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Inauguration Highlights

The Inauguration Ceremony

Sonya Stephens was inaugurated as the 19th president of Mount Holyoke College on Saturday, September 29, at 3:00 pm in the Field House of Kendall Sports and Dance Complex.

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Transcripts have been lightly edited.

Photo of John Grayson

John T. Grayson, Professor Emeritus of Religion

“As the mantle of leadership passes to Sonya Stephens, we are confident that Mount Holyoke’s goal of educating women to excel and contribute to the common good will continue. We implore the powers of faith and reason to be present, that jointly they may endow Sonya with the full authority this office commands. May the sacred, known to us by many names, grace this occasion with its ever present spirit to guide and inspire us to live justly and advance freedom.”

In this moment and in this hallowed place, may divine grace be present as we witness and celebrate the Inauguration of Sonya Stephens as the 19th president of this institution.

We acknowledge that great cloud of witnesses, alumnae, trustees, administrators, faculty, students, staff and distinguished guests, including family and friends, whose counsel, wisdom, loyalty and fidelity have brought Sonya Stephens to this auspicious occasion.

We invoke the spirit of Mary Lyon and the long line of presidents, who over 181 years of this institution’s history consecrated this campus as a safe, empowering space in order that women of the world would be able to cultivate their intellectual, physical and spiritual capabilities to the fullest, thus elevating Mount Holyoke to the distinguished place it presently occupies within the international community of colleges and universities.

As the mantle of leadership passes to Sonya Stephens, we are confident that Mount Holyoke’s goal of educating women to excel and contribute to the common good will continue. We implore the powers of faith and reason to be present, that jointly they may endow Sonya with the full authority this office commands. May the sacred, known to us by many names, grace this occasion with its ever present spirit to guide and inspire us to live justly and advance freedom.

Let reason show us the means for vanquishing the irrational and oppressive forces preventing world peace today. Through their joint influence, may faith and reason motivate us to be faithful and unrelenting in our quest for truth.

“Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,

As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,

Till thou at length art Free,

Leaving thine outgrown shell by life’s unresting sea!”

[“The Chambered Nautilus,” Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1858]

Photo of Barbara M. Baumann

Barbara M. Baumann ’77, Chair of the Board of Trustees

“This inauguration provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the present, our remarkable college, its talented faculty, staff, students and graduates and so many others who support our mission of providing intellectually adventurous education in the liberal arts and sciences through academic programs recognized all over the world for their excellence and their range.”

Barbara M. Baumann ’77, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Good afternoon. I’m Barbara Baumann, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, class of 1977, and it is my great pleasure to welcome you here today on this auspicious occasion as we inaugurate the 19th President of Mount Holyoke College, Sonya Clare Stephens. On behalf of my trustee colleagues, I extend our warmest welcome to current and former trustees of the College, former chairs of the Board of Trustees, former Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella, honored platform guests, members of the faculty and the staff, students, parents, families, alumnae, as well as town officials, neighbors and friends of the College.

Thank you so much for coming today.

An inauguration provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the many rich traditions that permeate the culture of this special institution, which was the first among the Seven Sisters, or now the Seven Sibs, and one of the oldest continuously operating women’s colleges in the United States. It also provides us with an opportunity to celebrate the present, our remarkable college, its talented faculty, staff, students and graduates and so many others who support our mission of providing intellectually adventurous education in the liberal arts and sciences through academic programs recognized all over the world for their excellence and their range.

And finally, this Inauguration asks us to look forward with excited anticipation to the next chapter of the College’s vibrant life under the leadership of President Stephens. Thank you, each and every one of you, for your support of Mount Holyoke.

Photo of Rosemary Llyod at the podium

Rosemary Lloyd, Rudy Professor Emerita of French, Indiana University

"Sonya was of course a wonderful student. Intelligent, enthusiastic, a very good linguist and she had a wonderful sense of humor, as you might already know."

Rosemary Lloyd, Rudy Professor Emerita of French, Indiana University

Can I start by saying what a wonderful pleasure it is to be here to celebrate this moment with you and with Sonya, and what it is like to have discovered your beautiful campus, which I hadn’t seen before. But I have to confess that I’m rather surprised not only being allowed to speak, but at being asked to speak. Because I’ve known Sonya for 37 years, from long before the time when she assumed the mantle of presidential dignity, which now sits so well on her (laughter). And there are many stories I could tell you about her that she would probably rather I didn’t. My, my brief is to be brief, so I will at least be selective.

