Rita Knuesel receives Chief Academic Officer Award

November 4, 2013

Rita Knuesel

Rita Knuesel, provost of the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, received the 2013 Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) Chief Academic Officer Award Saturday, Nov. 2, in Pittsburgh.

The award was presented to Knuesel in recognition of her contributions to colleagues at independent colleges and universities and for contributing in a notable and exemplary way to enhance the role and work of the private college chief academic officers. The honor was conferred by the chief academic officers of the CIC's 624-member colleges and universities.

"I am humbled and honored to accept the Chief Academic Officer Award from the Council of Independent Colleges," Knuesel said in her acceptance speech. "When I received (CIC) President Richard Ekman's letter informing me of this recognition, I told him that I could only accept the award if I accepted on behalf of all chief academic officers who have dedicated their careers to service at private colleges and universities."

Knuesel has served as provost at CSB and SJU since 2007, preceded by a year as interim provost. A 1975 graduate of CSB with a degree in music (she is an accomplished saxophonist), Knuesel joined the music faculty at CSB and SJU in 1977 and chaired the music department for 11 years. She served as academic dean at CSB from 1994 to 2003, and joint associate provost and academic dean at CSB and SJU from 2003-06.

CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger said she was "thrilled" Knuesel received the award.

"Rita is a phenomenal provost," Baenninger said. "I am very fortunate to have had her as a partner during most of my presidency at College of Saint Benedict. Rita is fiercely independent and she is an exemplary leader. She has special strengths that combine to make her a provost worthy of this honor.

"Rita is an integral member of any team, she is strong but compassionate and caring at the same time. She is both ethical and candid. Those qualities combine to bring out the best in those with whom she works, including the faculty, fellow vice presidents and her team in Academic Affairs," Baenninger said.

SJU President Michael Hemesath said Knuesel is a "very worthy" recipient of the award.

"During my first year as president, I have appreciated her tutoring and wisdom about the subtleties and complexities of our coordinate relationship," Hemesath said. "I would argue that she has one of the most complicated jobs in higher education as she serves both the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, something she does with consummate professionalism and grace.

"Rita is an outstanding academic leader at CSB and SJU and, as a true professional, has generously shared her wealth of knowledge with her colleagues through the Council of Independent Colleges."

Knuesel has made numerous presentations at the Institute for Chief Academic Officers and at CIC Workshops for department and division chairs on faculty development, gender education and development, learning communities, mentoring new faculty members, assessment and program review and women mentoring women.

"Your renowned expertise on faculty development and mentoring new faculty members has benefited all of higher education," Ekman said. "Your outstanding commitment to improving the scholarship of teaching and learning is to be commended. This award recognizes and honors your considerable contributions to academic leadership."