News & Politics

George Washington University Has Appointed Its First Woman President

Ellen Granberg previously broke a glass ceiling as provost of Rochester Institute of Technology.

Photograph courtesy of George Washington University.

George Washington University announced Wednesday that Ellen Granberg, the current provost of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), will become its new president. She will be the 19th president of the university and the first woman in the job. 

This is not Granberg’s first go at breaking a glass ceiling: in 2018, she became RIT’s first woman provost. According to the school’s website, she expanded doctoral programs and invested in research facilities. Prior to that, she worked as the senior associate provost at Clemson University. Granberg’s scholarly roots are in sociology, specializing in self, identity and mental health.

A GWU article announcing Granberg’s hire says that in her pervious academic work, he led efforts that” improved graduation and retention of all students and significantly reduced achievement gaps between Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and non-BIPOC students.”

Granberg will start at GWU on July 1, replacing interim president Mark Wrighton. Wrighton stepped into that role after previous GWU president Thomas LeBlanc stepped away in December 2021 following years of campus (and even national) criticism. 

LeBlanc first experienced blowback in 2019 after he announced an enrollment-shrinking plan, then faced calls to resign following a February 2020 incident in which he responded to a student’s question about the university’s fossil fuel investments with a hypothetical about the student body voting to “shoot all the Black people here.” (He subsequently apologized). LeBlanc later alienated faculty and staff by announcing a plan to address pandemic-related budget shortfall by cutting salaries and freezing retirement benefits, and left students and employees confused by hiring a communications administrator connected to the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal at Michigan State University.

According to the Washington Post, Granberg comes into the job with a goal of helping raise GWU—which has almost 26,000 students—to the top level of research universities, which currently includes area institutions John Hopkins University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Maryland.

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Keely recently graduated with her master’s in journalism from American University and has reported on local DC, national politics, and business. She has previously written for The Capitol Forum.