Dr. Suzanne Rivera

Macalester welcomes Dr. Suzanne Rivera, the college’s 17th president.

As President Suzanne Rivera begins life at Mac this month, we asked students, faculty, staff, and alumni to share their wishes for her. 

This spring, Rivera closed one chapter (as Case Western Reserve University’s vice president for research and technology management) and moved to Minnesota to start a new one as Macalester’s 17th president. In her role, she’ll draw on her experiences as an expert in research ethics, a champion of equity and inclusion, and a dedicated advocate for the power of the liberal arts.

Read on to see some of our community’s hopes for President Rivera—and add your own message by emailing [email protected].

For new partnerships and a new era 

“WE ARE ALL SO EXCITED TO HAVE YOU! I know that with the effects of COVID-19 on top of the issues that continuously lie in higher education, there are a lot of uphill climbs ahead of you. But I sincerely hope that you know you have many in your corner that will be right beside you during this climb. Your determination and care to listen and uplift all voices has been extremely meaningful and motivating to see. Know that I just know you will be amazing.”
Fatiya Kedir ’21, Alumni Board member and incoming Macalester College Student Government president

With deep appreciation to the visionary leadership of former president Brian Rosenberg, I am sure Dr. Rivera will find a community proud of its history, ready to serve her vision and eager to excel in our commitments to serve society wherever we are as a Macalester community. I wish Dr. Rivera feels at home quickly at Macalester and knows the whole Mac community is looking forward to partner and work with her to take Macalester forward.”
Ezequiel Jimenez ’13, Alumni Board member

Throughout the spring, Rivera moved her graduate seminar on research ethics to an online format and met frequently with Macalester’s senior staff to prepare for a leadership transition. Her academic background infuses how she views the COVID-19 pandemic. “As a bioethicist, I’m thinking about principles like justice, beneficence, and respect — and how those principles can be maximized while we face some of the most difficult dilemmas any of us could have imagined,” she told The Mac Weekly (April 10, 2020).

For building a bold future

“Macalester has an unwavering mission that unifies our community. It is my hope that Dr. Rivera guides us toward a bold future where we deepen our sense of purpose while growing the resources we need to prepare students to be their most empathetic, creative, and resourceful selves in a world of immense global challenges.”
Roopali Phadke, environmental studies professor and chair

An accomplished expert in research ethics, Rivera’s scholarship has explored topics such as privacy rights in research, regulatory reform in the sciences, inclusion of underrepresented populations in research, and attitudes about the use of human biospecimens.

For lifting up the liberal arts
“I hope that Dr. Rivera’s deep appreciation for the transformational power of the liberal arts will shine through in her leadership. From her personal experience as a student at Brown to her current scholarly work, which bridges both STEM fields and the humanities, she has a unique perspective on how disparate areas can come together to complement and enhance lines of inquiry. By being able to embrace diverse points of view, she is a community- and bridge-builder who, in this particularly challenging time, will be able to lead Macalester forward successfully.”
Carrie Norbin Killoran ’94, Board of Trustees member

The liberal arts education she received, Rivera says, changed the trajectory of her life and opened up a new path for her family. As a child, Rivera says, she dreamed of going to college but didn’t know exactly what that meant, nor that someday working in higher education was a possibility.

For supporting student development

“I wish for Dr. Rivera to guide us in a collaborative approach to student development so that students, staff, and faculty are able to strategically align our efforts to meet the needs of our community. More specifically, because of the experiential learning that occurs in residence halls, I will look to Dr. Rivera’s support as we develop a robust student experience that considers the physical environment and opportunity for strategic collaboration across campus.”
Jonathan Cardenas, Residential Life staff

For guts and good memory
“I wish you peace, joy, and a smooth transition. How is this possible in a time of such uncertainty? By taking things one day at a time. You are so well qualified for this position, I know you will be two steps ahead each day.  Had we not been dealing with a pandemic and its effects, I would have asked that you see to it that more African Americans be afforded a Macalester education. I would have requested that you assure that some of the recruiters and those who make admissions decisions be African American. I would have asked that promotional material truly reflect the American scene with brown and black faces. I would have requested that all data be disaggregated so inequity is obvious and immediately addressed. 

But since we are where we are, I wish you inspiration, clarity of thought, the support of all those around you, and the guts to do what is required. I also wish you a good memory. Freshman year is difficult for even the brightest of students. Stars in high school, once in the Macalester galaxy, find it hard to dazzle. They need real support and sometimes that means support from someone who looks like them, but it always means someone who reaches out to them, sees their brilliance, encourages them, and makes them welcome.
Linda Kennedy ’72, Alumni Board member

Rivera carries with her a passion for the importance of equity and inclusion. “It’s not a theoretical or philosophical orientation,” she told The Mac Weekly in April. “It’s a deeply held personal conviction borne out of my own experience.” Throughout her career, including at CWRU and nationally, Rivera has been a champion for social justice and equity initiatives, serving on and advising multiple groups.

For moving Macalester forward

“Dr. Rivera, as you enter the Macalester community, know that you represent a great change in our institution. Challenge the notion that your power stops at representation. My hope is for you to transform this institution by advancing genuine security and wellness, a vibrant community, and justice for all of Macalester’s land and people. Lead honorably and we’ll walk alongside you.”
Ayize James ’22, Alumni Board member

“My wish for Dr. Rivera is that she will continue to bring the excitement and enthusiasm she has already expressed about her new role at Macalester, that she will build new partnerships in the local area as well as the larger alumni network, and that she will push the community to be more equitable and inclusive. I also hope that she will be supported by the community and will not be expected to do all the emotional labor that will likely occur being the first Latinx woman in a role previously only held by white men. Mostly, I hope that she makes the role her own and guides us (in these unprecedented times and beyond) with intelligence and compassion.”
Kelsey Fox ’17, Communications and Marketing staff

Raised in an immigrant family, Rivera is the college’s first female president and first Latinx president. She’s a fellow of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities’ (HACU) Academia de Liderazgo, a program to prepare the next generation of culturally diverse leaders for executive and senior level positions in higher education.



May 31 2020

Back to top