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Mount Holyoke College News and Events Vista The College Street Journal Archives

February 8, 2002

Front-Page News

Champion of the Liberal Arts
The "Learning" section of the February 3 issue of the Boston Globe featured a question-and-answer interview with Elaine Tuttle Hansen '69, who was named the seventh president of Bates College last month. When asked by the Globe about how she feels about being the first woman to lead Bates [she will take over in July], and how, if at all, that fact will affect her presidency, she replied, "None of the schools in the New England Small College Athletic Conference have women presidents at the moment. None of the formerly men's colleges have women presidents. It is peculiar to me. Most of this is really about the times. I think if you could have looked ahead twenty or thirty years ago, you would have said that this was about the time that women who were educated would be ready to step into positions like this. This is not about me, but about the way the world has changed." Globe correspondent Shari Rudavsky noted that Hansen is, "a graduate of Mount Holyoke College, [who] believes she is a steward of the American liberal arts tradition" and asked the president-elect what she perceived as the greatest competition Bates [and by extension, all liberal arts colleges] now faces. "Fifty years ago, small liberal arts colleges were educating probably 40 percent of the population. Now, given the growth in so many different forms of higher education—community colleges, distance education—only about 3 percent of students go to liberal arts colleges. This means we have to adapt, to preserve what's so wonderful about liberal arts institutions and be willing to innovate and keep up with the times. There is a certain amount of competition among liberal arts colleges and the sense that you're being compared to each other heightens the competition. I think we ought to be very careful to collaborate with each other to make sure that the entire model of education—the liberal arts, four-year residential college—survives. I see the competition from other, cheaper ways of providing postsecondary education as a larger threat to us."

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