Three Syracuse University students have been selected as recipients of the Voyager Scholarship: the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, a new award for juniors committed to public service funded by the Obama Foundation. The recipients are: Ka’ai Imaikalani I ’24…
Meet Gretchen Ritter: 7 Questions to Get to Know Syracuse University’s New Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer
Gretchen Ritter was named vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer in June 2021 after a competitive global search. As she begins her tenure at Syracuse University, we asked her a few questions to help the community get to know its newest leader.
The campus community is invited to a celebration and reception for Ritter, which will be held Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 10:15-11:15 a.m. in the Ilene and David Flaum Grand Hall, Whitman School of Management.
American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be provided. For accommodations, please contact the Office of Special Events at 315.443.2016 or email@example.com.
The event will be livestreamed.
01What does it mean to you to be returning to an institution in New York State?
My family has been in New York state for several generations. Although I have spent most of my career elsewhere, Upstate New York really does feel like home to me. It’s an incredibly beautiful place with a rich and proud history. I am happy to be returning home.
02What are your priorities for the first 90 days in the role of provost at Syracuse University?
My biggest priority is getting to know the Syracuse University community. I am interested in learning what makes the University a beacon of excellence, and where we have opportunities to advance even further. I will be spending a lot of time in the next few weeks meeting with individual faculty, touring facilities, learning from our students and connecting with our alumni. In these meetings and conversations, I will also seek to convey my values and approach as I begin in my new role.
Other early priorities include identifying and appointing a new associate provost for faculty affairs, reviewing the cluster hire initiative and doing a review of our research and creative portfolio to understand how we can further advance in that domain.
03Academic excellence can be defined in many ways. What is your definition and how can Syracuse University continue to build academic excellence?
Academic excellence is at the core of what a great R1 university does. Great universities contribute to the world by expanding human knowledge and understanding, and by preparing the next generation of leaders, innovators, artists and public servants to help us create a better future.
Academic excellence happens in classrooms, labs, archives, field sites, studios and study abroad programs—to name a few places. Through our students and our faculty we have an enormous impact on the world and make significant contributions to understanding and addressing some of the most pressing issues of the day.
Syracuse is already an academically excellent university. Over the months ahead, I will be working with others across the University to explore where there are opportunities to accelerate our impact on the world. These opportunities may be through new educational programs and initiatives, or through greater support for interdisciplinary research and creative collaborations.
04In your view, why is a culture that is welcoming to all—one that truly embraces diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility—a critical success factor for higher education?
There are several reasons that inclusive excellence is critical to our success as a university. One is that it represents a commitment to opportunity for people of talent from any background, which can greatly increase our social impact.
The second is that diversity in our classrooms and in the research and creative process contributes to innovation, creativity and learning. We learn more when we have a chance to work and study with colleagues and classmates who see the world differently than we do given their social backgrounds and experiences.
The third reason that it is important to be a place that is welcoming to all is that we are all more open to risk taking and collaboration in a context that is marked by trust, generosity and recognition.
My own view is that a key part of the success of American higher education comes from our aspiration to welcome talented strivers from all backgrounds.
05What research and creative initiatives currently underway at Syracuse University do you find particularly exciting?
I am excited by the range of research and creative excellence here—in drama, studies of disinformation in the media and online, materials and living systems, autonomous systems, architecture, communication, creative writing and disability studies. The list could go on and on—one of the joys and pleasures of my role lies in the opportunity to learn more about the great work that is happening all over the campus.
06How would you articulate the importance of academia and the pursuit of higher learning in today's sociocultural climate?
As a nation and a world we are beset by so many challenges—climate change, COVID, social polarization, rising levels of inequality, opioid addiction, disinformation—it’s a big list. Universities are places that bring together brilliant minds and innovative thinkers to understand and address these issues and to help us imagine and realize a better future together. There has never been a more critical need for great research universities than the present.
07SU News notes that you recently tweeted that you are Team Oxford Comma. Why is that?
Ha! It means I care about writing. Being able to write well is part of being able to think and communicate clearly. I always tell my students that this is a key, lifelong skill that they should pay attention to and seek to strengthen.