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Mary Schutten became CMU’s executive vice president and provost July 1, 2019.

5 facts about our new provost

CMU’s Mary Schutten has a coach’s eye for winning strategies

Contact: Ari Harris


Central Michigan University has a new coach: Executive Vice President and Provost Mary C. Schutten.

Schutten this week assumed the role formerly held by Michael Gealt, who in December announced his intention to step down from the position. As the university’s newest academic leader, Schutten will be responsible for all undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as for supporting faculty and student research and creative endeavors.

“My role is to serve as a partner for faculty and students as we work to achieve the university’s goals,” she said.

Here are five things faculty, staff and students should know about the university’s newest administrator:

Coaching guides her leadership style

Schutten is credentialed to teach in the state of Michigan and began her career teaching math, German and physical education. She continued to work with athletes as she moved into higher education: She’s been a coach for collegiate-level sports including volleyball, softball, swimming and diving and has served as an official with Special Olympics in several cities.

Her time spent coaching gave her many tools for leading others.

“In sports there are always rules, and you have to use those rules to create your strategy. In higher education there are budgets, and they are always tight. But there are myriad strategies possible within those constraints,” she said.

“That is where I am an ‘artist,’ always creating solutions.”

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Provost Schutten attends the June CMU Board of Trustees meeting.

She’s well-connected to Michigan and to CMU

Schutten has family connections to the university and to Michigan.

She was born in Holland, Michigan, and attended Calvin College, where she also later taught and served as a department chair. Her grandfather, a Dutch immigrant, helped build the famous steeple on the Hope College chapel in Holland.

Her brother-in-law, alum Jeff Diekema, holds eight CMU records for swimming. About eight years ago, she also participated in a site review of CMU’s physical education program and was impressed by the things she heard and saw during her visit.

She was drawn by CMU’s commitment to student success

Students need to see a clear path to achieve their degree, Schutten said. She hopes to empower faculty, staff and students to make that path barrier-free. That will mean frequent reviews of curricula and the policies and processes along the road to degree attainment, she said.

At the same time, she hopes to expand CMU’s contributions in research, scholarly activity and creative endeavors and increase student opportunities to learn by doing.

“When we can engage in real-world research and hands-on learning activities, it can be a win-win-win for the students, the faculty and our community.”

She’s looking for future leaders

“We need to be deliberate in creating leaders,” Schutten said.

Schutten was impressed by the breadth of leadership programming CMU offers students and the ways students use their leadership skills to serve the community.

“We truly have the power to transform Michigan,” she said.

“I was impressed by the mission to provide health care professionals for underserved populations, the relationship with the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe and the many ways faculty reach out to the community to make a difference.”

Schutten hopes to play a role in developing leaders among faculty as well, creating a path for future department chairs and deans.

Nature is her happy place, but she likes the laundry room, too

Schutten feels a great affinity for Hawaii and enjoys recharging her spiritual, mental and emotional batteries outdoors in the islands.

When she can’t get away for vacation, she finds solace in the soothing sounds and clean smells from her washing machine.

“I grew up in a house full of athletes — my mom did a lot of laundry. Now I really like to do laundry. It might be genetic.”

She’s also a big fan of reading for professional development and personal enjoyment and rewatching favorite movies such as “The Sound of Music” and “The Princess Bride.”

Bonus: She’s ready to listen

She plans to spend her first few months on campus listening and learning, and she’s going to ask a lot of questions.

“It’ll be a little like talking with your typical 2-year-old who just asks ‘why’ a lot. Those kinds of conversations often lead us to ways to do things better and help me serve the CMU community.”


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