A message from the dean

Dean Gretchen Ritter
Dear friends,

I am so pleased to join the College of Arts and Sciences faculty as your executive dean and vice provost. I am a brand-new Buckeye as of Aug. 1, which makes this my freshman year at Ohio State. Just like our 3,400 new first-year Arts and Sciences students, I start the academic year with a sense of excitement and wonder as I settle into my new home.

Before coming to Ohio State, I served as arts and sciences dean and professor of government at Cornell University, my undergraduate alma mater. Like Ohio State, Cornell is a land-grant institution, and both institutions share that special commitment to improving the lives of citizens through teaching, research and public service. These values are what brought me to Ohio’s leading public university.

And at the center of any robust public institution like Ohio State must be a thriving arts and sciences college, uniquely positioned to be a crucible for collaborative, interdisciplinary exploration. In this issue of ASCENT, you’ll find examples of our students, faculty and alumni who foster this spirit of inquiry — from graduate student Forrest Schoessow’s study of climate change in the Peruvian Andres, to alumna Eleanor Gobrecht’s sailing adventures around the world, to astronomy professor Scott Gaudi’s discoveries that are literally out of this world.

These explorations are all grounded in an arts and sciences education. My field of study is government and politics, and I know that the arts and sciences are foundational for any democratic society. One of the things I have long appreciated about the United States is our dual commitment to liberty and equality. While we have sometimes struggled over our history to realize our ideals, there is a deep aspirational belief in our country that the promise of American life includes the ability to develop your talents, pursue your ambitions and contribute to the larger society regardless of where and to whom you were born.

One of the institutions that has consistently made a positive contribution to the realization of this vision is higher education. Universities, and particularly public universities, serve as engines of opportunity and excellence in American society. Because of this, what Ohio State does matters — and in today’s complex and ever-evolving global landscape, an arts and sciences education matters now more than ever.

Sincerely,

Gretchen Ritter
Executive Dean and Vice Provost
Professor of Political Science
 

ABOUT DEAN RITTER

Gretchen Ritter, a leading expert in the history of women's constitutional rights and contemporary issues concerning democracy and citizenship in American politics, has been appointed executive dean and vice provost for The Ohio State University College of Arts and Sciences, effective Aug. 1.

Ritter joins Ohio State from Cornell University, where she served as the Harold Tanner Dean of Arts and Sciences from 2013-18 before returning to the faculty. Ritter was the college's first female dean. She previously served as vice provost and professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. She has also taught at MIT, Princeton and Harvard.

“I’m thrilled with the opportunity to join Ohio State, which has such a strong sense of mission as a land-grant institution,” Ritter said. “I have a keen sense of responsibility as dean of the largest college at Ohio State and am excited to work with the college leadership, faculty and staff to build on the strengths of the College of Arts and Sciences.”

The College of Arts and Sciences is often called the academic hub of Ohio State. The college is home to 38 academic departments and schools, more than 20 centers and institutes, and more than 80 major programs.

The college delivers nearly half of all credit hours on the Columbus campus across the arts, humanities, and social, behavioral, natural and mathematical sciences. More than 17,000 undergraduate students, 2,600 graduate students and nearly 1,400 faculty are a part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We are excited to welcome Gretchen to the Ohio State community,” Bruce A. McPheron, executive vice president and provost said.

“The College of Arts and Sciences represents the fundamental heart of the disciplines that make any great university. I believe that the future of Ohio State is tied to the vibrancy of the College of Arts and Sciences and, as executive dean, Professor Ritter will help lead the college forward. In addition, as vice provost, she will participate in the shared leadership of the academic enterprise, including the implementation of the university’s Strategic Plan.”

Dean Ritter with Arts and Sciences students
Dean Gretchen Ritter with the Arts and Sciences Dean's Student Advisory Board

Ritter received her bachelor’s degree in government from Cornell and a doctorate in political science from MIT. She has written numerous articles and essays along with two books: The Constitution as Social Design: Gender and Civic Membership in the American Constitutional Order and Goldbugs and Greenbacks: The Antimonopoly Tradition and the Politics of Finance in America, 1865–1896. She also co-edited Democratization in America: A Comparative and Historical Perspective.

At Cornell, Ritter emphasized a renewed commitment to undergraduate education that embraced engaged learning models and incorporated emerging technologies and experiential learning. Ritter also prioritized efforts to improve both external and internal communications, and she oversaw the most successful increases in the annual fund in the history of the college.

“I am passionate about the importance of public higher education and deeply committed to the mission of the arts and sciences,” she said.

Ritter is the recipient of several fellowships and awards, including a National Endowment for Humanities Fellowship, the Radcliffe Research Partnership Award, and a Liberal Arts Fellowship at Harvard Law School.
 

Q&A WITH DEAN RITTER

What drew you to Ohio State?

This is a great land-grant institution that’s making a big difference in the state it’s in. For me, the great appeal of a flagship public institution like Ohio State is its focus on access and opportunity. I am proud to be a new Buckeye.

How does being a political scientist influence your career as an academic leader?

I’m both a student of and an advocate for democracy. I believe strongly that higher education is one of the institutions in American life that makes a particular difference in creating opportunity, encouraging people to become better citizens and producing research that improves lives in terms of the economy, security, health, human understanding and more. This is important work that energizes and inspires me every day.

The arts and sciences have been at the core of Ohio State since its founding in 1870. What is their value 150 years later?

I think their importance is similar to the value that was articulated from the beginning under the Morrill Act — one of helping to provide an educated public to participate in our constitutional system. It’s something the speaks both to a rich creativity across all fields as well as to applied immediate needs. It’s mindful of our history and provides the imagination for tools that create our future.

What priorities do you have for your first year as a Buckeye?

As someone who is a great fan of the arts broadly, I’m really excited about the launch of the Arts District. This is an opportunity for the campus to use the arts as a way of creating public conversations, thinking about where we are in the moment and where we’re headed, and connecting campus with the broader Columbus community.

I’m also very interested in and attentive to the opportunities created by Ohio State’s new General Education requirements, which are anticipated to launch in the autumn 2021 semester. I believe there is a rich set of possibilities in the foundations and themes of the new GE, and I’m very pleased that there will be a focus on global citizenship. The College of Arts and Sciences is the bedrock of the Ohio State undergraduate experience, and I am excited to see these new opportunities come to fruition.

Perhaps my most important priority is to learn more every day, especially about the college’s thriving research enterprise. We have faculty engaged in everything from opioid addiction to climate change to U.S.-East Asia relations. I am eager to find new ways to support impactful and interdisciplinary work in the college.

As a new transplant, what is there to love about Columbus?

It’s a cool town, and there’s a lot going on here. I love the diversity of the community. I love the bike trails. I love the restaurants. The appreciation for everything from sports to the arts is wonderful. People here are incredibly friendly in a genuine way.

This is a great place to call home.

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