October 2023 Board of Trustees Meeting Summary

A report on the board meeting held October 12–14, 2023.

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,

The Board of Trustees held its fall meeting on Mount Holyoke’s campus from October 12–14, 2023. The meeting focused on the College’s strategic planning.

One of President Holley’s key priorities for the 2023-24 academic year is to develop a bold strategic plan that will chart a remarkable future for Mount Holyoke. At the October meeting she updated the Board on the work currently being done by the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC). The SPC, which this year includes the Academic Priorities Committee and Faculty Planning Committee, is currently conducting listening sessions with students, faculty, staff and alums to ensure that we have collected all the community’s insights. (Note to alums: please save the date on Monday, December 4, at 11:30 a.m. ET for a virtual strategic planning session with President Holley. Details forthcoming in the Laurel Chain.) Based on those discussions, and data gathered since the process began in fall 2021, President Holley will begin drafting the strategic plan early in the spring. The Board will take it up for a vote at their May meeting.

Provost Lisa Sullivan briefed the Board on academic strategic planning, which is happening alongside the central strategic planning process this year and will be piloted next year. Faculty-centered, the planning process is being led by the Academic Priorities Committee and the subcommittee they have formed to: create an ongoing process for alignment with academic priorities; ensure academic units are sustainable; and attend to institutional and accreditor (NECHE) guideposts. The session addressed academic infrastructure investment, including a growth in the number of tenure track lines.

The Board was delighted to have dinner with the student, faculty and staff members of the SPC on Thursday evening, October 12. The Board and SPC will actively work together at the February Board meeting to take a deep dive on an early draft of the plan.

As part of the trustees’ commitment to anti-racism and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), the full Board received training on combating ableism, led by Vice President Kijua Sanders-McMurty and her DEI team, including Dr. Madeline L. Peters, director of accessible education and 504 coordinator. Over the summer the trustees read this year’s Common Read, Disability/Visibility, edited by Alice Wong. The Board discussed the importance of providing an accessible education and an accessible student, employee, alum and visitor experience at Mount Holyoke. They concentrated in October on ways in which the College’s infrastructure could be enhanced to better do this. Infrastructure improvement is certain to be an important component of the next strategic plan.

The formal actions of the Board included:

  • The unanimous election of Sally Durdan ’81 to be incoming Chair of the Board of Trustees, effective July 1, 2024. Sally will serve as Vice-Chair of the Board in the 2023-24 academic year, along with Rhynette Northcross Hurd ’71.
  • Approval with congratulations of the fall conferral of degrees for those undergraduate (11) and graduate students (31) recommended by the faculty.
  • Approval of a slate of honorary degree candidates whom President Holley can choose to invite to the 2024 or a future Commencement. After review by the faculty, a second round of nominations, to be due January 26, will be considered at the Board’s February meeting. (Details about the second nomination process will follow.)
  • Approval of a capital budget for FY25, which includes funding for the Energy Master Plan, Summit ERP Project and other projects including window replacements and repairs to residence hall bedrooms.
  • The Board noted the retirements of Lenore Reilly (August 15, 2023) and M. Darby Dyar (effective June 30, 2024), with deep thanks for their years of service to the College and our students. The trustees conferred emeritus status on Lenore Reilly.

We thank the members of our community for engaging so enthusiastically with the strategic planning process and we very much look forward to the years of growth and opportunity for Mount Holyoke that lie ahead.


Karena Strella ’90, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Danielle R. Holley, President