Last week, Dr. Kelly Ritter was announced as the new chair for the School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts. Dr. Ritter currently serves as the LAS Alumni Distinguished Professorial Scholar, Professor of English and Writing Studies and Interim Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
She brings nearly a decade of experience in academic leadership at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Ritter will be joining Tech during a time of transformational changes to the liberal arts scene on campus.
From 2013 to 2021, enrollment in the Ivan Allen College (IAC) nearly doubled from 900 to 1600 students.
This has been in line with the overall growth of liberal arts at the Institute. Sponsored research in the IAC has doubled from around $5 million in 2013 to over $10 million in 2020. Recently, President Biden named Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld, a distinguished professor of the practice in the IAC, Chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, a key U.S. intelligence position.
Liberal arts has also been given a higher priority in the Georgia Tech Strategic Plan, demonstrating an overall shift in campus culture away from purely science and technology.
The School of Literature, Media, and Communication (LMC) is one of six schools in the IAC. Over the past eight years, LMC has seen its enrollment increase from around 200 to nearly 400 students. LMC focuses on bringing together science, technology, the social sciences and the humanities.
There are two Bachelor’s programs offered for degrees in Literature, Media, & Communication, and Computational Media, three Master’s programs in Digital Media, Global Media & Cultures and Human-Computer Interaction, and a PhD program in Digital Media.
LMC also houses the Writing and Communication Program which provides support for 5,000 students through instruction in multimodal composition, business and technical communication and research writing.
On August 1, Dr. Ritter will begin as the new chair for LMC. She will oversee a department that has 80 faculty who teach nearly 8,000 students (both LMC majors and non-majors).
As chair, Dr. Ritter will be responsible for overseeing the academic and research units, promoting staff, faculty, and student well-being, supporting innovation in research, teaching, curricula, and programming, collaborating with other units at Georgia Tech and beyond campus, supporting the extracurricular and career development opportunities offered to students through LMC and managing the financial resources of the school.
Dr. Ritter brings in a wealth of experience from her previous institutions.
At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), she served as Associate Dean for Curricula and Academic Policy in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2017-2021), Interim Director of the Center for Writing Studies (2014-2015) and Director of the Undergraduate Rhetoric Program (2013-2017). She is also the past editor of College English, a flagship journal of the National Council of Teachers of English (2012-2017).
According to her UIUC website, her research interests include “archival histories of composition pedagogy and writing programs, and in particular how these histories reveal patterns of social stratification in literacy education and schooling that persist today.”
The Technique had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Ritter after she was appointed. She stated that she’s “most excited to lead a school with so many great faculty, students, and staff, and such a diverse array of strengths across its areas of specialization. I think the combination of disciplines within LMC makes for great opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration, as well as new ways of thinking about the position and potential of the humanities on the Georgia Tech campus.”
She’s also looking forward to the opportunities offered in a major city like Atlanta as she spent most of her time teaching in smaller college towns. “I miss the atmosphere and people that were so valuable to me when I lived in Chicago during my doctoral studies. I think Atlanta can offer me and my family that great living and learning experience once again.”
She also spoke about her plans for LMC. “Well, first I’d like to listen to what the people within the LMC have to say about their own priorities and plans before making any big plans of my own. I’m going to be an outsider coming into the Tech campus, so I don’t want to assume that I have all the answers right from the start. After I do some careful listening across what I hope will be many conversations with various groups and constituencies in the LMC, and also with the leadership from other schools on campus, I can then start working together with the School of LMC on its future.”
She added that her top priority is to, “Help keep the School of LMC strong, creative, and inclusive, and to promote its excellence wherever and however possible,” and that she also wants to, “Communicate to new and prospective Tech students how exciting a time it to study at the intersections of the humanities and technology. I want our majors and minors to know how to make the most of the opportunities that the School of LMC can provide them, both during and after their college years.”
She also added her interest in serving the greater Atlanta community in the work of the school to, “Perhaps develop partnerships with humanities units at other area colleges and universities in the process.” On a personal note, she mentioned that she, “Will want to head over to The Varsity for lunch one day soon (or maybe more than just one day!)”.
Dr. Carol Senf, an LMC professor who has been at Georgia Tech since 1981, mentioned her excitement to see Dr. Ritter join the school during a time when LMC is bringing together different core disciplines. “Students come to Georgia Tech with a commitment to studying media of all types. LMC has grown and changed over the years because of what students want to learn and what professors want to teach.”
She also mentioned that, “Right now, almost all students and faculty in LMC have a connection to one of these programs: English composition, literature, science studies, film, media.” She hopes that Dr. Ritter, “Can bring a fresh set of eyes to everything [LMC is],” and that Dr. Ritter, “Will focus on ways that these different groups function together and continue to evolve in a way that benefits students.”
In the fall, Tech will welcome Dr. Ritter who will begin a new journey in a rapidly changing liberal arts scene at Georgia Tech.
With this newfound revitalization of the humanities program at Georgia Tech, the Institute hopes to showcase the vast reach of its programs to current and prospective students alike.
Investing in the LMC program with Dr. Ritter’s vision is just one example of the Institute’s commitment to reaching beyond STEM to provide support for its humanities students.