Cornell University

Gretchen Ritter

Gretchen Ritter, vice provost for undergraduate education and faculty governance, is excited to spend the coming fall in Ithaca — because, for all she will miss about the University, one thing she is not sad to leave behind is Texas weather. 

Ritter, also a government professor, is leaving UT to be the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University. A Cornell alumna herself, she will be the school’s first female dean.

“It was actually a little surprising to me that I’ll be the first woman in the position,” Ritter said. “I don’t think it will feel like a big deal to anyone there.”

Ritter, who has been on UT’s faculty since 1992, was instrumental in the creation of the Course Transformation Program, an initiative designed to improve large, lower division gateway courses by promoting student and faculty engagement. Steve Leslie, outgoing executive vice president and provost, said the Course Transformation Program was one of Ritter’s greatest accomplishments. 

“UT was one of the first places in the country to launch these blended and online learning initiatives, and Gretchen built that,” Leslie said. “She had the strength and persistent focus on cutting edge ways of transforming courses to set the stage for the methods we use today.”

Ritter also mentioned the program as one of her proudest achievements. 

“I’m proud of having supported an experiment that uses educational technology in positive and thoughtful ways, and in ways that were faculty led and designed,” Ritter said.

Ritter said her decision to leave is based on a variety of factors, including her appreciation of Cornell and a desire to return to the region of the country where she grow up. But in making her decision, Ritter said she also reflected on more recent concerns she has had about the state of Texas public higher education.

“I’m going because this is a great opportunity for me,” Ritter said. “But of course, I did reflect on the fact that it sometimes feels as though there is not as strong a commitment to supporting public higher education in the state as there used to be. That worries and concerns me.” 

Last week, history professor David Oshinsky announced his resignation from UT in favor of working full-time at New York University. Though he cited family connections and personal opportunities as reasons for his departure, he told the Austin-American Statesman that recent conflicts between UT and the UT System Board of Regents made the choice easier. 

“I do leave with sort of a bittersweet taste ... I see the University under fire now,” Oshinsky told the Statesman. “It does disturb me.”

Ritter said if trends like a lack of public commitment and support for public higher education continue, the University will suffer.

“I think we will be paying the price a decade from now,” Ritter said.

Still, Ritter said, she will miss many things about the University, including her colleagues and certain things that make UT a distinctly Texan university. 

“I’ll definitely miss salsa and tortilla chips,” Ritter said. 

Gretchen Ritter, vice provost and government professor, leaving UT, heading to Cornell

Gretchen Ritter, UT government professor and vice provost for undergraduate education, is leaving the University for a new position at Cornell University.

According to a press release from Cornell University, Ritter will serve as the school's 21st dean of Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences. Ritter is the latest administrator to leave an open leadership position, following Provost and Executive Vice President Steven Leslie's announcement to step down in February. Leslie is staying at UT, however, while Ritter is not.

Ritter will be the first woman dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. 

At UT, Ritter is known for directing UT's Center for Women’s and Gender Studies and more recently steering the Course Transformation Program, an initative that aims to improve large, entry level classes. She also co-authored the final report of a Gender Equity Task Force from 2008, which identified nine categories of gender equity issues on campus.

In a press release from Cornell University, Ritter said she is excited for her new position.

"I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to serve as the next dean of this great college. Cornell is a special place – as I know from my years of having been a student there," Ritter said. "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."

 

The efforts of Professor Larry Speck and his colleagues have contributed to the School of Architecture undergraduate program ranking second nationally for 2012, according to professional journal DesignIntelligence. Nonetheless, Dean Frederick Steiner voices concerns whether decreased funding will jeopardize the prestigious ranking.

Photo Credit: Victoria Montalvo | Daily Texan Staff

Competitive tuition and faculty accomplishments within the School of Architecture were likely factors in the school’s undergraduate program being ranked second in the nation for 2012. Budget cuts could threaten to bring that ranking down in the future, architecture dean Frederick Steiner said.

UT’s ranking, compiled by DesignIntelligence, a journal that produces the only national rankings for accredited bachelor’s and master’s architecture programs in the United States, was second only to Cornell University.

“Students definitely look to rankings, so it’s better to be ranked high,” Steiner said. “I actually believe at the undergraduate level, we’re the best in the country. I think we’re stronger than Cornell who is ranked ahead of us. We are certainly the top public university in the nation at the undergraduate level.”

DesignIntelligence did not respond to requests to disclose their ranking system on Monday, but Steiner said cost was a significant factor. Of the top 10 universities, UT was the least expensive in 2010 for in-state tuition at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, according to information compiled by the School of Architecture.

“We are by far and away the cheapest, most inexpensive school,” Steiner said. “What keeps me up at night is if we will be able to continue to keep that ranking when obviously our budget is not increasing.”

Steiner said the School of Architecture has filled faculty vacancies with lower ranking titles than their outgoing predecessors to save $52,000 in the past year. He said support from the university president and provost have helped navigate through budget cuts, but he said he knows maintaining the quality of the program with less money is unsustainable.

As Steiner and other administrators dealt with the logistics of funding, he said the fantastic work during 2011 by faculty contributed to the school’s 2012 ranking, which rose from seventh place last year.

“Larry Speck won the Topaz medallion which is the highest honor for an architectural educator,” Steiner said. “The faculty also won quite a few awards and published several books that year, so we were quite productive.”

DesignIntelligence added architecture professor Larry Speck and associate professor Hope Hasbrouck to its list of “top 25 most admired educators of 2012.” These designations, released in conjunction with program rankings, are achieved through recommendation from architecture students and academics, which makes the accomplishment more rewarding, Speck said.

“It’s the sort of thing you can’t campaign for or apply for, which is great,” Speck said. “I love it when you don’t apply and people say ‘Yeah, that’s someone I admire.’”

Architecture graduate student Nelly Fuentes expressed her admiration for Hasbrouck.

“She’ll be the last one to brag about herself, but her wealth of knowledge and experience in the profession is quite impressive,” Fuentes said. “As a professor she is invested and insightful, particularly with regards to the making of place and representing landscape.”

Architecture senior James Spence said he took a class with Speck freshman year and said talented instructors like him had to have benefited UT’s ranking.

“UT’s strengths are the sure-fire reasons the school was ranked No. 2 in the nation,” Spence said. “Most of these strengths come from our staff. Not only are our professors very well versed in their respective fields of architecture, but they are deeply involved with the progress of their students.”