Transition in presidential leadership announced.

Monday, January 4, 2016 - 11:15am

Mount Holyoke College President Lynn Pasquerella announced on Monday that she will step down from her role, effective June 30, after six years of leading the transformative growth of one of the foremost women’s liberal arts colleges in the nation.

Pasquerella has been named the next president of Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U), the leading national association concerned with the quality, vitality, and public standing of undergraduate liberal education. The association comprises more than 1,350 member institutions. She will succeed Carol Geary Schneider, also a Mount Holyoke alumna, from the Class of 1967, and the College’s 2015 Commencement speaker.

“It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege for me to serve as Mount Holyoke College’s 18th president, and I will be forever grateful for the many ways in which the members of this community have shaped both my life and my career,” said Pasquerella, a Class of 1980 alumna, in a letter to the Mount Holyoke community.

Since joining the College as president in July 2010, Pasquerella has brought to Mount Holyoke a deep commitment to creating a vibrant campus community with shared, collaborative governance; the launch of the Lynk, a bold initiative that provides a paid internship for each student and connects curriculum to career; a focus on positioning the College for long-term financial sustainability; global engagement with the Mount Holyoke alumnae community; and strong partnerships with local and regional communities. Pasquerella also was instrumental in leading the College’s successful $305-million campaign, which concluded in June 2013. Under her leadership, the College endowment increased from $520 million to $717 million.

In a letter to the College community, Chair of the Board of Trustees Barbara Baumann ’77 commended Pasquerella’s leadership, noting that she “sought out new ways to improve the educational experience of our students while eloquently advocating in local, national, and international forums for the high academic standards that are the hallmark of Mount Holyoke and of America’s colleges and universities.

“Thus, it should come as no surprise that Lynn has chosen, for the next chapter in her career, to lead America’s foremost public advocacy organization on behalf of liberal learning, the Association of American Colleges & Universities,” Baumann wrote. “In that role, she will highlight and exemplify the importance of what Mount Holyoke and its peer institutions offer to the nation and the world.”  

“While I may be physically separated from our extraordinary campus, I can never leave behind the community that inspired this call to conscience—the remarkable students, unparalleled faculty, talented staff, dedicated board members and accomplished alumnae,” Pasquerella wrote. “Most crucially, as an alumna of this college, I promise, throughout my life, to be a zealous advocate for Mount Holyoke’s mission of directing liberal learning toward purposeful engagement in the world while fostering the next generation of women leaders.”

Sonya Stephens appointed acting president effective July 1.

Also on Monday, the College’s Board of Trustees announced that Sonya Stephens, vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, will become acting president of the College for a period of three years, effective July 1.

Stephens, who joined the College in 2013, is a tenured professor of French. She received her advanced degrees from the University of Cambridge and previously served as vice provost for undergraduate education at Indiana University, Bloomington.

As the chief academic officer at Mount Holyoke, Stephens is responsible for faculty research and curricular support, faculty governance, and academic budgeting and infrastructure. She oversees an operating budget of $52 million and works closely with divisions across the College, including its centers for global initiatives, leadership and environment, as well as with the Five College Consortium on shared programs and faculty hiring.

During her tenure, she has led initiatives to sustain and enhance faculty commitment to research and to the student experience; revise degree requirements; enhance the reputation of the College; and create innovative academic programs such as the Mount Holyoke Data Science Initiative, and Women in Data Science, in collaboration with MassMutual and Smith College.

Stephens also has overseen integration of the Lynk with academic departments and the strategic alignment of information technology resources.

“There is no greater honor than this invitation to continue to serve Mount Holyoke College as acting president,” Stephens said. “My responsibilities may be changing, but my commitment to Mount Holyoke’s mission, and my work with the Board of Trustees, fellow administrators, and outstanding faculty, staff, and students to envision the future of this extraordinary institution, are redoubled by this opportunity. Together we must now build on the many accomplishments of President Pasquerella’s tenure to ensure that Mount Holyoke continues to excel among the nation’s finest liberal arts colleges and to lead in educating and advocating for women worldwide."

See also: Q & A with Stephens.

Pasquerella enthusiastically supported the trustees’ unanimous appointment of Stephens, calling her “an extraordinary leader, who is uniquely qualified to serve Mount Holyoke College in this critical role.”

“Throughout her tenure as vice president for academic affairs and the dean of faculty, Sonya has demonstrated innovation, creativity and integrity in her daily administrative work and as a champion of Mount Holyoke’s mission,” Pasquerella said. “As the College moves forward in the current strategic planning process, no one is better positioned to carry out the shared vision for Mount Holyoke’s future that will emerge. I am absolutely thrilled for my alma mater.”

Baumann, the board chair, also noted in her letter to the campus community that Stephens’s “innovative mindset, courageous leadership style, broad knowledge of Mount Holyoke, high energy level, and personal warmth” prompted the Board to “unanimously and enthusiastically [choose Stephens] to lead this venerable institution during these exciting and transformational times.”

Read also: The Association of American Colleges & Universities announcement.