George Washington University elects first woman president

The largest university in D.C. has named Ellen Granberg president, the first woman to occupy the position in the school's history.

After a long and demanding search for George Washington University’s 19th president, the Board of Trustees has officially recognized Dr. Ellen Granberg to the position.

“President-elect Granberg demonstrated keen higher education knowledge, authentic and strategic leadership, and appreciation for the historic role of GW in producing global leaders,” said presidential search committee chair Roslyn M. Brock on George Washington’s website. “Our committee enthusiastically endorses the board’s decision.”

The school’s board of trustees and presidential search committee—comprised of 17 members—declared its presidential search in May with its most ambitious goal of landing a candidate who could secure the school an invitation into the American Association of Universities, a nationally renowned organization of elite research universities, according to GW’s presidential profile. Key prerequisites for this leader included a track record in faculty recruitment and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

While it might seem a daunting undertaking for some, Dr. Granberg was invigorated by the process.

“It was the combination of great ambition embedded in deep community that inspired me—and I hope will inspire all of us—as we start GW’s third century together,” said the president-elect.

As provost and senior vice president of Academic Affairs at Rochester Institute of Technology, she expanded the school’s doctoral programs and invested in research facilities. And as Clemson’s senior assistant provost for Faculty Affairs before that, she spearheaded efforts in faculty recruitment and retention. GW also lauded Greenberg on their website for her success in reducing achievement gaps between students of different ethnic backgrounds, promoting student success and diversity.

“I am gratified by the selection of Dr. Granberg as our university’s next president,” said Student Association President Christian Zidouemba in a statement issueed by George Washington University. “I believe she will be a proponent of inclusion and someone who listens, meets students where they are and addresses issues that are important to us.”

Dr. Granberg earned her Ph.D. in sociology from Vanderbilt with a thesis that focused on self and identity and their influence on physical and mental health. Aside from her career in academia, she has an enduring résumé in the private sector working for the Fortune 500 telecommunications company Pacific Bell in San Francisco, CA.

She takes the reins from interim president Mark Wrighton after former president Thomas LeBlanc stepped down from the post following a turbulent tenure. A 1,200-person faculty survey voicing the overall distrust in the school’s presidential leadership circulated across the campus—and national news—following questionable appointments made by LeBlanc, an incendiary enrollment plan, and a tone-deaf analogy he illustrated to a student concerned with fossil fuel consumption.

George Washington University marked its 200-year anniversary in 2021 during a time of uncertainty, but school leaders believe they have turned a corner. “At the dawn of the university’s third century, we knew that we needed a leader who would reinforce our commitment to academic excellence, enhance our academic reputation, and help us achieve our aspiration for preeminence,” said Board of Trustees Chair Grace Speights. “In Dr. Granberg, we have found that leader.”

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Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and Florida Gator alumnus. A graduate in journalism and communications, his beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene, and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador, and Brazil.

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