I first met Sonya when she was 17 and she came for interview to the University of Cambridge, and more specifically to my college, which in those days was New Hall, now Murray Edwards. Now at this stage, I’d been very interested in irony, about what it meant and what writers meant when they used it and what we felt when we read it. So I had before me this wonderfully intelligent young woman, and she said to me that she liked a particular book because it was ironic. So I said to her, “Define irony.”

Now I’ve had a lot of grief from Sonya over the years about that question, which she says was very aggressive (laughter) to a nervous 17-year-old, but of course it wasn’t aggressive. It was a compliment to her intelligence. And many years later, as you’ll see, I did get my answer. Now, whatever umbrage she may have taken, Sonya did accept our invitation to come to New Hall to study French and Spanish at the University of Cambridge. And she was of course a wonderful student. Intelligent, enthusiastic, a very good linguist and she had a wonderful sense of humor, as you might already know. 

In those days, I should point out she was known as “Sonar” because of her ability to pick out rumor and gossip even before it had started. And Sonya’s left me with some wonderful memories. Now I collect mixed metaphors. It’s the sort of things that sports commentators give us. You know, “he’s at last been able to put his broken knee behind him,” things of that nature. That’s one I actually heard.

Now in Cambridge, we, in the colleges, we teach in very small groups, so if somebody is being silent in a supervision, it tends to stand out. And one time Sonya was being very silent, so I asked her what was her position on this particular comment or subject, and she came up with this wonderful mixed metaphor. “I’m trying to keep an even keel while sitting on the fence.” So although I have no artistic talent whatsoever, I drew a little picture of a ship labeled “La Sonya,” balanced precariously on a wire fence. And to my amazement, several decades later, she revealed she still had it. I sincerely hope it’s gone to recycling heaven since then.

In those days too, I was rather homesick still for Australia, so I decorated my office with pictures and statues of parrots, Australia being the land of parrots, and no doubt this made me seem rather eccentric to certain students. And in one supervision I noticed that my two supervisees were rather distracted. They weren’t hanging on my every word, as was their wont — or, I convinced myself, that they usually were.

In fact, they kept looking at the window surreptitiously but very obviously and jumping at any external noise. And suddenly from the room above, which was a student room, I heard the window fly open and down from the window came on a string, a very large cutout cardboard parrot which banged against my window and demanded entrance. And that has nothing to do with President Stephens, of course (laughter).

At some point in her final year, she came to my office looking very embarrassed and said, “I don’t know how to tell you this.” So I said, “Well, shall I help you out? Either you’re going to tell them that you’re going to drop out, which I sincerely hope is not the case, or you want to do graduate study.” “Who told you that?” she said ferociously. But of course there was no need for me to be told that she was going to do graduate studies. Sonya had clearly been destined for graduate study, and indeed for a university career from very early on, from the time that I knew her.

She graduated from Cambridge, with a first in French and Spanish and then went to Canada to do her MA at the Université de Montréal, where she wrote her master’s thesis on the wonderful French-Canadian writer, Marie-Claire Blais. And then she returned to Cambridge to do a doctoral degree with me on the wonderful French poet, Charles Baudelaire, he who in one of his journals wrote, “Always be a poet even in prose.” And Sonya went onto write a thesis on Baudelaire’s prose poetry, and to publish it as a lovely and really influential work entitled, ironically enough, “Baudelaire’s Prose Poems, the Practice and Politics of Irony,” (laughter). So there you are. I got my answer.

From Cambridge, graduate with her PhD in hand, Sonya went on to various positions in the UK before settling at — Sonya, where did you end up? Royal Holloway. Royal Holloway, which has the most wonderful collection of red brick Victorian buildings, a perfect place for a 19th century specialist to be. Now by this stage, I had moved to the United States to Indiana University, and about 17 years ago, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Swamy [Kumble R. Subbaswamy, now chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Amherst] who is with us in his wonderful outfit today, announced that they were four professorships, which would be given on merit, not attached to particular disciplines.

I immediately emailed Sonya and suggested she come because I knew that she would enjoy the United States just as much as I had. But nothing happened. Time went by and time went by, and it was getting quite short, so I phoned her in desperation and asked why she hadn’t applied. And she told me with the modesty that we find with really intelligent people that somebody had said to her that because it was not attached to a particular discipline, someone in French didn’t have much chance of being appointed. Well, I was so furious and flabbergasted that I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I just blurted out, “What do I need to say to get you to apply?” And she said, “I’ll apply” (laughter).

