May 2022 Board of Trustees Meeting Summary

Updates on the spring Board meeting, including sessions on mental health and diversity, equity and inclusion training.

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,

The devastating news of another mass shooting — the third in our nation in just two weeks — has our hearts and minds reeling once again. Tuesday’s murder of 19 children and their teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, is another stark reminder that our nation faces enormous challenges that threaten the lives and livelihoods of our children and those who choose a life of service as educators. We recognize the collective grief and stress these and other tragedies create for individuals and communities and remain steadfast in our focus on continuing to educate, care for and support the next generation of leaders and problem-solvers to create lasting change for all.  

That work was advanced at the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees on May 5-7, 2022. Most of the trustees were able to make the trip to South Hadley, and it was wonderful to be back on our beautiful campus. We were also delighted, as we are each spring, to approve degrees and certificates for those undergraduate and graduate students recommended by the faculty. Last weekend we had the opportunity to see many of these students walk the stage at the College’s one hundred and eighty-fifth Commencement and to share in their joy and in that of their families and friends. The in-person Commencement was a powerful reminder of all that makes our community strong and special.

The Board meeting began with a day-long orientation for incoming trustees Kira H. Banks ’00, Adam F. Falk, Farah Khan ’98, Lourdes Melgar ’85, and Shelley Weiner Sheinkopf ’68 whose terms begin on July 1, 2022. This session familiarized the new trustees with the higher education landscape and with Mount Holyoke’s unique position within it as a women’s college that is gender diverse. 

Two hybrid general sessions the next day immersed the Board in critical issues facing higher education institutions. The first featured Dr. Nicholas Covino, President of William James College and a practicing psychologist, who shared his perspectives on student mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic and discussed with the Board how institutions can better support students. Marcella Runell Hall, vice president for student life and dean of students, and members of the Counseling Center team then framed for the Board how these national trends are being experienced at Mount Holyoke. The Board recognizes the serious nature of these issues and will support the College in its important work to enhance student wellness. Vice President Hall and the Cabinet are working now on next steps.

The next general session was a diversity, equity and inclusion training for the full Board. The session, led by Kijua Sanders-McMurtry, vice president for equity and inclusion, Shannon Da Silva, associate director of equity and compliance/Title IX and 504 coordinator, and Gabriel Hall, assistant director of campus diversity programming and LGBTQ initiatives, is part of the Board’s ongoing commitment to anti-racist education and it centered trauma-informed leadership and practices, with a particular focus on supporting disability rights and the ways in which universal design creates a more equitable and inclusive environment. 

Normally in May the Board approves a budget for the coming fiscal year. This year we have decided to do that in a special board meeting in early June. The delay means that we will have more accurate data about projected revenue and expenses for the coming year. President Stephens will swiftly communicate with the campus community after the 2022-2023 budget has been approved.

A special component of the meeting was a dinner celebrating the generosity of the Mount Holyoke community. This was the first event of its kind in more than two years. All in attendance expressed their great pleasure in gathering once again in the Great Room in Blanchard, and we were delighted to have this opportunity to recognize the remarkable generosity of the College’s donors, which has resulted in record-breaking philanthropic investments in our mission over the past two fiscal years. The campus community also shared a moving video tribute for Sonya that reminded us of the tremendous impact she has had on this place and of how much we shall miss her.

In its general business, the Board of Trustees approved the following recommendations:

The promotion of:

  • Sarah Adelman, Economics and International Relations, to full professor
  • Calvin Chen, Politics, to full professor
  • Catherine Corson, Environmental Studies, to full professor
  • Iyko Day, English and Critical Social Thought, to full professor
  • Samuel Mitchell, Philosophy, to full professor
  • Katherine Schmeiser Lande, Economics, to full professor
  • Kate Singer, English, to full professor
  • Morena Svaldi, Classics and Italian, to senior lecturer

The reappointments of: 

  • Jinhwa Chang, Asian Studies
  • Kyae-Sung Park, Asian Studies
  • Lisha Xu, Asian Studies
  • Elena García Frazier, Spanish, Latina/o, and Latin American Studies 

The awarding of emeritus status to:

  • Christopher Benfey, English
  • Daniel Czitrom, History
  • Charles Flachs, Dance
  • Rose Flachs, Dance
  • Nancy Holden-Avard, French
  • Stephen Jones, Russian and Eurasian Studies
  • Larry Schipull, Music 

Endowed Chairs awarded to:

  • Renae Brodie, Professor of Biological Sciences on the Alumnae Foundation
  • Darren Hamilton, Bertha Phillips Rodger Professor of Chemistry

The retirements of: 

  • Christopher Benfey, English
  • Daniel Czitrom, History
  • Charles Flachs, Dance
  • Rose Flachs, Dance
  • Nancy Holden-Avard, French 

A revised phased retirement plan was approved for Robin Blaetz, Film Media Theater.

Congratulations to all of these faculty members. We offer our heartfelt thanks for their many contributions and our good wishes for their continued success at Mount Holyoke or in a fulfilling retirement

In other business, the Board of Trustees recognized trustees whose terms are concluding: Elizabeth Barbeau ’85, Jennie Berkson ’76, Lori Bettison-Varga, Erin Ennis ’92, Elizabeth Cochary Gross ’79 and Jennifer Rochlis ’94. We are deeply grateful for their dedicated service to the Board of Trustees and to the College. We also thanked Sonya as a board for the countless ways she has partnered with the community to make Mount Holyoke a stronger institution.

While this year has not been easy, we are thankful for all that our community has done to persevere, to teach and learn in astonishing ways, to make discoveries, to prepare students to lead lives of purpose and to find moments of beauty and joy. It is good to be together.


Karena Strella ’90, Chair of the Board of Trustees
Sonya Stephens, President