University of Nebraska Interim President Says She's Committed to Students

June 11, 2019, 6:45 a.m. ·

Dr. Susan Fritz will start her term as interim president of the University of Nebraska on August 15th.

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The University of Nebraska announced last month that its next interim president will be Dr. Susan Fritz. Fritz is currently the Executive Vice President and Provost and the Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska, and she sat down with NET’s Allison Mollenkamp to talk about her plans for the university.

NET News: You'll officially start your term as interim president in August. What will go into your preparation before then? Are there conversations you'd like to have with faculty and students?

Susan Fritz: This is a large portfolio, and so as you might imagine there are a good bit of key stakeholder groups that I need to touch with, and certainly with students, with faculty, and with staff within the university, and then outside of the university with our colleagues at the Capitol building, so think governor, Legislature, certainly with our donor community, business community, the agriculture community, so just about any key stakeholder group you can imagine, because the university touches all of those.

NET News: Related to the Capitol, what do you see as the financial future of the university? As interim president, what will you do to work with the Legislature to secure the necessary funding?

Susan Fritz: Well I look first and foremost to building a relationship with each of the state senators, so they know who I am and they know about my level of commitment to this university and the university's linkage to the state of Nebraska. We're inextricably linked. We are just an engine for growth and for discovery and change and so we want to make certain that we continue to build that relationship.

NET News: The university has seen record enrollment levels in the last few years. What challenges do you think that presents, and how can the university continue to provide a high level of academics to all students?

Susan Fritz: Well there are several facets to that answer. First and foremost, we work very, very hard to attract and retain some of the most outstanding faculty in the country. They are among the best in the country and we are very fortunate that we can continue to recruit and retain faculty and they are the backbone of the university and so in cooperation with the staff of the university, you know, they strive every day to educate our 52,000 students, and it's an effort worth doing. It's very important to our state to provide that workforce. We are over 11,000 degrees awarded each year and that is a tremendous outcome. At the same time, we are very busy in recruiting students. We recruit not only in Nebraska but from around the world, and we're excited that we know that students who graduate from our programs, five years out, at least 70% of those are retained in Nebraska. So it's not only about educating the talent that's here, it's also about attracting talent here.

NET News: It's my understanding that you and the board of regents have agreed that you will not stay on as the permanent president. What do you see as the challenges of being an interim president, and what do you hope to leave your successor?

Susan Fritz: Well, I hope that my successor will come very excited about leading this outstanding organization. The University of Nebraska is in excellent condition. We have strong leadership within our chancellors. As I mentioned, we have an outstanding faculty. We have a strong pipeline of students. We're doing research that not only matters in Nebraska, but it matters around the world, and we're extending our services and our talent out in the communities in Nebraska. So I really hope to be a partner with the Board of Regents to help them in recruiting a top talent to come here and lead our university and so in the short term, I want to make certain that I push on that momentum that we've established so that we don't go into any malaise, that we continue to rush forward, really for the benefit of the state, but also for the benefit of the faculty, staff and students.

NET News: You'll be the first woman to lead the university as its president. What importance does that hold for you?

Susan Fritz: It's really kind of awesome, actually. I hadn't given it much thought, but as people talked to me about what that means to them, I took a couple steps back, and I will tell you that for me, it makes me very proud, makes me very proud that I am perceived to have the skills and ability to lead this organization. It makes me proud that I was developed as an administrator by both males and females as mentors and supervisors, and it gives me a lot of excitement to think that there are others out there, who have actually written to me, who feel like this is really an important development for them and their trajectory at this university, and so I think it gives a lot of hope for women.

NET News: Is there anything else that you would like the university community to know before you start your tenure in August?

Susan Fritz: Well I started here 30 years ago, and I started as an instructor, and I will say there's never been a position I've had that I didn't thoroughly enjoy, but the classroom and teaching students and touching the future is just a tremendous opportunity. You know, I am such a teacher at heart, and I have a passion about developing students. I'll also understand the importance of research and extension and the role that that all plays in helping the state. But know at its heart, I'm committed to students.

Susan Fritz will officially become interim president of the University of Nebraska on August 15th.

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.