‘Excited by the momentum’

President-elect Holley met the greater Mount Holyoke College community for the first time.

The Great Room in the Community Center was buzzing with excitement on the afternoon of February 7, 2023, as the Mount Holyoke College community met President-elect Danielle Holley for the first time.

Holley, who will begin her role as the College’s twentieth president on July 1, 2023, addressed both the in-person crowd and those watching the livestream.

“Mount Holyoke is a place where we are empowered by who we are, instead of feeling limited by who we are. And when I stepped on campus for the first time about a month ago, I felt ‘MoHome.’”

“I [have] learned so much about Mount Holyoke and felt an instant connection to the Mount Holyoke students, faculty, staff and alums,” she said. “Mount Holyoke’s legacy [is] its unique and critical role to play in preparing leaders of distinction and in educating women and those who’ve been marginalized on the basis of their gender identity to empower everyone to be change makers.”

“Mount Holyoke is a place where we are empowered by who we are, instead of feeling limited by who we are. And when I stepped on campus for the first time about a month ago, I felt ‘MoHome,’” she continued as the audience cheered.

Students were thrilled by Holley’s accomplishments and experience. They were also delighted that Holley would be making history as the first Black woman to lead the College in its 186-year history.

“She’s a Black woman from Texas like I am,” said Pearl Young ’24, a film media theater major from Ft. Worth. “I feel encouraged about the Five Colleges area. She’s also part of the same sorority as me — I am excited to see what work she will do.”

“She seems like a great person to be leading our community right now,” said Hannah San Clemente ’25. The dance major from Billerica, Massachusetts, was impressed with Holley’s résumé. “I’m excited to see what she does with our community and for her to find her own place within it.”

Kavita Khory ’84 — Ruth Lawson Professor of Politics, Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives and member of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC) — was fulsome in her praise of the president-elect.

“At a moment when higher education is at the center of national politics, when academic freedom is threatened, and as our fundamental rights and institutions are being eroded, Danielle Holley leads by example: She is at the forefront of critical debates concerning reproductive rights, the teaching of race and history in our schools and colleges, standardized testing, racial discrimination and affirmative action,” she said. “She is leading an amicus brief supporting UNC and Harvard in the affirmative action case that is in front of the Supreme Court. In legal briefs, publications and presentations, President-elect Holley demonstrates a deep knowledge of history, an astute understanding of politics and an ability to think about some of the most pressing issues of our day in a larger global context.”

Karis Knoll ’25, a psychology and education major from Miami, Florida, looked to both her future and the future of the College. “I think that having a woman of color leading Mount Holyoke is important. I’m excited by the momentum,” she said.

“Her experience tells the story itself. And I get to have dinner with her next year!” she laughed. Knoll is a Posse Scholar, and they have an annual dinner with the president. “I get to have dinner with three presidents, and it gets better and better!”

After the event, President-elect Holley stayed in the Great Room to get photos and selfies with students and other community members, draped in the yellow sphinx scarf bestowed upon her by Lasya Priya Rao Jarugumilli ’23, one of two student members of the PSC.

Chelsea Gyimah ’23, an Africana studies major from the Bronx, New York, said, “I’m enthusiastic to be an alum now!”

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