Suzanne Rivera named new VP for research

RiveraProvost W.A. “Bud” Baeslack III today announced the appointment of Suzanne M. Rivera as Case Western Reserve’s new vice president for research, effective this month. Rivera, the university’s associate vice president for research since January 2011, emerged as the university’s top choice after an extensive process involving campuswide nominations of internal university candidates.

“I first want to thank the chair of search committee, Professor Hunter Peckham, and the rest of its members for their exceptional work evaluating nominations and assessing final candidates,” Provost Baeslack said. “We had some absolutely outstanding and accomplished nominees in this pool, so the committee’s work was challenging, to say the least. Yet each member tackled the assignment with a seriousness of purpose and strong commitment to identify the best possible leader for the university’s research operation at this time. Sue impressed them from the very start and continued to do so throughout the process.”

Rivera, who has been involved in research administration in higher education for nearly two decades, called her appointment the realization of a long-held career goal as well as the opportunity to synthesize and apply all of her experience and knowledge in the service of advancing the research efforts of the university and the individuals engaged in advancing understanding and discovery.

“This new role brings with it additional pathways to support the faculty and to promote the exciting and innovative work that’s happening all across our campus,” Rivera said. “I am especially interested in launching new initiatives to foster interdisciplinary research programs, engage more meaningfully with industry, and expand opportunities for students to participate in research as part of their Case Western Reserve experience.”

Since coming to Case Western Reserve, Rivera has distinguished herself through a commitment to collaboration across the university as well as a strong focus on improving systems and processes. One of her most significant initiatives involved the selection, development and deployment of Sparta (Sponsored Programs Application for Research Tracking and Administration), the university’s new electronic research proposal and submission tracking system. Rivera led a broad-based effort engaging faculty and staff in identifying key needs as well as welcome additions. The university selected the Huron Consulting Group’s Click Portal Software, and Rivera then led a painstaking installation system aimed at providing the most user-friendly and useful system possible for Case Western Reserve researchers. One of the key elements of implementation involved an iterative launch—that is, adding individual schools sequentially, rather than all at once.

Rivera’s professional portfolio includes extensive national engagement. She previously served on the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Human Research Protections at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. She recently concluded a two-year term as nationally elected Board member for National Council of University Research Administrators, and still serves today on the national board of the Council on Governmental Relations. Finally, this fall she was named to the Human Studies Review Board of the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Sue’s record at Case Western Reserve, coupled with her recognition among her national peers and prior roles in research administration, give her the breadth and depth of experience required to advance our research efforts in a time of constrained federal support,” Baeslack said. “She recognizes the need to be innovative and entrepreneurial, and to advance the university through strategic engagement of partners across the campus, the broader community and the country at large.”

While at Case Western Reserve, Rivera also has held a faculty position in the medical school’s departments of bioethics and pediatrics and served on the university’s Diversity Leadership Council and the medical school’s diversity strategic plan committee. In addition, she has been the executive sponsor of the Latino/Hispanic Campus Resource Group, Allianza Latina/Latino Alliance.

Rivera, who holds a doctorate in public policy with an emphasis on health affairs as well as a master’s degree in social work, began her career in research administration in 1996 at the University of California-Irvine. She received two promotions in the ensuing years, ultimately becoming the university’s director of research protections. From there Rivera went to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, where she ultimately rose to the position of vice president for research administration. She also served as assistant professor in the university’s division of ethics and health policy.