Gary Ransdell named new Semester at Sea president

Portrait of Gary Ransdell
Gary A. Ransdell

Gary A. Ransdell will be the new president and CEO of the Institute for Shipboard Education, parent organization to the Semester at Sea program, effective Jan. 1, 2018. He will succeed retiring president and CEO Loren W. Crabtree. Ransdell recently announced his retirement as president of Western Kentucky University, where he has served since 1997.

“I am pleased and proud to become the next president of the Semester at Sea program,” Ransdell said. “Global learning has long been a passion of mine, and I cherish the opportunity to lead one of the world’s most important study abroad experiences. I am fortunate to follow President Loren Crabtree and build on the major achievements of the last few years.  I look forward to joining my future colleagues on the SAS staff, and those who support Semester at Sea and Colorado State University.”

CSU became the academic partner of SAS on June 1, 2016. Under the agreement, CSU provides academic, administrative, and student recruiting support for the shipboard program.  Semester at Sea has continued to thrive with the addition of a new headquarters building in Fort Collins and with the most recent voyage being fully enrolled.

“The SAS Board of Trustees conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive search for the new president and CEO.  With today’s announcement, we enable a smooth transition to a proven executive in Gary Ransdell,” said Kenn Gaither, associate dean/professor, Elon University School of Communications and ISE Board member.  “Gary brings a history with Semester at Sea as a board member, an innovator, and versatile leader.”

During his 20 years at WKU, Ransdell led the university through an academic, physical and cultural transformation. Enrollment grew from 14,000 students to more than 20,000, the number of graduates produced each year has doubled to more than 4,000, and WKU added academic programs that are critical to the state and regional economy, including electrical, civil and mechanical engineering and doctorate programs in education, nursing, physical therapy and psychology.

He led the effort to create the Gatton Academy of Math and Science at WKU, and has been intentional in his efforts to internationalize the WKU experience through study abroad programs and by increasing the number of international students on campus. And he has led WKU through two successful capital campaigns, which combined raised more than $300 million.

Dedication to internationalism

Crabtree’s affiliation with Semester at Sea began with his teaching on the S.S. Universe in fall 1980, and continued with three stints as executive dean. He served as senior fellow and Chief Executive for Global Education for SAS in 2008-2009, and interim president and CEO on two occasions.  Since June 2015, he has served as SAS president and CEO.

“Loren’s dedication to internationalism is deeply held and is a core value that he has helped to instill both at Semester at Sea and at Colorado State University,” said CSU President Tony Frank. “Our formal partnership is just starting out, but we have a great deal to build on.  Loren’s work has made that possible, and we are in his debt.”

Crabtree is a specialist in 20th century Chinese history, with particular attention to Sino-American relations. He taught at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and spent 34 years at CSU as professor of history, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and provost and vice president for academic affairs. He retired from the University of Tennessee in 2008 as an emeritus distinguished professor of history and chancellor.

“We want to thank Loren Crabtree for his leadership and focus on global education during his tenure at Semester at Sea,” Gaither said.“He has increased the credibility and visibility while guiding SAS to extraordinary growth and success.”

About Semester at Sea

Semester at Sea is a global study abroad program operated by the Institute for Shipboard Education, an educational nonprofit organization based in Fort Collins, Colorado. SAS takes a global comparative approach to study abroad using a ship as its traveling campus and offers a global learning experience that prepares students to function as citizens in a global economy, creating awareness through real-world opportunities and classroom learning.

The program itineraries are built around international challenges, trends, issues, and relevant academic themes. Since 1963, more than 60,000 students from 1,700 colleges and universities around the world have studied with Semester at Sea. Notable alumni and contributors include Nobel Laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, and many other world leaders and global thinkers.


CSU University Communications Staff