Top 12 stories of 2020

Take a look back at 12 of the most-read Mount Holyoke College stories in 2020.

By Christian Feuerstein

2020 was, to put it mildly, a tumultuous year. A review of the top 12 most-read Mount Holyoke College news stories written this year tells the story of 2020 at Mount Holyoke, highlighting faculty, student and alum achievements, as well as the College community tackling the twin pandemics of racism and COVID-19. 

Darby Dyar, Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Astronomy, working with students in her lab
Mount Holyoke College faculty were ranked No. 1 in “Professors Get High Marks” by The Princeton Review

1. Princeton Review: Mount Holyoke faculty #1

Mount Holyoke College professors get the highest marks in the country, according to The Princeton Review. In its guidebook “The Best 386 Colleges,” released in 2020, Mount Holyoke was ranked No. 1 for “Professors Get High Marks.” The publication also ranked Mount Holyoke in the top 20 colleges and universities in categories for academics, demographics and extracurriculars. Mount Holyoke ranked No. 2 in the country for “Most LGBTQ-Friendly,” No. 6 for “Most Active Student Government,” No. 9 for “Best College Library” and No. 10 for “Best College Dorms.”

"This tool will be helping trans and nonbinary students, but it is also holding space for other instances where this can be helpful to our broader community."
Mount Holyoke rolled out a chosen-name policy to enable community members to self-select their names.

2. Names are a matter of equity and inclusion

Mount Holyoke has developed and implemented a new chosen-name policy that enables community members to select the name that they are referred to by the College. The change, a major joint effort led primarily by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, with enormous help from Library and Information Technology Services, also known as LITS, was the culmination of more than two years of behind-the-scenes work. 

Professors Holly Hanson, Christopher Pyle, Stan Rachootin and Lynn M. Morgan retire from Mount Holyoke College after extraordinary teaching careers.
Professors Holly Hanson, Christopher Pyle, Stan Rachootin and Lynn M. Morgan retire from Mount Holyoke College after extraordinary teaching careers.

3. Four faculty members retire

Professor of History Holly Hanson, Class of 1926 Professor of Politics Christopher H. Pyle,  David and Lucy Stewart Professor of Biological Sciences Stan Rachootin, and Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology Lynn M. Morgan all marked their final semesters as formidable teachers and scholars who have inspired countless students. Among them, they have amassed an extraordinary 139 years of service to the College.

Anita F. Hill, Helen Drinan ’69, Janet Mock and Lynn Pasquerella ’80 are four vanguards who challenge restrictive social norms around gender.
Lynn Pasquerella ’80, Anita F. Hill, Helen Drinan ’69 and Janet Mock are four vanguards who challenge restrictive social norms around gender.

4. Class of 2020 commencement speakers

Mount Holyoke College has announced the four speakers and honorary degree recipients who will address the class of 2020 at its 183rd Commencement, which will be held in person at a future date when it is safe to gather in public. They are four vanguards who challenge restrictive social norms around gender. 

Anita F. Hill, Helen Drinan ’69, Janet Mock and Lynn Pasquerella ’80 will speak to the graduates. Collectively their work has brought to the forefront issues that have blighted the advancement and growth of women and people across the gender-diversity spectrum. They have shattered barriers to access and led influential movements towards greater equity, inclusion and justice. 

Ana Yankova '97
Ana Yankova, the inaugural CIO of Mount Holyoke College.

5. Mount Holyoke names Chief Investment Officer

Mount Holyoke College has named Ana Yankova ’97 its inaugural chief investment officer, responsible for the management and oversight of the College’s $800 million (as of December 31, 2019) endowment. She reports to President Sonya Stephens and works closely with the College’s alum-led investment committee of the Board of Trustees. 

Mahua Moitra ’98 studied economics and math at Mount Holyoke, and is making her mark as one of India’s most dynamic politicians.
Mahua Moitra ’98 studied economics and math at Mount Holyoke, and is making her mark as one of India’s most dynamic politicians.

6. “Be the lion that is leading the rest” 

Mahua Moitra ’98 started her post-Mount Holyoke College career at the investment bank J.P. Morgan, but she knew her inner fire was destined for something else. In 2008, she quit her job in London to enter the Indian political arena, becoming the national spokesperson for the All India Trinamool Congress party and then a member of parliament in the 17th Lok Sabha. 

Her maiden speech to Parliament quickly went viral, as Moitra pointed out seven danger signs of early fascism showed that India was heading down a “dangerous path.” Her persistence while MPs tried to shout her down quickly made her a social media sensation. 

