ITHACA, NY — Ithaca College president Tom Rochon has announced that he has appointed Benjamin Rifkin as the college’s provost and vice president for educational affairs. Rifkin has served since 2009 as dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at The College of New Jersey, where he is also a professor of world languages and cultures.
“In an exceptionally strong pool of candidates, Ben Rifkin rose to the top particularly because of his long-standing leadership and support for every aspect of the undergraduate educational experience — curricular, cocurricular and residential,” said Rochon. “He will be an effective champion of the holistic model of student learning in which IC seeks to become a national leader.”
Rifkin will serve as the college’s chief academic and student affairs officer, overseeing Ithaca’s five schools as well as operations ranging from the library, registrar and international studies to residential life, multicultural affairs and intercollegiate athletics.
“It has been an extraordinary honor these past six years to work at The College of New Jersey, where I have been privileged to contribute to the success of students, faculty and staff,” said Rifkin. “I am grateful to TCNJ for the opportunity to be a part of the lives of the members of this vibrant community.
“At the same time, I am very excited to join President Rochon’s team at Ithaca College, where my primary focus will be the integration of academic affairs and student affairs. This has been an abiding interest of mine for over 20 years, so I embrace this challenge and look forward to serving the students, faculty and staff of Ithaca College in my new role.”
At The College of New Jersey, a public institution in suburban Trenton, Rifkin provides leadership for an academic division with approximately 2,200 students and over 100 faculty in 14 humanities and social sciences majors. His accomplishments have included creating or assisting with the development of such school-wide initiatives as a strategic plan, a diversity council, and new systems for governance, department-based planning and learning outcomes assessment, and faculty mentoring.
Rifkin’s field of scholarship is Russian and Slavic languages and literatures. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University, as well as a second master’s and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He spent two years in the Soviet Union, studying for a semester abroad as an undergraduate at Leningrad University and then working in Moscow for a Soviet publishing house as a translator and for NBC News as an interpreter.
After earning his doctoral degree, Rifkin joined the faculty of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he directed the Russian language program. From 1999–2003 he also served as director of the Middlebury College Russian School, a summer intensive immersion program in Russian. In 2005 he left Wisconsin for Temple University, serving for three years as vice dean for undergraduate affairs for the College of Liberal Arts and until 2009 as a professor of Russian.
Rifkin’s leadership roles have included serving as president of the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, and on the boards of directors of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages and the American Council of Teachers of Russian, which this past year recognized him with an award for distinguished service. He was also honored with awards for teaching and advising from the University of Wisconsin.
He is the author or coauthor of several textbooks on the Russian language and has published dozens of book chapters and journal articles.
“Ben Rifkin is a proven academic leader whose experience and values fit perfectly with IC’s educational mission,” said Tom Grape, chair of the board of trustees. “The board looks forward to Dr. Rifkin’s partnership with President Rochon in continuing to move the college forward.”
Rifkin will start his new position at Ithaca College on June 1. His wife, Lisa Fell, will join the staff of the college’s Academic Advising Center. She has 15 years of experience as an academic advisor at Temple and the University of Wisconsin.
Linda Petrosino has been serving as interim provost since Marisa Kelly accepted a position last May as senior vice president for academic affairs and provost at Suffolk University.
“We are fortunate that Linda Petrosino, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance, will continue her distinguished service as interim provost through the end of the academic year,” said Rochon.