The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Changing of the Guard at the Provost’s Office

Mon, August 3, 2009

After three years of service, Terri Givens is stepping down as Vice Provost for the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost. Givens’ major portfolios were International Affairs and Undergraduate Studies. Returning full time to the Government faculty, Givens will be a non-resident fellow with the Migration Policy Institute for the coming academic year. Government Professor Gretchen Ritter will replace Givens in part, with the two appointments overlapping through Aug. 31.

Reflecting on her time as Vice Provost, Givens expressed surprise at how quickly her plate filled up, in particular as she worked to implement undergraduate curriculum change and the University’s diversity agenda. As an administrator, she expected to be holding the rudder, but soon began playing a large policymaking role.

Givens is pleased with the growth of her international initiatives. She helped to increase study abroad funding, reduce costs, and increase scholarships for students. Givens notes, however, that although the University ranks among the top in terms of students who earn academic credit abroad, there is still much work to be done. Less than five percent of students participate in study abroad programs.

Givens believes her training as a political scientist provided her with a comparative advantage as an administrator, especially in regard to understanding bureaucratic dynamics. Social scientists are often in leadership positions, she explained, “Because we are people who understand processes.” Furthermore, “Much of what we do is political, such as dealing with the Legislature, so having that general understanding has been helpful.”

Serving in administration also allows a faculty member to do what few people have the chance to do in life – put the shoe on the other foot. “The only way to understand being an administrator is to be one,” Givens said, who leaves office much more sympathetic to University bureaucrats. Both Givens and Ritter, who gained extensive administrative experience directing the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, believe people experience an identity change when shifting between faculty and administration. For Givens, it boils down to seeing things from different vantage points, having access to more information, and gaining a broader perspective.

Returning to administration, Ritter is particularly excited about changes to the core curriculum: “We’re moving in the direction in undergraduate studies of a much more positive experience than in the past,” she said. As a former center director, she understands the benefits of interdisciplinary research and teaching – that connecting disciplines strengthens education, and leads to innovation and new knowledge. She also learned the value of working with the community – sharing research, discussing the value of academic inquiry, and receiving feedback.

As a political scientist, Ritter brings her deep understanding of institutions to the job. “A really important perspective to bring into a setting such as this is an understanding of how institutions frame our possibilities for advancement,” she said. “There will be many lessons that can be shared with the broader political science discipline as we experiment at the administrative level with making the University a place that does a better job of supporting people throughout their careers, and understanding that meeting family obligations is part of career success.”

Read Terri Givens’ Honors Day Speech

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