terri Goss Kinzy standing at podium
Emily Bollinger
Terri Goss Kinzy was named ISU's 20th president on Friday.

Terri Goss Kinzy was named Friday as Illinois State University's 20th president. Kinzy, currently vice president for research and innovation at Western Michigan University, will succeed a retiring Larry Dietz this summer.

Kinzy's name was revealed during Friday morning's Board of Trustees meeting. She takes over July 1.

Kinzy will become ISU's first female president. She emerged from a field of over 50 qualified candidates, university officials said. There were four finalists, though their names were not disclosed publicly during the search.

"It's important for everyone to see that potential exists to go into leadership and to bring your voice and have it heard," Kinzy said. "It's very exciting."

Kinzy noted the diversity of ISU's search committee and said that likely led to a more diverse pool of candidates. Trustees chair Julie Jones said she made diversity a priority in the hiring search.

"I noticed how the previous search committees looked and in an effort to increase diversity of the pool, I added six positions on to the search committee that were specifically committed to groups that represented concerns for diversity, equity and inclusion,” Jones explained.

The search committee that selected Kinzy included nearly three dozen students, faculty, staff and alumni.


Kinzy has been in education for 25 years. In describing her leadership style, Kinzy uses words like empowering and student-focused.

"I believe that students are a great pulse of where our university is, but also a pulse of where our country is and where our future is," Kinzy said. "They are often thinking about other different things than we are because they are seeing the future of their lives and their careers."

Jones said Kinzy can bring a fresh perspective to ISU, using her well-honed skills as a researcher.

"We could clearly see from her first interview that she did extensive research on Illinois State and we thought she new what she could do and she knew even more when she came back to the second round," Jones said. "She is a thoughtful person."


Kinzy noted higher education faces challenges, starting with the coronavirus pandemic. Though she sees it also as an opportunity to reassess everything.

As for a return to normal for the fall, Kinzy deferred to the current administration on whether the campus should require students get the COVID vaccine as the university’s Student Government Association wants.

"I believe an always starting with a campaign of science behind why we should do this and getting community engagement, but I think that decision is one that will be made by the institution before I arrive and I think we are all looking at what's in the best interest of everyone involved," Kinzy said.

SGA President Rodrigo Villalobos issued a statement congratulating Kinzy as ISU’s first female president and said the association looks forward to working with Kinzy.

“SGA will remain steadfast in holding the president and their administration accountable on behalf of our constituents,” Villalobos said.

Union dispute

The university is also in the midst of a contract dispute with the Graduate Student Workers union. The union feels its work at ISU is undervalued and wants the university to prioritize its needs before pushing big new projects such as a new engineering college.

Kinzy expressed confidence a federal mediator will help the university and union come to a suitable agreement.

"When I was at Rutgers and we integrated the health sciences, we had 30 unions," Kinzy said. "It's a part of what we do and I have confidence that will be able to be worked out."

Kinzy previously served as vice president of research and professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and as senior associate dean for the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and Research at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She is a tenured professor of biological sciences.

With a background in research and development, Dr. Kinzy has received international recognition for her work in understanding how mRNAs direct the way in which proteins are made. In 2017, she was named as a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She has been published and cited in numerous academic and professional outlets.

Student recruitment

Colleges in Illinois also face the challenge of high school students fleeing the state. Kinzy said she wants to see an emphasis on student retention and finding non-traditional students.

"We need to think about veterans. We need to think about people who may have interrupted their education and they want to come back because of change in the economy and the job market, so I'd say that really making sure that we are rigorous in recruiting people here and that they feel like they are part of a community," Kinzy said.


The proposed annual salary for the new president will be $375,000. The four-year contract also includes retirement contributions, use of a vehicle and the university residence, and other customary items such as a country club membership that are valued at more than $49,000 per year.

Dietz's retirement

Dietz is retiring June 30 after seven years as university president.

Dietz was appointed president in 2014, following the turbulent tenure of former ISU President Tim Flanagan. Dietz is the longest serving of all current Illinois public university presidents.

Dietz's tenure includes rewrites of ISU's strategic plan, the opening of the Center for Civic Engagement, and renovation of Bone Student Center. ISU also has added a cybersecurity degree and is now launching an engineering college. Dietz's tenure also included the Redbirds Rising campaign that yielded more than $180 million in private support.

Kinzy credited Dietz for guiding the university through the pandemic and other challenges.

"Not every university has come out of some of the adversity you have faced as well as Illinois State University and you should be proud of your contributions in that," Kinzy said.

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Updated: May 14, 2021 at 12:40 PM CDT
WGLT updated this story to add comments from a Friday news conference.
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