April 10, 2013

Cornell Appoints First Female Dean of College of Arts and Sciences

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Gretchen Ritter ’83, a third-generation Cornellian and vice provost at the University of Texas at Austin, has been appointed the 21st dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Provost Kent Fuchs announced Thursday.

When she begins her term as dean on Aug. 1, Ritter will be both the first woman and first externally hired dean to lead the arts college in its 148-year history.

As vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance at UT-Austin, Ritter has worked to improve the retention of underrepresented minorities, foster the development of faculty and redesign large introductory courses in biology, chemistry and other subjects at the college, according to a University press release.

Her roots to Cornell are extensive — beyond earning a bachelor’s degree in government from the University, she is the third generation in her family to attend Cornell.

Coming back to Cornell after having grown up in upstate New York and attaining a “great education” at the University will be “something of a homecoming,” Ritter said in the press release.

“I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as the next dean of this great college,” Ritter said. “Cornell is a special place … as I know from my years of having been a student there. I look forward to working with the college’s extraordinary students, faculty and alumni in making a great college even stronger in the years to come.”

As dean, Ritter will be responsible for leading and advancing the arts college, the largest undergraduate school at Cornell. She will also help lead the college’s faculty renewal initiative: efforts to hire new faculty in advance of an expected wave of retirements.

Fuchs said in the press release that Cornell will be welcoming a dean with a “distinguished academic career, well-demonstrated leadership abilities and a creative vision for Arts and Sciences.”

“Cornell is fortunate that Gretchen Ritter has chosen to return to her alma mater,” Fuchs added.

After graduating from Cornell in 1983, Ritter earned a Ph.D. in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, according to the press release.

In 1992, she began teaching government at UT-Austin. As a professor, Ritter has taught courses in topics such as American politics and constitutional development and conducted research on women’s role in political activism, according to her profile on UT-Austin’s website.

In addition to teaching at UT-Austin, Ritter has held teaching positions at MIT, Princeton University and Harvard.

In 2009, Ritter was appointed vice provost of undergraduate education and faculty governance at UT-Austin — a position through which she has overseen the college’s academic advising, undergraduate curriculum and faculty legislation, according to the press release.

Her efforts in 2010 to overhaul large introductory courses at UT-Austin resulted in “significant improvements in grades, learning outcomes and student retention,” the press release stated.

After Ritter begins her term, the arts college’s current dean, Peter Lepage, will return to teaching, according to the press release. Lepage — who, in November, was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Science Board — will also continue his research in quantum physics.

Lepage has served as the arts college’s dean since 2003.

Original Author: Akane Otani