Lesley Rigg named interim VP for research

Geographer crosses disciplinary divides, bridges intellectual links

Lesley Rigg

Lesley Rigg

An accomplished scientist and able administrator with a strong record of publications and grants will step into the role of interim vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at NIU.

Lesley Rigg, associate dean for research and graduate affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, steps in the role permanently held by Lisa Freeman. As part of NIU President Doug Baker’s reorganization, Freeman currently is serving as interim executive vice president and provost; Ray Alden, who formerly held that job, has been named vice president of International Affairs.

Rigg begins her new responsibilities Monday, Nov. 18.

“Dr. Lesley Rigg is committed to facilitating the success of NIU scholars working in the physical, engineering, life and social sciences as well as in the humanities and performing arts,” Baker said. “She is also knowledgeable about many critical research administration issues related to sponsored projects and responsible conduct of research.”

“She has not only shown her ability to be responsive to issues,” said Christopher McCord, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, “but to move in front of them and take a leadership role.”

A professor in the NIU Department of Geography since 1998, Rigg conducts interdisciplinary research with a robust foundation in both physical and human geography.

She places great importance on mentoring of early-career academics, graduate students and undergraduate students within a research culture; in 2009, she won an Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award from NIU.

Her core goal as an administrator is to strengthen diversity and professional development through institutional transformation. Among her many duties are the management of the college’s graduate, facilities and information technology budget, negotiation of all faculty start-ups in the sciences, promotion of the research culture in her college and collaboration with the Division of Research and Graduate Studies and other colleges.

Photo of a maple leaf in autumn“The breadth of experience that being the associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has provided me has laid the foundation to provide leadership for a diverse unit such as the office of the vice president for Research and Graduate Studies, which has a reputation for innovation and excellence,” said Rigg, who holds a Ph.D. in geography and environmental studies from the University of Melbourne. “As a geographer, I am inherently capable of crossing disciplinary divides, creating bridges and facilitating intellectual linkages.”

NIU’s Division of Research & Graduate Studies advances the academic and research mission of the university while promoting a culture that exemplifies excellent service, transparency, collaboration and innovation.

Division administrators strive to expand research and economic development, integrate research with instruction and public service and foster cross-disciplinary collaboration. They promote the professional development of faculty and graduate students, facilitate the submission of grants and contracts and seek connections to accelerate the creation, integration and application of new knowledge.

Rigg’s scholarship focuses on biogeography, forest ecology and the dynamics of plant communities.

More specifically, she examines the population dynamics of the border of the boreal forest and deciduous forest boundary in Lake Superior (Ontario, Canada) and potential species range shifts associated with climate change.

She also has studied the population ecology of tree species growing in mixed angiosperm/conifer communities associated with ultramafic soils in New Caledonia (South Pacific) and the regeneration status of oak/hickory woodlands in northern Illinois.

“I view research, teaching and service as part of one overall goal,” Rigg said, “which is to contribute to NIU’s mission of promoting excellence in education and research.”

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