back to news June 25, 2021

Our work together

On June 25, 2021, Executive Dean and Vice Provost Gretchen Ritter sent the following message to Arts and Sciences faculty and staff.


Dear Colleagues,

I am grateful for the partnership and generosity you have shown to me during my tenure as Executive Dean and Vice Provost for the College of Arts and Sciences. During my first few months on campus, I met with many of you in your offices. It was a pleasure to learn about your research and the tremendous commitment to educational excellence that exists across the college. You shared with me not only your insights about the many great things happening here but also your ideas on how to move things forward toward further excellence. Then when the pandemic struck, in every department there was a commitment to addressing the challenges before us and staying true to our mission as we worked together to serve our students and look after each other in the midst of so many hardships. These last fifteen months have been an exhausting and stressful period, but also a period that demonstrated the tremendous strength of this community.

Because of the work that we have done together over these last two years, and the opportunities that exist within the broader university, the college is poised to excel in the years ahead. Some highlights of our achievements include:

  • Compared to two years ago, we now think and act more like a college and less like individual programs or divisions. We have been intentional about creating cross-college working groups in a number of areas and moving away from a more divisional focus in our central support units. We have also had tremendous leadership from our divisional deans – Susan Olesik, Ryan King and Peter Hahn (now transitioning to Dana Renga), who have worked hard to develop a collaborative culture across the divisions.
     
  • Over these past 24 months, under the leadership of Associate Dean Wendy Smooth, the college’s commitment to inclusive excellence has become deeper, broader and more robust than in times past. Some units are addressing cultural concerns in response to findings that emerged from climate surveys. Other units are launching or expanding bridge programs to increase the diversity of their graduate programs. We have departments that are reviewing curriculum to make it more inclusive, and other departments are revising their Patterns of Administration to address service disparities and recognize the important and often unseen work that faculty of color are performing. The college also played a leading role in developing the RAISE initiative that was endorsed and adopted by President Kristina Johnson as a university-wide effort.
     
  • Thanks to the work of Associate Dean for Research Chris Jaroniec and others, we have strengthened our support for sponsored research. We have aligned our policies regarding research and creative expression across the divisions, increased the number of grant support personnel in the college, and created a college-wide research advisory committee. The college is also developing a strategic plan for doubling the college’s research portfolio over the next decade.
     
  • The college’s advancement team, led by our new Chief Development and Alumni Relations Officer Shams Khan, has done a tremendous job of strengthening alumni engagement through well produced virtual events, while increasing giving as well. In the last two years the college has received the single largest donation from an individual in our history, and we are on track this year to receiving the highest level of gifts and commitments ever achieved by the college. Over the last two years we have added 10 new members to our Dean’s Advisory Committee – adding to an already deep bench of talent and commitment with new members who bring diversity across race and ethnicity, gender, geography, age and professional backgrounds.
     
  • Thanks to the tremendous efforts of Associate Dean Trevon Logan and others, the college has worked to develop strategic approaches to budgeting. In partnership with all our units and with guidance from the Budget Advisory Committee, we were able to manage last year’s significant budget reductions through restrictions on discretionary spending – and without taking any personnel actions or doing lasting harm to excellence in the college. We also made a commitment to growing resources for the future through increases in sponsored research, philanthropy and new certificate and degree programs.
     
  • In the realm of curriculum, teaching, admissions and advising, Associate Executive Dean David Horn and his excellent staff have made huge strides over the past couple of years in strengthening programs for first-generation and underrepresented students, expanding resources for career readiness and success, focusing on support structures for mental health and well-being, starting an effort to grow our commitment to honors programming, providing greater assistance in the curriculum development process, creating college-wide conversations about pedagogy and high-impact practices, and fostering a culture of care that has served us well through the pandemic and the calls for racial justice. 

All of this speaks to some of the efforts that have been initiated by our talented team of associate and divisional deans and other central college leaders. Yet we also know that the excellence of this college comes from all of you and the work you do every day in our classrooms, studios, labs, archives and field sites. Over the past two years, our faculty, staff and students have been recognized with prestigious national and international fellowships, been elected to leading academies, won huge grants, launched new centers, received teaching and advising awards, and created new degree and certificate programs. It has been humbling and gratifying to support and celebrate your achievements.

In light of all of this, and the heartening recent announcement that David Horn will serve as the Interim Executive Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences beginning August 1, I am confident both that the college will do well in the months ahead and that ASC is well positioned to recruit a great new permanent dean of the college. David is a superb scholar, a committed and successful teacher, and an experienced and respected administrator who is well known across the university. He has also been a key thought partner to me over these past two years. The college is fortunate that he has agreed to serve in this capacity.

In a few weeks I will be returning to Upstate New York, where I grew up and still have family. I am excited to be stepping into the role of Vice Chancellor, Provost and Chief Academic Officer at Syracuse University. But I will always consider myself an honorary member of Buckeye Nation. It has been a privilege to serve as your dean.

Your colleague,

Gretchen

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