Keith Lamb makes his debut as MSU’s interim president after JuliAnn Mazachek’s departure, Jan. 19. (Colin Stevenson)
Keith Lamb makes his debut as MSU’s interim president after JuliAnn Mazachek’s departure, Jan. 19.

Colin Stevenson

“A tremendous sense of responsibility:” Lamb settles into interim presidency, plans for the future

January 27, 2023

It’s rare to do something for 22 years and still run up against unforeseen challenges. But for Keith Lamb, his more than two decades of higher education administrative experience have led him to his greatest challenge yet: the MSU presidency. On Jan. 11, just a few hours after JuliAnn Mazachek resigned unexpectedly, Lamb was offered and accepted the interim president position. Since then, he’s worked to balance his existing duties with the responsibilities of being president.

Lamb, who was elevated to the position from his post as vice president of student affairs, and who also led enrollment initiatives for the university, said working out how to do both jobs has been a challenge.

“It’s been nuts in the sense of – or it’s been hectic in the sense of, you know I have my already built-out schedule from student affairs. And then having added enrollment from the week before and then layering the presidential duties. But all that will, over the next couple of weeks, sort itself out,” Lamb said.

He added that the process of finding other people to help tackle his preexisting duties is important and ongoing since he has to be able to focus on the presidency.

“What the university can’t afford is to have a president, an interim president who is just partly focused on the president’s job,” Lamb said, finishing the thought with, “It’s too critical.”

Lamb said the job is a heavier one than he’s undertaken before, and one he takes very seriously.

“I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to make sure, during this period until a permanent president is selected, to make sure that the university continues its positive momentum in a lot of different avenues,” Lamb said, adding that he appreciated that his work for the university had led to his consideration for the position.

“It is gratifying to some degree to know that the work I have done would allow for people to have confidence in me to do this. Gratifying and humbling, but then comes that tremendous sense of responsibility.”

Lamb outlined the main facets of his new job in an open Q&A session held in the Bridwell Activities Center. He said his main priorities right now include representing MSU at the Texas legislative session which is currently underway, increasing university undergraduate enrollment and ensuring MSU’s reaccreditation process goes smoothly. 

MSU’s accreditation status is determined by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Lamb said MSU is positioned extremely well for reaccreditation.

Lamb also answered questions at the session, which was open to all students. The Student Government Association hosted the event.

Gabriella Pettijohn, economics senior and Student Government Association president, said she felt it was important that students got a chance to interact with the new interim president.

SGA president Gabriella Pettijohn reads out written questions from the audience, Jan. 19.
SGA president Gabriella Pettijohn reads out written questions from the audience, Jan. 19. (Colin Stevenson)

“More than anything, student government wanted to give students a chance to ask their questions, because we recognize what a weird and odd situation it can look for everyone involved. So we wanted to make sure they had a chance to ask their questions and also for the interim president to answer some misconceptions and really get his voice out there,” Pettijohn said.

She later added that, while Lamb is well-known on campus, the session was held to address any new concerns that students might have.

“We know that Dr. Lamb has been a fixture at MSU for many years, and that many students know him. We just wanted to make sure that, no matter what, we all had an opportunity to ask questions, get answers,” Pettijohn said.

Pettijohn also said she’s confident that Lamb is the right person for the position.

“I think I’m really interested to see if there’s going to be any changes during the spring semester, but I ultimately don’t think that there will be any significant ones for students. I think he’s going to lead the way he typically does, which has been successful at MSU for the past,” Pettijohn said.

Lamb has experience at the university but is new to his current position, a common theme among the university’s leadership right now. MSU has an interim president, interim provost and interim deans leading three of the seven colleges on campus.

Eric Queller, management senior and SGA’s vice president of internal affairs, said he believes the turnover in leadership is indicative of a larger trend in workplaces everywhere.

“As a student myself, I would be concerned seeing just kind of the high turnover. But I think we’re also just seeing it everywhere in the world. Just kind of, you look at other places and seeing that they’re moving around and you have a lot of just vacancies just in general in the world,” Queller said, adding, “But I’m confident in leadership, I’m confident in the people that help us.”

Citing a “tremendous sense of responsibility,” Lamb plans to make the most of that confidence. Lamb said after 22 years at MSU, he hopes to be viewed as someone willing to step up and deal with situations as they arise – the presidency being the biggest situation he’s dealt with so far. He recounted his time at MSU, and his hopes for the future.

“When my wife and I came here in 1999, the plan was never to be here 20-something years later. Knowing that higher education administration is kind of a nomadic lifestyle as I said earlier, we figured we’d be here three to five years and it’d be time to move on. We figured we were entering a life of moving every so often. But we fell in love with the people here, Wichita Falls, Midwestern. And I think you see that a lot here, there’s a lot of stability on this campus. A lot of people have been here for a number of years. So what do I want to be my legacy to be here after all that?” Lamb said.

He answered his own question after a moment’s reflection.

“I don’t know. No, I do. I want to be someone who can be looked at as reliable, but you know, even beyond reliable. Someone who answered the bell every time it was rung. Whether it’s the interim president, whether it was vice president for student affairs, whether it was vice president for enrollment management and student affairs and chief strategy officer, I think I want my legacy to be someone who could rise to the occasion each time,” Lamb said.


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