In appreciation of our nineteenth president, Sonya Stephens
March 2, 2022
Dear members of the Mount Holyoke community,
I write to share that President Sonya Stephens will depart Mount Holyoke College at the end of August 2022 to become President of The American University of Paris. The College has flourished under Sonya’s leadership, even as our community navigated a multi-year pandemic and the upheaval it caused. Her passion for our mission, commitment to innovation, sharp intellect and sense of humor have made Sonya a superb President and generous partner with the Board of Trustees. While we had hoped to work closely with Sonya for years to come, we can nonetheless appreciate the unique nature of a Paris-based liberal arts college that speaks to both her scholarly interests in French literature and her skills as an academic leader.
The trustees and I are deeply appreciative of all Sonya has accomplished during her nine years at Mount Holyoke. As our President, she brought focused attention to areas of great need and potential at the College. As a community, we will have many opportunities to celebrate Sonya’s accomplishments before she walks through the College gates for the last time as our President.
In the meantime, we have much work ahead of us to further the strong foundation made possible by her leadership: our applicant pool is large and talented; our faculty have received national recognition for teaching and scholarship; our endowment is above $1 billion; our alums are involved and committed; donors have contributed at record levels; financial aid is expanding and the budget is balanced. Of critical importance is maintaining our community’s focus on the complex issues of equity and inclusion and the work of building an anti-racist community that began under her presidency. Renewal and diversification of the curriculum has led to innovation and enhanced support for teaching and learning outcomes, and Mount Holyoke has earned distinction as: one of Newsweek’s 2021 “Best Maker Schools” in the world; the No. 1 baccalaureate source for earned doctorates in STEM fields among women; a top producer of Fulbright and Gilman Scholars; and home to one of only 32 Americans to earn a Rhodes scholarship in 2021. These facts do not surprise those of us who know the caliber and commitment of our faculty and students. Mount Holyoke is well placed to attract an outstanding 20th President.
I will share more information in the coming weeks, but the work of recruiting our next President will begin right away. First the trustees will focus on identifying an interim President for the 2022–23 academic year. Then we expect to launch a formal presidential search process beginning with the selection of a search committee, which will be aided by the support and expertise of an external search firm. The Board of Trustees will be guided by our goal to ensure that the wonderfully diverse stakeholders in our community have their voices heard and are able to share their perspectives and experiences to provide constructive input during the search and selection process.
Sonya and the leadership team will continue to work tirelessly on behalf of Mount Holyoke’s mission to further our goals and critical projects underway. We pledge our continued support to them and to the entire community in the months ahead and beyond. In the meantime, we encourage you to join the trustees in thanking Sonya for her unwavering commitment to Mount Holyoke and for continuing to inspire us to pursue our dreams.
Karena V. Strella ’90
Chair, Board of Trustees