Top 10 stories for 2021

Take a look back at 10 of the most-read Mount Holyoke College stories in 2021.

By Christian Feuerstein

As the year 2021 draws to a close, it’s time to look back at the top 10 most-read news stories from this calendar year.  A review of these news stories tells the story of 2021: they run the gamut from faculty news to adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, from the Golden Globes to the Academy Awards and from record application numbers to celebrating the class of 2021. 

Harriet L. Weissman and Carmen Yulín Cruz hugging and smiling at the camera.
Carmen Yulín Cruz (right), the Harriet L. Weissman and Paul M. Weissman Distinguished Fellow in Leadership at Mount Holyoke College, joins Harriet Weissman ’59 in celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Weissman Center for Leadership in 2019.

1. Carmen Yulín Cruz joins Mount Holyoke College

Carmen Yulín Cruz, most recently the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been appointed the Harriet L. Weissman and Paul M. Weissman Distinguished Fellow in Leadership at the Weissman Center for Leadership at Mount Holyoke College. 

The Fellowship is made possible by a generous grant from Harriet L. Weissman ’59

Yo-Yo Ma, Chloé Zhao ’05 and Rabiya Javeri-Agha ’83 are reshaping the world and are exemplars of founder Mary Lyon’s dictum to “go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things.”
Yo-Yo Ma, Chloé Zhao ’05 and Rabiya Javeri-Agha ’83 are reshaping the world and are exemplars of founder Mary Lyon’s dictum to “go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things.”

2. Class of 2021 honorary degree recipients

Mount Holyoke College announced the honorary degree recipients who will join the class of 2021 at its 184th Commencement, which will be held virtually for the first time. They are three trailblazing luminaries in the arts and public service. 

Rabiya Javeri-Agha ’83, Yo-Yo Ma and Chloé Zhao ’05 are reshaping the world and are exemplars of founder Mary Lyon’s dictum to “go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things.” The College will confer honorary doctorates of humane letters on all three at the Commencement ceremony on May 23, 2021. 

Mount Holyoke College honors retiring faculty

3. Ten Mount Holyoke faculty members retire

Ten longtime stalwarts of the Mount Holyoke faculty will not be teaching on campus this fall, having elected, after decades of outstanding service, to retire. The ten faculty members, from across the disciplines, brought teaching and scholarly excellence to this community, as well as, in several cases, administrative excellence.

President Sonya Stephens onstage, address class of 2021 graduates in her royal blue academic regalia.
President Sonya Stephens addressed the graduates of 2021 onstage.

4. Congratulations, Class of 2021!

More than 500 seniors and 58 master’s degree candidates were honored at Mount Holyoke College’s 184th Commencement — its first virtual one — May 23, 2021. Students and their families tuned in from near and far, as the graduates represented countries and continents around the globe, to celebrate students’ phenomenal successes under extraordinary circumstances.

Elena Frogameni in green coat smiling at the camera in front of Skinner Hall
Elena Frogameni '22 is a French and politics double major who hopes to complete two master’s degrees.

5. Senior Elena Frogameni named Rhodes Scholar

Mount Holyoke College senior Elena Frogameni ’22 has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship for graduate study at the University of Oxford. She is the second Rhodes Scholar ever selected from Mount Holyoke and the College’s first scholar in over 25 years. 

Frogameni is a French and politics double major, with a Nexus concentration in journalism, media and public discourse. She hopes to complete two master’s degrees: one in public policy and one in global governance and diplomacy. 

Students at Convocation 2021, masked and celebrating and throwing their hands up in the air
In its 2022 Best Colleges ranking, released on Sept. 13, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mount Holyoke College #30 for National Liberal Arts Colleges.

6. Mount Holyoke ranks highly

Mount Holyoke College was recently lauded by U.S. News & World Report, The Princeton Review and Washington Monthly in their recent rankings of colleges and universities.

In its 2022 Best Colleges ranking, released on Sept. 13, U.S. News & World Report ranked Mount Holyoke College #30 for National Liberal Arts Colleges, up four positions from its ranking of #34 last year. Mount Holyoke is tied with Berea, Bryn Mawr, Kenyon and Scripps colleges.

This is a portrait of Jesmyn Ward, editor of The Fire This Time.
Mount Holyoke College’s Common Read for 2021 is “The Fire This Time,” a collection of essays and poems about race edited by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

7. Common Read announced: “The Fire This Time” 

Mount Holyoke College’s Common Read for 2021 will be “The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race,” a collection of essays and poems about race edited by National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward.

The essays on race and racism are “thoughtful, searing, and at times, hopeful,” said USA Today. “‘The Fire This Time’ is vivid proof that words are important, because of their power to both cleanse and to clarify.” 

Chloe Zhao accepted her Golden Globe awards over Zoom.
Chloe Zhao accepted her awards over Zoom.

8. Mount Holyoke alums at the Golden Globes

Mount Holyoke had a remarkable showing at the 2021 Golden Globes award ceremony, with Chloé Zhao ’05 becoming the first Asian woman to win for best director for her drama, “Nomadland,” and the best acting award going to Andra Day for her titular role in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” written by none other than Suzan-Lori Parks ’85.

“Nomadland” also took the highest honors of the evening with the award for best drama.

Students in 2019 sitting in the Williston Memorial Library Atrium near a 12-foot glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly titled “Clear and Gold Tower.”
“One of our biggest assets is campus,” said Leykia Nulan, dean of admission. But during the COVID-19 shutdown, prospective students couldn’t visit the College’s iconic locations, such as the Williston Memorial Library Atrium, shown here in 2019.

9. Mount Holyoke has record application numbers

During  the worst pandemic in 100 years Mount Holyoke experienced an application boom: in 2021 there were a record 3,946 applications for about 550 spots. That surpasses the previous application record set in 2019, and represents a 14% increase over the 2020 application level.

Chloé Zhao ’05 accepting her Academy Award for “Best Director.”
Chloé Zhao ’05 accepting her Academy Award for “Best Director.”

10. Chloé Zhao ‘05 wins at the Academy Awards

Chloé Zhao ’05 has made history with her wins at the 93rd Academy Awards, held April 26, 2021. 

Her film “Nomadland” swept the awards, winning for Best Picture and Best Director. Frances McDormand also won Best Actress for her role as Fern. 

Zhao is the first woman of color to receive an Academy Award for Best Director, and only the second woman ever to win in that category. 

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Students in 2019 sitting in the Williston Memorial Library Atrium near a 12-foot glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly titled “Clear and Gold Tower.”

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