Libby Rittenberg, former CC economics professor, faculty assistant to the president, and dean of summer programs, is now wearing a new CC hat – ombudsperson, a position she will hold for a minimum of two years.
Rittenberg, who retired in 2010, started in her new position on July 1, taking over from Jane Cauvel. “It’s a good opportunity to continue to be part of the CC community,” Rittenberg said. “The position came at the right time. It’s part-time, and it allows me to make what I hope will be a valuable contribution. Plus, it’s an opportunity to learn something new, in an entirely different field.”
Rittenberg was nominated by both staff and faculty members, and is appreciative of that implicit vote of confidence. She attended “ombuds training school” in Orlando, Fla., this summer, and was surprised at the variety of organizations that employ an ombudsperson – everything from the F.B.I. to Coca-Cola to colleges and universities. The four major principles of the ombuds office are confidentiality, informality, independence, and neutrality, and the CC ombudsperson reports to the audit committee of the Board of Trustees and to the college president.
Rittenberg says she will be dealing mainly with “issues” rather than “disputes,” as many matters that come to the ombudsperson are not full—blown arguments but rather concerns that can fester if not addressed. She will identify trends, rather than report on individual cases, and in that way help to bring about change, if necessary. She plans to visit as many departments as possible during the next few months in order to explain what the office is about and how it can help CC employees.
Originally from Charleston, S.C., Rittenberg came to Colorado College in 1989 as an associate economics professor interested in international economic development. She applied for a position at the college – the only school she looked at that was not on the Eastern Seaboard – after seeing an ad that specifically mentioned international experience as a plus. Besides the opportunity to become part of such a fine liberal arts college, she selected Colorado College because of the value it places on an international perspective, and because it was the only school she interviewed at in which people from a variety of departments came to the presentation interview. “At all the other schools, it was only the people in the department who came to the ‘job talk,’ as we call it. At CC, I was struck by how many people from various departments attended. I thought, ‘Wow, people from different departments talk to each other here.’ That made an impression,“ she said.
Rittenberg earned a B.A. in economics-mathematics and Spanish from Simmons College in Boston, and master’s degree and Ph.D. in economics from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. She initially was drawn to economics because of the way economists look at issues, rather than by the issues themselves. “Economists look at so many different kinds of issues beyond what people think,” she said. “That framework becomes a useful device, and has been useful in so many things I have done at CC.”
Her research areas include international trade, sources of economic growth, stabilization/liberalization policies, the transition of centrally planned economies, Third World debt, productivity analysis, and the Turkish economy. Rittenberg has visited Turkey more than 30 times, in large part because her husband, Nasit Ari, a research engineer whom she met while folk dancing when she was an economist at Mathematica, Inc., in Princeton, N.J., is from Istanbul.
Rittenberg keeps her hand in economics by working on the third edition of her book, “Principles of Economics,” co-authored with Timothy Tregarthen and published by Flat World Knowledge. In an effort to keep the cost of textbooks down, the book is an open-source textbook, based on the iTunes model, in which consumers can purchase and download as much or as little of the book as they want. “We’ll see how it goes,” she said. “It’s still a test model.”
Rittenberg enjoys hiking below tree line and riding her electric bike, and makes it a point to spend time outdoors every day. In recent years she started taking piano lessons, something she hasn’t pursued since junior high school. She also enjoys the arts, especially concerts, plays, and opera. Her passion for the arts meshed well with her six-year tenure as dean of summer programs, as she enjoyed spending summers in Colorado Springs attending as many of the arts and cultural events as she could. She has served on the boards of the Colorado College Summer Music Festival, the Colorado Springs Conservatory, the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, and the Foundation for School District 11.
Rittenberg can be reached at 330-0410 or firstname.lastname@example.org. A self-described email and phone junkie, Rittenberg will return an email or call as soon as possible. Her September office hours at Tutt Library, Room 212 are 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. Tuesdays and 4-6 p.m. Wednesdays. Office hours for subsequent months will be posted outside the ombuds office and on the ombuds website: http://www.coloradocollege.edu/offices/ombuds/. She also is more than willing to meet people off-campus; call or email her to make arrangements.