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Elizabeth Garrett named president of Cornell University

Provost will be Ivy League school’s first top-ranking female officer

Elizabeth Garrett
Elizabeth Garrett, named as Cornell's 13th president in 2014, has been USC provost since 2010. (Photo/Chris Shinn)

Elizabeth Garrett, who has served as USC’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs since 2010, has been appointed the 13th president of Cornell University, effective July 1, 2015. Garrett will become Cornell’s first female president, and she succeeds President David J. Skorton, who has been named the next secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Garrett arrived at USC in 2003 and rose from the professoriate to become the university’s second-ranking officer and first female provost. In addition to her administrative appointment at USC, Garrett is the Frances R. and John J. Duggan Professor of Law, Political Science, Finance and Business Economics, and Public Policy.

“While this is a tremendous loss for our university, I am personally thrilled for Beth,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “She has been on my senior leadership team since 2005, when I appointed her vice provost, and then vice president for academic planning and budget, and most recently provost. She has proven to be a remarkably dynamic leader, showing boundless energy in advancing the university’s initiatives and a singular gift for innovative and tactical thinking.”

She has proven to be a remarkably dynamic leader, showing boundless energy in advancing the university’s initiatives and a singular gift for innovative and tactical thinking.

C. L. Max Nikias

Garrett’s appointment as president of Cornell follows a six-month national search. “I am proud today to welcome Beth Garrett as the next president of Cornell University,” said Robert Harrison, chairman of Cornell’s board of trustees. “Beth has not only distinguished herself as an inspirational leader, thinker and scholar, but she also embodies the values and traditions that have placed Cornell at the forefront of the increasingly global field of higher education. She is going to be a great president.”

Garrett expressed gratitude for her time at USC.

“I am honored by the confidence that the board has placed in me to lead Cornell, and I am excited to work with the faculty, students, staff and alumni to continue and enhance their commitment to academic excellence; their influential involvement in research and education throughout the world; their long tradition of egalitarianism, inclusion and public service; and their deep engagement with New York,” Garrett said. “My excitement is tempered by the realization that this new opportunity means that I will leave USC and no longer work directly with our exceptional and inspiring president, my dedicated colleagues in senior leadership, the engaged deans and faculty of our schools and the outstanding leaders and staff in the Office of the Provost. Any success during my time as provost has been a result of our work together and our shared belief that USC has the capacity to shape the future of higher education in this century.”

As USC’s provost, Garrett has overseen spectacular successes in faculty recruitment, especially in the convergent sciences, the medical sciences, quantitative social sciences and the humanities. She has recruited excellent administrators, and with her team, has brought in strong and diverse undergraduate classes and expanded the university’s professional master’s degrees, both residential and online. She has helped enhance the residential experience for USC students, and strengthened opportunities for them to learn and grow outside the classroom.

In addition, Garrett has helped maintain the university’s volume and quality of externally funded research and expanded the university’s postdoctoral programs, strategically focusing on priorities such as the humanities, diversity in the digital realm and clinical fellows. She played a central role in programming new academic buildings, and has left an indelible imprint on Dauterive Hall, as well as Raulston Memorial Research Building, Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, Kaufman International Dance Center and Wallis Annenberg Hall.

Garrett’s primary scholarly interests include legislative process, the design of democratic institutions, the federal budget process and tax policy. She is the author of more than 50 articles, book chapters and essays, and is co-author of the nation’s most influential casebook on legislation and statutory interpretation, now in its fifth edition.




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