The University of Nebraska celebrated history on Aug. 16 with the installation of Susan M. Fritz, Ph.D., as interim president. Fritz, a 30-year veteran of the university who most recently served as executive vice president and provost, becomes the first woman to lead the NU system since its creation 51 years ago.
Representatives of key NU constituencies – students, faculty, the administration and private industry – offered greetings and support to Fritz, and Board of Regents Chairman Tim Clare presented her with a formal medallion of office as he invited Nebraskans to join together and reflect on the university’s critical role in the life of the state.
Fritz, a Nebraska native, first-generation college student, three-time NU alum and faculty member, pledged to Nebraskans: “I promise I will work every day to make you proud.”
“It is a great honor and an even greater responsibility to serve the University of Nebraska, my alma mater, in this way,” she said, praising NU’s 52,000 students, talented faculty, staff and administration who, together with partners in government, education, agriculture and the philanthropic community, have built an impressive trajectory for the university and state.
“I will do everything I can to help our University be as great as it can possibly be.”
Fritz assumes the presidency at a time of significant momentum for the university. In recent years, NU has celebrated record highs in enrollment, research and student success, as well as increased collaboration and efficiency among the campuses. She has noted that a primary goal is continue that momentum through the leadership transition.
Fritz noted that the university has a responsibility to help address urgent challenges facing the state, including workforce shortages and a growing need for quality and affordable education, health care, technology and services.
“These are high callings,” she said. “But I have every confidence the University of Nebraska can meet them.”
Offering greetings during the program were:
Aya Yousuf, student regent at the University of Nebraska at Omaha: “In the time that I’ve known Dr. Fritz, she always comes back to the same question: What’s best for the students of the University of Nebraska? I know I speak for my fellow student regents, and the 52,000 students we represent, when I say we have total confidence that Dr. Fritz makes every decision with the best interests of students at heart.”
Lyle Middendorf, senior vice president and chief technology officer at LI-COR Biosciences: “We in industry are eager for, and in need of, more breakthroughs, more talent and more partnerships, as these are critical to the future of our workforce. We are so excited to have Susan Fritz leading the University of Nebraska forward.”
Gina Matkin, Ph.D., associate professor of agricultural leadership, education and communication at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a former student of Fritz’s: “Not only has Dr. Fritz served in roles supervising and supporting faculty, but perhaps most important, she has been a faculty member here. She understands what we do, because she’s done it. Dr. Fritz has been my teacher, my coach, my trusted mentor and friend.”
Doug Kristensen, chancellor of the University of Nebraska at Kearney: “The University requires people who will take a risk and manage such a multi-faceted institution. Someone who understands the risks and the great potential of the University. Someone who isn’t afraid of the challenge. This is Susan Fritz… Susan, your strongest assets include understanding and promoting the individual missions and strengths of each campus. You appreciate that Nebraska is too small to compete against itself internally, and we are so successful when we work together.”
Fritz earned her bachelor’s degree in business administration, master’s in adult education and agricultural education, and a doctorate in community and human resources, all from UNL. She joined the university in 1989 and has held numerous roles since then, including as a faculty member, department head, associate dean, associate vice chancellor of the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and interim dean and director of UNL’s Agricultural Research Division and the Nebraska Agricultural Experiment Station.
She joined the Central Administration office in 2011. As provost, she was NU’s ranking academic officer, responsible for oversight of the system’s teaching, research and service activities as well as NU’s offices of institutional research, global engagement, and diversity and inclusion. She also co-chaired the university-wide Budget Response Team effort to find operational savings, and leads the ongoing Big Ideas Initiative, a faculty-driven partnership with the NU Foundation to help identify fundraising priorities for the years ahead.
Fritz was raised on her family’s farm outside Lincoln, where the family raised beef and cattle and grew row crops. With her husband, Russell, she currently co-owns and co-operates Fritz Family Farms in Crete, where the couple grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa and run a cow/calf operation. The Fritzes have three children and seven grandchildren.
Fritz will remain in the interim president role until the Board completes its national search for the next president and her successor is in place.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.