Indiana U’s Sonya Stephens Appointed Dean of Faculty

President Lynn Pasquerella has announced the appointment of Sonya Stephens, vice provost for undergraduate education at Indiana University, Bloomington, as Mount Holyoke’s new vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. Selected following an extensive national search, Stephens will assume her new duties in July.

While serving as vice provost at Indiana since January 2009, Stephens has led strategic initiatives in support of undergraduate education and faculty development, including the assessment of student learning, advanced the integration of academic programs with student life and learning, and implemented a new general education curriculum.

“Sonya’s extensive record of successful leadership in a range of institutional contexts, her deep understanding of liberal education and her commitment to the liberal arts, her understanding of educational strategy and the thoughtful management of change, and above all, her success in recruiting, developing, and retaining an outstanding faculty, will be crucial to Mount Holyoke’s continued strength in the years to come,” said Pasquerella.

Stephens chaired the Department of French and Italian at Indiana from 2007 to 2009 and previously held faculty appointments at the University of London and the University of Manchester, as well as visiting positions at the University of Connecticut and the Université de Paris. Her teaching and research has focused primarily on nineteenth-century French literature and culture, especially the intersection between the literary and the visual. She is the author of a book on Baudelaire’s prose poetry, Baudelaire’s Petits Poèmes en prose: The Practice and Politics of Irony (Oxford UP, 1999), which explores poetic and narrative form and its relation to the production of meaning, as well as numerous articles in scholarly journals.

The new dean holds a Ph.D. in French and a B.A. in modern and medieval languages from the University of Cambridge, along with an M.A. in French studies from the Université de Montréal. She was educated in a women’s college at the University of Cambridge and spent 15 years as a faculty member at Royal Holloway, University of London, a college focused on the arts and sciences that was founded for the education of women in 1879. Stephens became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2003 and a Fellow of the United Kingdom Higher Education Academy in 2001.

Christopher Benfey, MHC’s Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English, has served as interim dean of faculty since the departure of Donal O’Shea, now president of New College of Florida.

“Let me take this opportunity to thank Chris Benfey, who continues to serve Mount Holyoke as interim dean of faculty,” said Pasquerella. “Showing creative and bold leadership in a time of significant transition, he has helped move Mount Holyoke ahead in important ways, while also carefully preparing the way for a new dean.”

“I am also grateful to all who helped conduct the search, especially Janice Gifford, who chaired the search committee this spring, James Harold, who chaired the committee in the fall, and their fellow search committee members Amber Douglas, Gary Gillis, Kavita Khory, and Nieves Romero-Diaz,” she added.