Elizabeth Garrett is like any good lawyer.
She gathers the facts that advance her client’s case, she uses that information to articulate a clear vision for the trial ahead and she will fight for her client to no end.
Now, Garrett will utilize those same skills with her new client: the University of Southern California.
Garrett — a legal scholar, former legislative director and professor, and interim provost since President C.L. Max Nikias was announced USC’s 11th president — was appointed to provost and senior vice president for academic affairs just last week.
Trojan students, staff, faculty and alumni have every reason to be cheerful about Garrett’s appointment to the second-ranking position within the university.
Garrett’s visionary thinking and rooted knowledge of the university’s success will prove instrumental in getting USC on the move to greater heights.
Since joining the USC faculty in 2003, Garrett has advanced her credentials here on campus, which is crucial for a position that demands innovation in all arenas.
As vice provost for academic affairs, vice president for academic planning and budget and eventually as interim provost, she has the well-rounded knowledge and necessary firepower to assist Nikias in advancing USC’s mission.
After her appointment, Nikias told USC News that Garrett “proved to be an exceptional leader, showing boundless energy in advancing the university’s initiatives and a remarkable gift for innovative thinking and charismatic leadership.”
With her experience, Garrett knows what already makes this university an elite institution.
“USC is a vibrant research university,” Garrett told USC News, later adding, “The faculty of USC are productive and engaged with their students and with society at large with respect to their teaching, research, learning and creative activities … We have excellent students — both graduate and undergraduate, engaged and productive scholars.”
Though Garrett knows the ins and outs of USC, she knows that she wasn’t appointed to keep the university static in its place, complacent in its recent accolades.
Instead, she must hone her passion and creativity to articulate a clear vision for the university moving forward.
“We are very proud of our academic accomplishments of the past two decades, and rightfully so,” Garrett said. “But there is no sense that we’re going to stop.”
These goals won’t just sit on a pedestal, waiting for someone higher up to address them. Behind the charisma and eloquent arguments that advance USC’s case, Garrett will be doing a lot of the hard work necessary to fuel an intellectually driven environment that matches the drive of today’s students and faculty.
This is not an environment the president can create by himself. This is why it is crucial that he must trust his counsel, a copilot who will never cease to fight for the university.
As the caliber of USC’s students continues to rise, this rise must be met with the same creativity, boldness and courage in a competent provost that puts the university’s interests ahead of her own.
“We have to retain the distinctiveness and excellence that characterizes our undergraduate experience, while also increasing the residential nature of the campus, ensuring that students have opportunities for hands-on research and other opportunities with our best faculty, and providing even more academically focused extracurricular activities that enhance our classroom experiences,” Garrett said.
It is only fitting that these goals come from a leader in her own profession.
Garrett is persistent in her adherence to the USC mission — of making a global impact in the world. But she will also prove audacious in advancing the mission according to an increasingly talented student body, dedicated faculty, and supportive alumni throughout the world.
This is a client that Garrett couldn’t turn away. And this is an attorney that we couldn’t be without.
I rest my case.
Stephen Zelezny is a sophomore majoring in public relations. His column “USC on the Move” runs Thursdays.