By next June, half of the Ivy League will be run by female presidents. On Tuesday, it was announced that Elizabeth Garrett would become Cornell University's first female president, and the sixth female president of an Ivy League institution overall. Of the illustrious eight, only Dartmouth and Columbia have yet to join the party. Unsurprising, considering these two schools were the last and third to last to go coed. But regardless of the shortcomings of other Ivy League institutions, Garrett's appointment is certainly cause for celebration.
Garrett, who currently serves as the provost of the University of Southern California, will assume her position as the 13th president of Cornell University at the end of the academic year. Cornell, which boasts campuses throughout the state of New York, as well as an outpost in Doha, Qatar, is certainly the most sprawling of all the Ivy Leagues, and comes with its own unique set of challenges. For one, Garrett will be taking over in the midst of a $2 billion expansion project that will create a technology and applied sciences campus in New York City.
But this is nothing Garrett can't handle. At USC, Garrett filled the second-highest administrative position, and oversaw a school with twice the student population as Cornell, with "41,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 17 professional schools, three hospitals and the largest number of international students of any institution in the country." The New York Times reports that Jan Rock Zubrow, the head of Cornell's presidential search committee, said his team was most impressed by Garrett's abilities in "creating cross-disciplinary programs at USC," which is certainly a matter of growing concern throughout the Ivy Leagues.
Several of America's leading institutions have emphasized the importance of cross-disciplinary education — earlier this year, Brown's president Christina Paxson released a statement announcing the establishment of a new Institute for the Study of Environment and Society, which combines the study of environmental science as well as the "economic, political and social factors that influence the adoption of best environmental practices."
Researchers have also noted the importance of interdisciplinary work for students, with several professors emphasizing the need for a multifaceted manner of learning that combines several different fields into one comprehensive experience. In order to confront the complexities of the world, Professor William Newell, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania says in his article in LiberalArtsOnline, students will need a "new way of understanding—one that does not rely on having only a single viewpoint."
So if you were questioning your decision to double major or to complete that minor, thank yourself now.
And with Cornell's continued expansion and addition of more schools and specialties, it seems that having a leader who understands the importance of cross-disciplinary studies, as well as how to effectively implement these programs, will be a valuable asset to the university.
But beyond her accomplishments at USC, Garrett's impressive resume is one that seems difficult to compete with. After all, she was a professor of law and a deputy dean for academic affairs at the University of Chicago before moving to Los Angeles, and before that, then-President George W. Bush appointed her to an advisory panel on federal tax reform. She was one of only two women on the nine-member panel.
Garrett also clerked for Justice Thurgood Marshall on the U.S. Supreme Court after graduating from the University of Virginia's law school, and despite her numerous administrative appointments, has never lost her love for academia. Besides serving as Cornell's president, she will also receive "joint appointment in the Department of Government in the College of Arts and Science," Cornell said in a statement.
Garrett herself is obviously thrilled to join the university as its leaders, saying in a statement, "I am honored to have been selected as the next leader of this remarkable institution.” She continue,
Cornell is one of the world’s truly great universities, with a stellar commitment to excellence in teaching, research, scholarship and creative activity, linked with a deep commitment to public engagement. I am excited to join the Cornell community and to work with the faculty, staff, students and alumni to chart the next chapter in its illustrious history...I also look forward to joining the vibrant Ithaca community.
According to the Cornell Chronicle, the school newspaper, Garrett's husband, Andrei Marmor, who is a philosophy and law professor at USC, will join his wife at Cornell as a professor "with joint appointments in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Law School."
Her new colleagues at Cornell seem equally pleased with the choice — Robert S. Harrison, chairman of the Cornell board of trustees, said when announcing the decision, "I could not be more certain that we have found the perfect person in Beth Garrett."
Current President Skorton echoed these sentiments, saying,
I congratulate the search committee on its terrific choice of Elizabeth Garrett as Cornell’s 13th president. I look forward to working closely with her over the coming months to ensure a smooth transition and a successful start to what I am confident will be her exceptional tenure at Cornell.
Knock 'em dead, President Garrett.
Images: Wikimedia Commons; cornelluniversity/Instagram