By ANUSHKA MEHROTRA
Several Cornell student leaders reacted positively to the University’s selection of its first female president — Elizabeth Garrett, the provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California — who will assume the role in July 2015.
The Board of Trustees announced Garrett as Cornell’s president-elect Tuesday morning. She will replace President David Skorton as he takes a new position as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.
Both Ross Gitlin ’15 and Annie O’Toole grad — Cornell’s student-elected trustees — had the unique opportunity of being a part of the committee to choose Garrett as Skorton’s successor.
Gitlin, who serves as undergraduate trustee, said he felt grateful to be a part of the decision to choose Garrett as president.
“Under the incredible leadership of Search Committee Chair Jan Rock Zubrow ’77, our committee sought to select the best candidate to serve as the next President of Cornell,” he said. “And that is what we did.”
According to Gitlin, Garrett possesses “all of the attributes” necessary to effectively lead the University.
“[Garrett] is thoughtful, intelligent, and warm — she has a natural ability to lead and inspire everyone around her,” Gitlin said. “[She] has a steadfast commitment to, and a deep understanding of, the importance of our University’s land grant mission.”
Jevan Hutson ’16 said he was excited to see Cornell — the sixth Ivy League university to appoint a woman as president — choose Garrett as Skorton’s successor.
“I am thrilled to see the white male bastion that is Cornell’s presidency finally crumble,” he said.
However, Hutson added that he thought the email announcing Garrett’s presidency somewhat downplayed the significance her accomplishments.
“[I found the email] to be rather problematic as they highlighted Garrett’s marital status as well as her husband’s accomplishments prior to telling us anything about her achievements, experience or areas of expertise,” Hutson said.
Sarah Balik ’15, president of the Cornell Student Assembly, said she believes Garrett will serve as a role model for all students — male or female.
“While the fact that she is a woman is both important and exciting for students, I think she will succeed in the role of president because of her incredible passion for Cornell and higher education at large, as well as her unparalleled experience in law and academia,” Balik said.
O’Toole — Cornell’s graduate student trustee — said she was “humbled” by the committee’s incorporation of student input in choosing Garrett as the next president.
“Throughout the process, I was surprised and humbled by how much the student perspective was solicited and valued in our numerous discussions,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole, who is a second-year law student, added that she personally admires Garrett for achievements in the law. Garrett received her law degree from University of Virginia School of Law and served as a law professor at the University of Chicago.
“As a female law student, it has been inspiring to get to know Beth, to learn about her vast accomplishments in the law and in University administration and to be part of the process that named her to be the first woman to lead Cornell,” she said.
Campus initiatives to increase women in leadership positions are “complimented” by having a woman leading the institution, according to Yamini Bhandari ’17, women’s issues liaison at large for the S.A.
“It’s also nice to see Cornell decide to have a woman president, given that so many of our peer Ivy institutions do as well,” she said. “I hope to see great work from her.”
Bhandari said she had hoped a woman would replace Skorton as president.
“I was vocal during the selection process, via email recommending that the president be a woman and it’s very exciting to see that it’s happening,” she said.
Meagan Manahan, a junior at USC, said several students at the Los Angeles, California university are already discussing Garrett’s upcoming departure.
“Everyone is really excited for her, especially the fact that she will be the first female president ever of the University,” Manahan said. “Today is a proud day for us Trojans.”