NORMAL — Illinois State University’s new president had two major requirements for any potential new job she was applying to a year ago: It had to be in the Midwest and it had to be a public university.
Terri Goss Kinzy and her husband, Scott Kinzy, both grew up in small towns in Ohio. While she spent time as a professor and vice president at Rutgers University in New Jersey, she knew she wanted her future to be back in the Midwest.
“We are Midwesterners by birth and by choice,” she said.
The accessibility of public universities is also important to her. They can provide an unparalleled potential step for first-generation college students, Kinzy said. She knows this because she was one herself, on both her father’s side and her mother’s side.
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College can be a practical advantage for any future career, Kinzy said.
“The experience of college can help you in just about all of them,” she said.
It was far more than being a public university in the Midwest that brought Kinzy to ISU, however. A large part of the appeal of the position was the strong history of the institution, dating back to 1857.
There are plenty of stories to tell at the school, Kinzy said, including the excellence of its programs, which extend well beyond its teaching school.
“I think what’s special about Illinois State and why it’s done so well is it’s maintained its focus on students; it has remained committed to quality, not quantity; and I think it’s chosen strategically to invest in specific areas and make sure those work well,” she said. “I think just not enough people know the Illinois State story, and that’s one of my top priorities.”
Kinzy holds a Ph.D. of biochemistry from Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. She was still active in research up to taking the president’s job at ISU, with two articles she co-authored coming out so far in 2021.
That background helps in her current role as well. Science is based in unbiased observations, she said. As a new president at a university, she is doing a lot of observing, she said, and adjusting hypotheses as needed. Science is also collaborative and international, two other vital skills for her new position.
For Kinzy, a strong student research program falls naturally into a strong education.
“People when they hear ‘research,’ they think test tubes and they think widgets, but creative scholarship, it includes the arts, the humanities, all of those are happening at Illinois State University and our students are really involved in (them),” Kinzy said.
Broader history is also of interest to Kinzy. She has joined the board of the McLean County Historical Society. She and her husband are now active in the Central Illinois Sheltie Rescue, along with Boki, their Shetland sheepdog.
Along with those groups, Kinzy said she is excited to attend some of the yearly events on campus and around Bloomington-Normal. That includes events at Heartland Community College and Illinois Wesleyan University: Having three colleges in town brings a collaborative energy, Kinzy said, and a wide array of events, including with the fine arts departments.
Stepping into the presidential role at this time, Kinzy has a chance to hopefully oversee the beginning of a new college at the university, as the university looks for approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education to start an engineering school.
“We want to create a college of engineering that is really built for the future, certainly not the past, maybe not even the present,” she said.
Kinzy has been at ISU for just over two months now, but the return of students to campus about three weeks ago really brought new energy to the school.
“It just inspires and reminds you why you’re here,” she said.
At the same time, though, last year required a massive effort from faculty, staff and students, she…