The 1619 Project was published in 2019 with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia.
The 1619 Project was published in 2019 with the goal of re-examining the legacy of slavery in the United States and timed for the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia.

7. The 1619 Project is the Common Read for 2020

Mount Holyoke College’s Common Read for 2020 is selected prose essays from The New York Times Magazine’s ongoing initiative The 1619 Project. 

“I am really excited that the selection committee chose articles from The 1619 Project,” said Amber Douglas, dean of studies and director of student success initiatives. “The 1619 Project is powerful and important. Now, more than ever, it is essential that we as a community, engage with the history of the transatlantic slave trade and its enduring legacy of systematic anti-Black racism, oppression and violence in this country. It is important for us to learn how to engage with difficult topics with respect — to struggle with difficult and evocative material — to experience discomfort in that process and to have what we read, the ideas, change us.”

Nine faculty members have been granted tenure. Top row, l-r: Olivia Aguilar; Riché J. Daniel Barnes; Thomas Ciufo. Middle row, l-r: Naomi Darling; Nina Emery; Kerstin Nordstrom. Bottom row, l-r: Heather Pon-Barry; Jared Schwartzer; Jennifer Wallace Jacoby
Nine faculty members have been granted tenure. Top row, l-r: Olivia Aguilar; Riché J. Daniel Barnes; Thomas Ciufo. Middle row, l-r: Naomi Darling; Nina Emery; Kerstin Nordstrom. Bottom row, l-r: Heather Pon-Barry; Jared Schwartzer; Jennifer Wallace Jacoby

8. Nine faculty receive tenure

The Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees has voted to grant tenure to nine faculty members spanning disciplines from gender studies to physics.

Personal protective equipment donated by Mount Holyoke College
Personal protective equipment donated by Mount Holyoke College.

9. Mount Holyoke donates protective equipment

Joining the groundswell of support by Massachusetts colleges and universities for the state’s hospitals, health care workers and first responders, Mount Holyoke College donated personal protective equipment to aid efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dorothy Mosby, Associate Dean of Faculty
Dorothy E. Mosby is the interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty through June 30, 2022.

10. Dorothy E. Mosby is interim dean of faculty

President Sonya Stephens has announced the appointment of Dorothy E. Mosby as the interim vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. Mosby will start her new duties in August, following Jon Western’s return to the faculty, and will serve in the role for two years, through June 30, 2022. 

This is a close-up headshot of Kijua Sanders-McMurtry smiling.
Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, chief diversity officer and vice president of equity and inclusion.

11. Working to fight and heal racism

When George Floyd was killed by police, his murder ignited an international groundswell of protest and activism around the world. The outcries for change were spurred by outrage, frustration and despair at the systemic failures that perpetuate violence against Black individuals and communities. 

At Mount Holyoke College, Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, chief diversity officer and vice president for equity and inclusion, invited the community to participate in a virtual session to outline steps to end racial injustice and violence. Nearly 200 community members, including faculty, staff, students and alums attended the event. 

Photo of the field gate
The newest faculty joining Mount Holyoke College bring exciting cross-disciplinary scholarship across a range of subjects.

12. Meet Mount Holyoke’s newest faculty 2020

The newest faculty joining Mount Holyoke College bring exciting cross-disciplinary scholarship across a range of subjects: robotics, data science, computer science, English, studio art, gender studies, environmental studies, sociology and statistics.

Related News

photo of hands placed across a laptop on a keyboard

A student, a teacher, two pianos — and Zoom

Taking piano lessons virtually isn’t ideal but it’s pretty close, says the music department’s Mark Gionfriddo and Susan Wang ’23, of Mount Holyoke College.

Adam Hilton in his office at Mount Holyoke College

The Republican Party’s radicalization

Mount Holyoke College Assistant Professor of Politics Adam Hilton talked to The Boston Globe about the radicalization of Republicans.  

This is a picture of Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, who leads Argentina’s Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity.

Expanding women’s rights around the world

Mount Holyoke’s Cora Fernandez Anderson spoke with Argentina’s Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, who leads Argentina’s Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity.

Andre White

The sixth sense

Mount Holyoke College’s André White discusses the complex sensory systems that bring the world into our brains with National Public Radio’s Short Wave.

This is a black and white mosaic image of the asteroid Bennu.

Astronomical award

Mount Holyoke College’s Thomas Burbine has won an award from the American Astronomical Society for his asteroid textbook, which was borne of his teaching.

Find more stories >