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New Provost Gretchen Ritter Welcomed to Campus, Shares First Priority
As Syracuse University’s new vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer, Gretchen Ritter says her first priority during the coming weeks and months will be to get to know the faculty and students of her new campus community.
“I look forward to going on tours, visiting labs and studios, getting acquainted with colleagues from across the campus,” Ritter said, during a welcome event Tuesday, Oct. 12. “I want to thank you in advance for sharing with me your insights about what makes Syracuse special and your good ideas about how we might achieve even greater levels of impact and excellence.”
In those necessary conversations, Ritter also wants to express her own values—including one core value that “we are all here for the faculty and the students.”
“That is because it is through the research and creative excellence of the faculty that we expand knowledge and human understanding,” Ritter said. “And it is by enabling the talents and ambitions of our great students that we enrich the world with emerging leaders who will help us to imagine and achieve a better future for all of us.”
Ritter was named vice chancellor, provost and chief academic officer in June 2021 after a global search. About 150 campus community members gathered Oct. 12 in the Ilene and David Flaum Grand Hall, Whitman School of Management, to officially welcome Ritter, who started her new role on Oct. 1. The event was also livestreamed.
Before getting to know more about the University as a candidate for the position, Ritter said she knew about Syracuse University mostly through its reputation—hearing from colleagues at her previous institutions about the programs and people that define Syracuse and the breadth and depth of its academic excellence.
In meeting and hearing from the Search Committee members, who she described as thoughtful about the University’s challenges and opportunities and deeply committed to the impact the University has on the world, Ritter gained an even fuller understanding of Syracuse University.
“I saw a campus community that is committed to public service, that cares deeply about the success and well-being of the students, that has embraced inclusive excellence and that was hungry for an opportunity to prioritize academic excellence,” Ritter said. “One of the phrases I heard first once and then repeatedly in my interviews and conversations was the self-description: ‘I bleed orange.’ From faculty, alumni, parents and students—what comes across is a deep commitment to what can be done as a member of this community.”
Speaking at the event, Chancellor Kent Syverud said the University and its people have made much progress over the past two years, despite the challenges in the world, and have been through many transitions.
“And now we have a long-term provost in office. And that’s a transition we need to embrace and support—all of us,” Chancellor Syverud said. “We have a provost in office who is a fine scholar, an experienced academic leader who’s seen and led at other top universities. And we have a person who is deeply thoughtful and caring about both our faculty and our students.”
Chancellor Syverud noted Ritter’s accomplishments as a respected political scientist; her leadership as an administrator; her support for expanded faculty research and cross-collaboration; her work with faculty and leadership to secure philanthropy; her unwavering commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion and access; and her focus on enhancing learning inside and outside of the classroom.
“She is a keen listener, as you’ve heard, and a strong communicator. These qualities will serve her well as the leader of us as an academic community,” said Chancellor Syverud. “I think she will carry this student-focused international research university into a really wonderful new era.”
Two members of the Provost Search Committee, Kira Reed, associate professor of management in the Whitman School of Management and Provost Faculty Fellow, and Jamie Winders, professor of geography in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and committee chair, also welcomed Ritter at the event.
Winders explained how the search committee met with many people on campus—faculty, students and staff—to find out the most important issues the next provost should address and the qualities and qualifications for that person.
In conversations with Ritter, the committee members “became more and more convinced that she was what our campus charged us to find in our next provost, that her ability to ask the right—if tough—questions, her vision for where Syracuse University could go, and how to get there, and her deep commitment to working with faculty and all other parts of campus to place our academic mission at the center of everything we do, made her our ideal provost,” Winders said.
Yousr Dhaouadi, a doctoral student in Chemical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Computer Science and president of the Graduate Student Association, said she was honored to speak at the event on behalf of the student body, which will work with the new provost to continue to strengthen academic excellence.
Dhaouadi spoke of how Ritter had reached out to meet with the Graduate Student Organization, the Student Association and other student entities before the start of the semester.
“I want to thank Dr. Ritter for making students an important part of her first few weeks at Syracuse,” Dhaouadi said. “I am humbled to be a part of such a remarkable and talented community here at Syracuse, and on behalf of Syracuse students, we look forward to working with you Dr. Ritter.”