Western named vice president, dean of faculty

Jon Western joined Mount Holyoke in 2000 and has taught courses on international human rights theory and advocacy, US foreign policy, international security, and political violence.

By Julia Ferrante

Jon Western, a professor of international relations and noted public policy scholar, has been named Mount Holyoke College’s next vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, President Lynn Pasquerella ’80 and Sonya Stephens, acting president-elect, announced Tuesday.

Western, who currently serves as the Carol Hoffmann Collins ’63 Professor of International Studies at Mount Holyoke, Five College Professor of International Relations, and director of the Five College International Relations Program, will transition to his new role on July 1. He will succeed Stephens, effective the same day. Western was selected after a comprehensive internal search led by a committee of faculty and administrative staff. The interview process included presentations to the campus community as well as interviews with constituencies across all divisions at the College.

“I am delighted that Jon Western has agreed to serve as Mount Holyoke’s next dean of faculty,” Stephens said. “He has expressed his unwavering commitment to the liberal arts, to intellectual endeavor, and to the full mission of Mount Holyoke College. I know that he will bring to this administrative role the same energy, excitement, and intellectual weight that he has demonstrated in his scholarship and in the classroom. He is a colleague whose personal qualities, thoughtful judgment, and abiding commitments will serve the faculty and the College well. I am very much looking forward to our work together.”

Pasquerella, who will leave her position on July 1 to become the next president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, said, “I am pleased that President-elect Stephens is building a strong leadership team, and I look forward to the many ways in which Mount Holyoke will benefit from their shared vision."

As the chief academic officer and a member of the president’s cabinet, Western will provide strategic leadership and administrative oversight of the College’s academic programs and initiatives. As dean of faculty, he will be responsible for faculty hiring and professional development, curricular support, faculty governance, strategic planning, and New England Association of Schools and Colleges reaccreditation, among other key College priorities.

The dean of faculty works in close collaboration with the president, the faculty, and the president’s senior staff and serves on the College Planning Committee and the Five College Consortium Deans Council. Western will oversee a budget of $54 million in support of areas including instructional support, Library and Information Technology Services, career services, sponsored research, museums, academic centers, and Community-Based Learning.

“The role of this position is to be an advocate for the intellectual and educational mission of the College and to support faculty and staff to be outstanding scholars and inspired teachers,” Western said. “We need to ensure that faculty and staff have the resources to be transformative. I am looking forward to working closely with President Stephens and the Board of Trustees to ensure that Mount Holyoke is positioned well for leading women’s education in the twenty-first century.”

Mount Holyoke prepares students to be "publicly engaged, socially conscious, and intellectually prepared to meet challenges and changes that they will confront throughout their lifetime—many of which we can’t even imagine today,” Western said. He noted that the College, through The Lynk experience and a strong liberal arts curriculum, is a leader in preparing students not just for their first jobs, but for their life and career aspirations.

“I can’t imagine a better preparation for confronting the world’s challenges than a liberal arts education at Mount Holyoke,” he said. “We have faculty leading the way in science and technology innovation; incredible, talented professors in the humanities, creative and performing arts, and the social sciences helping students to understand what’s changing in the world and what’s staying the same. They are keeping students engaged through outstanding classroom, lab, and studio experiences; rigorous study; independent research; community-based learning; and internships. The relevance of the liberal arts is demonstrated every day here. Our students are gaining the skills to compete in the workforce but, more importantly, they are being educated to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens able to bring a breadth of perspective to the world’s challenges.”

A graduate of Macalester College, Western received a bachelor’s degree in political science and Russian area studies in 1984. He later received a master’s in public policy studies from the University of Michigan and a PhD in political science from Columbia University. Western joined Mount Holyoke in 2000 as a Five College assistant professor and rose through the ranks to full professor, teaching courses on international human rights theory and advocacy, US foreign policy, international security, and political violence, at all of the member institutions of the consortium.

Previously, he served as director of academic research at the National Security Institute, Institute for Training and Development in Amherst and as director of the Dayton Upgrade Project, United States Institute of Peace. There, he developed and directed a major initiative evaluating and assessing post-conflict, peace-building efforts in Bosnia.

Western began his career at the US Department of the Army and the US Department of State as an East European analyst and later as the State Department’s war crimes analyst during the Bosnian war. He has published numerous academic papers and delivered lectures on topics including global security, military intervention, and humanitarianism. He is the author of Selling Intervention and War: The Presidency, the Media, and the American Public (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005) and the co-editor of two other books. His research on war crimes and atrocity prevention has been reported in The New York Times, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, and the BBC.   

Western lives in Northampton with his wife, Jenifer Urff, and their two sons, ages 18 and 13. In addition to his academic and scholarly work, Western is a lead mentor for the Northampton Robotics Team, a joint collaboration between Northampton High School and Smith Agricultural and Vocational High School.