What do alumnae think of Mount Holyoke? A recent survey of 2,600 alums in the classes between 1950 and 1985 revealed attitudes and opinions on topics ranging from the College's new mission statement to the relevance of women's education. Here are some highlights.
- Nineteen of every twenty alumnae say their feelings toward MHC were positive when they graduated. Most say their opinion has either not changed or has improved since graduation.
- "Academic excellence," not surprisingly, is the aspect of the College's mission alums say they support most strongly. And eighty percent say they want the College to be a catalyst in the world, an aspect emphasized in the MHC Plan for 2003.
- More than 80 percent of respondents agreed that women's colleges are relevant today and that the education they received at MHC has made a big difference in their lives.
- Alumnae describe MHC today as feminist, tolerant of diversity, rigorous, and having high-quality faculty. They describe the ideal MHC as having a larger endowment, higher name recognition, and wider regard as a leader.
MHC seems to have passed its ten-year reaccreditation review with flying colors, judging by the comments of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges team after spending three days on campus.
President Creighton commented, "While we must await the formal report, the team unquestionably developed a deep appreciation for the distinctive Mount Holyoke ethos, spirit, and energy while they were here. It's fair to say they are cheering us on with genuine respect and admiration (and perhaps a little envy)."
Team members reviewed the five elements of the College's mission - excellence, the liberal arts, diverse community, women's education, and engagement with the world. Creighton reported that the group commented on the "tremendous value - added" dimension of a MHC education and noted our "striking success in 'output,' that is, in effectively educating students" for graduate work and careers. They also called MHC "the preeminent institution in information technology among liberal arts colleges and a model for research universities as well."
If at first you do succeed, try, try again - The Mary Lyon Legacy Program was so successful last year that it's being repeated. Last year, 273 applications were received with the legacy certificates, and ninety of those people ultimately enrolled at MHC. Each legacy certificate waives the cost of the MHC application fee.
Among the new students is Christine Sica, a relative of Mary Lyon herself. (Lyon was the cousin of Sica's great-great-great- grandfather.) "I already knew her name as the founder of the first women's college," Sica says, "but when I mentioned to my mom that we were studying Mary Lyon and other women who were first to do things, she said, 'Oh, yeah, we're related.'" Sica says her choice of college was influenced by the family connection, "but it wasn't just that. I really liked Mount Holyoke's campus, the people were friendly, and there were a lot of classes I liked, and Mount Holyoke is a better school academically [than others at which she was accepted] and offered lots of opportunities." The Allendale, New Jersey, native plans to take courses in English and history and get involved with the campus newspaper, radio station, and choir. She's also a pianist and an avid sports fan.
Campus recruiting visits by prestigious corporations' representatives are nothing new to MHC, but Goldman Sachs's full - court press to attract our students' interest was unprecedented. The investment banking firm brought twenty representatives - including several alumnae - to give presentations, discuss a case study of an actual public stock offering, and treat all interested students to dinner.
MHC geologist Mark McMenamin recently unveiled a new theory with profound evolutionary implications. He believes that fossils he unearthed from the Ediacaran era are neither plant nor animal, but an entirely new (but now extinct) "kingdom," or division of life. He also argues that some Ediacarans have the functional equivalent of heads, which suggests that central nervous systems evolved more than once in Earth history.
Weekend dining changed for some MHC students this fall, as only the nine dining rooms designated as luncheon centers now serve weekend meals. Under the new arrangement, students can now dine in any luncheon center they choose on weekends, eat a more varied selection of food, and take advantage of weekly "theme specials" such as charbroiled steak or wok stir-fry dinners.
We rate! - MHC's quality was repeatedly recognized in the rash of early-fall publications rating U.S. colleges. We topped the Princeton Review list of "most beautiful college campuses," and were in the top ten in these categories too: "instructors are good teachers," "diverse student population," "great libraries," "happy students," "gay community accepted," "dorms like palaces," "quality of life," and "stone-cold-sober" (It's the opposite of being a "party school.") Mother Jones magazine rated MHC the country's second most activist campus.
U.S. News & World Report's rankings, which are widely consulted, but which many college officials dispute as an accurate way to compare top-tier institutions, also gave MHC high rankings. We clocked in at number eighteen among national liberal arts colleges, at number three on a list of schools with a high proportion of international students, and at number three in the "best values-discount prices" category, which considers a college's cost minus financial aid grants.
Jane B. Brown has become the College's chief strategist for student recruitment and market positioning. As MHC's first dean of enrollment, Brown oversees the offices of communications, admission, financial aid, and January and summer programming, and the Frances Perkins program.
The College held a semester-long exploration of how people remember the Holocaust. The centerpiece of the program, the Art Museum exhibition How to Remember? Designing the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, was accompanied by a film series, scholarly lectures, musical programs, units in several academic courses, and outreach efforts to local schools.
As befits the college cited byPrinceton Review as America's "most beautiful campus," students in Thomas Millette's senior environmental studies seminar are planning how it can stay that way. They're conceptualizing an environmental or "green" plan for the College, something that puts them on the leading edge of the discipline.
Mount Holyoke has always graduated leaders, and now that there's a program dedicated to developing them, the world can expect even more from MHC. The new Center for Leadership and Public Advocacy's director, Eva Paus, says the center will build on existing campus leadership development efforts and "pay explicit attention to the qualities and values students will need to lead." An advisory group is setting priorities and a spring symposium is in the works.
Peter Berek has chosen to step down as dean of the faculty and provost after this academic year, but will remain at MHC as professor of English. President Creighton said he "accomplished a tremendous amount during an important and sometimes difficult period in the College's history." Berek also served as interim president in 1995, aiding a smooth transition between the Kennan and Creighton administrations.
Among those dispensing words of wisdom during fall semester were several especially prominent speakers, including lawyer and author Anita Hill, speaking at only three places (New York, Boston, and South Hadley!) and for the first time publicly since the 1991 Clarence Thomas hearings; and women's rights activist Faye Wattleton, former president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Two 1960s icons also came to campus: the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, longtime activist for peace, civil rights, and other social justice causes, spoke on "Homophobia: the Last 'Respectable' Prejudice"; and Senator George McGovern spoke about his daughter's life-and-death struggle with alcoholism, to commemorate the MHC Alcohol and Drug Awareness Project's twentieth anniversary.
Campus concerts fall semester, cosponsored by MHC and the local public radio station WFCR, ran the gamut from jazz saxophone legend Sonny Rollins and the Early Music ensemble The King's Noyse to Cape Verdean "barefoot diva" Cesaria Evora to the "Throat Singers of Tuva."