Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

HE&me

Article excerpt

Elizabeth Garrett will become the first female leader of Cornell University in its 149-year history, it was announced in September. She is currently provost and senior vice-president for academic affairs at the University of Southern California and the Frances R. and John J. Duggan professor of law, political science, finance and business economics, and public policy

Where and when were you born?

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on 30 June 1963.

How has this shaped you?

I have a deep connection with Oklahoma. My mother's family arrived when the state was Indian Territory, working as schoolteachers. My father's family came during the Oklahoma land run. Oklahoma has Progressive Era roots that include egalitarian ideals, a belief in the value of education, and a sense that anything can be accomplished by hard work and creative intelligence. The prairie landscape provides a sense of limitless opportunity.

How does it feel to be the first woman in Cornell University's history to lead the institution?

Being the first woman president of Cornell, just as I was the first woman provost at USC, puts me in the position of being a role model - not just for young women, but also for men. It is important for women and men to see strong and capable women in positions of leadership, so we understand that certain characteristics such as gender and race do not determine how well people do in those offices.

Your appointment brings the number of women running Ivy League institutions to four - half the group. How significant is this in terms of women in senior academic and higher education management positions?

Women have risen to leadership positions in more of the great research universities in recent years. But we still lack the number of women in senior faculty positions that will make this a more natural and frequent occurrence. As president of Cornell, I hope to serve as a resource for colleagues, especially women, who are interested in academic leadership possibilities, as I have at USC.

You take over as president bang in the middle of Cornell's expansion into New York City with its technology campus. Will that be daunting, or do you relish the challenge?

Cornell's growing presence in NYC was one of the reasons I was attracted to this job. Our faculty and students will profoundly influence how technology interacts with health, the built environment and connective media, and I'm eager to work with them in that exciting endeavour.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Be open to new possibilities that you cannot now imagine; develop skills and qualities that allow you to be resilient in the face of change and uncertainty. …

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