First woman geologist president, Rossbacher eyes top UA spot

Leighann Seaman/TNL

Lisa Rossbacher, current president of Southern Polytechnic State University, has been chosen as one of three candidates for the UA system president. Rossbacher has served as president of SPSU since 1998. Recently, Rossbacher has been a hopeful for another presidency position.

New Mexico State University chose Rossbacher as one of four finalists for the university’s position of president. Barbara Couture of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, was chosen for the spot.

Rossbacher, before climbing the hierarchy of the Georgia educational system, was involved in a career as a geologist. She was a writer for Geotimes, a publication of the American Geological Institute. Prior to that, however, she obtained her bachelors from Dickinson college, where she was last in line to sign up for a mandatory lab science course, which turned out to be geology. As a grad student, Rossbacher researched the surface of Mars, entitling her thesis “Geomorphic Studies of Mars.” She was an intern for NASA, a position that later helped her to gain candidacy for the NASA Astronauts. Within minutes of NASA calling her with a rejection for the Astronaut program, the California State Polytechnic University called with an offer for a tenure track faculty position teaching geology and astronomy. This was the beginning of her career in the education field, which she followed by becoming Vice Chancellor for the University System of Georgia, Dean of the College at Dickinson College and Vice president for Academic Affairs at Whittier College.

Rossbacher was the first female to lead SPSU, she was also the first woman geologist to serve as president of a university in North America.

“I’ve had a chance to see a lot of what happens in public higher education and learn about the importance of legislative relations, the fundraising pieces, the public service and the research components as well as focus on the quality of both undergraduate and graduate education,” said Rossbacher in an interview with New Mexico State Broadcasting.

Under Rossbacher’s presidency, SPSU has seen a record number of female students and the third highest freshmen SAT scores in the state. Sustainability, however, has been Rossbacher’s main focus. In 2008, the university broke ground on a new Engineering Technology Center. Because of Rossbacher’s efforts towards a more sustainable campus, the building was designed according to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System.

Aside from serving as president of SPSU, Rossbacher is chair-elect for the Cobb Chamber of Commerce. She has received multiple awards including Certificate of Appreciation for Patriotic Service from the U.S. Army. What matters as a university president, however, is her service in higher eduction.

- Advertisement -

“I’ve seen the spectrum of things that happen on a university campus but I’ve also had an opportunity to work at the system level,” said Rossbacher in the NMSB interview.