She had childhood heroes such as Isadora Duncan, Sojourner Truth, and Margaret Sanger--and girlhood aspirations to grow up to "move people with ideas and visions as they did." She possesses a love of learning that led her to pursue postgraduate studies in everything from costume design to classical rhetoric. And she has used her talents to help promote the strengths of organizations as diverse as Xerox and the University of Massachusetts. It is not surprising that Patricia VandenBerg has become the chief marketing strategist for a preeminent liberal arts college for women. What is surprising is that she didn't find her way to Mount Holyoke sooner.
The path that brought VandenBerg here in September to become executive director of communications and strategic initiatives has prepared her well for her new position. With a Ph.D. in theatre and a passion for the arts--and having been a higher education administrator, a corporate communications consultant, and a professor in MBA, theatre, and communications programs--VandenBerg personifies the liberal arts education that she is now marketing. As an academic who has focused on gender issues in the theatre and in society, she seems well suited to take on the challenges of positioning a women's college in a competitive higher education marketplace.
"My goal is to position Mount Holyoke advantageously and to ensure that our reputation matches our extraordinary quality," says VandenBerg. "I have always been committed to the liberal arts, women's education, and leadership." VandenBerg also holds an appointment as adjunct lecturer in theatre arts.
In addition to her responsibilities as chief marketing strategist and manager of the Office of Communications, VandenBerg will spend about one-third of her time working with President Creighton on strategic programs emanating from The Plan for 2003 and aligned with the work of the Harriet L. and Paul M. Weissman Center for Leadership.
"One of the first programs I hope to help develop is a leadership conference here for high school girls," VandenBerg says. "We want young women to begin at an early age to imagine their capacity for becoming agents for positive change--what better place for them to make that discovery than at Mount Holyoke."
VandenBerg comes here from UMass, Amherst, where she had been assistant vice chancellor for communications and marketing since 1996. She has taught courses in communications skills and strategies in the MBA program there and in Smith College's management program. VandenBerg also consults to a wide variety of public and private organizations on leadership, management, and communication.
Published in both scholarly and popular journals, she has authored articles on communication, management, theater, and gender issues. Prior to moving to Massachusetts in 1994, VandenBerg was director of theatre and professor of communication arts and sciences at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned her own B.A. degree. She completed her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at University of Michigan.
With the "adventuresome women" who have been her guideposts always in mind, VandenBerg seems poised to help perpetuate their legacy as she embarks on her career at Mount Holyoke.