So I decided I better be a bit proactive and I printed off the latest copy of her CV and showed it to my head of department, Andrea Ciccarelli, who I think is here in the audience today, and Andrea looked at this and said, “Rosemary, this is a super candidate.” He was very enthusiastic, and he bounded across to Swamy’s office and said that Sonya’s application might be a little bit late, but it would be there, and please, could he be lenient? Well, luckily for us, and indeed for you, Dean Swamy agreed with us that this was a super candidate, and she was elected to the professorship at I.U., so I had the great pleasure of being her colleague for my final years. She reminded me last night that I retired the same year she became head of department, but this is absolutely arbitrary. It just happened that way (laughter).

Sonya is a specialist in 19th-century French literature and the visual arts, and she’s been a very enthusiastic and popular presenter at conferences. She’s published articles and she’s published, in addition to her doctoral thesis, three works where she’s edited wonderful essays. The first of these for a colleague of ours, Robert Lethbridge, called “Esquisses/ebauches,” which is “Sketches and Drafts: Projects and Pre-Texts in Nineteenth-Century French Culture.” Then a very useful history of women’s writing in France, which came out with Cambridge University Press. And just last, last year, a lovely collection of essays published by Indiana University Press called “Translation and the Arts in Modern France.”

But the area that I’ve most enjoyed discussing with Sonya, the project on which she’s been embarked for many years and which is by its very nature unfinishable, is that of the unfinished, those works of art or literature or architecture that through fate or design have not been completed and therefore allow us to think of solutions to the problems that they raise that are not closed for us by the author or the architect or the artist. These are works that really stimulate the imagination.

And the 20th-century novelist, Marcel Proust, argued that 19th-century works have the wonderful quality of being incomplete, all of them, because they demand different readings each time we read them, and each time another generation comes to read them, there will be different interpretations, all of them equally valid. And the Italian writer Italo Calvino argued that a classic is a book that is never finished saying what it has to say.

Now, it seems to me that it’s emblematic of Sonya to have chosen such a field, because she too has so much to tell us and so much to give us that it is unfinishable. We’ll never reach the end of her imagination, her intelligence, her enthusiasm and her dedication. So for that reason, I congratulate Mount Holyoke for the election, just as much as I congratulate Sonya for being elected. I know that you will have a wonderful future together.  

Photo of Bingyao Liu ’19 playing the Dulcimer

Bingyao Liu ’19, Founder, the Mount Holyoke College Chinese Music Ensemble

“Good News” by Gui Xili
“The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saëns

Bingyao Liu is playing the yangqin, the Chinese dulcimer.

Photo of Biddy Martin, President, Amherst College

Biddy Martin, President, Amherst College

on behalf of the Five College Consortium

“In Sonya, you have a president, and we in the Five Colleges have a partner who is passionate about access to education, about high academic standards, as Mary Lyon was, about independent thinking, and about the opportunity for talented students to pursue an education in service not only of their own success, but in service of the common good.”

Biddy Martin, President, Amherst College, on behalf of the Five College Consortium

I’m Biddy Martin. It’s a joy and an honor to be here today. Indeed, this morning I was thinking on this day and at this time in the country’s history, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than congratulating our colleague and friend, Sonya Stephens, as she becomes the 19th president of this extraordinary institution, one of the oldest and most distinguished, most inclusive women’s colleges in the United States.

In the long extraordinary tradition, stretching back to Mary Lyon — who I read in a recent history of Amherst College, attended Amherst Academy for a year — in this tradition and in Sonya, you have a president, and we in the Five Colleges have a partner who is passionate about access to education, about high academic standards, as Mary Lyon was, about independent thinking, and about the opportunity for talented students to pursue an education in service not only of their own success, but in service of the common good.

Sonya, on my behalf, and on behalf of your colleagues in the Five College Consortium, President McCartney at Smith, President Nelson at Hampshire College, Chancellor Subbaswamy of UMass Amherst, and Sarah Pfatteicher, executive director of the consortium, I offer our heartiest congratulations to you and to the entire Mount Holyoke community.

Sonya is well known to those of us in the Five Colleges. She, as many of you know, has been a dedicated colleague and collaborator for several years, first as a member of the Five College deans’ council when she was dean of the faculty at Mount Holyoke, then in her capacity as interim president since 2016. And we could not be more enthusiastic about having her as a colleague and partner for the long term.

We know her as a creative and bold thinker, someone with nuanced perspective on very complicated matters, the kinds of issues we’re happy to have one another to discuss on a regular basis. We know her advocacy for equality and inclusiveness, her collaborative spirit, her wonderful sense of humor, her big laugh and the best glasses anywhere (laughter). I’m excited to have another humanist as a college president (laughter). I see some applause (laughter).

It’s increasingly unusual for college and university presidents to come from the humanities. Not all presidents need to be humanists, but to keep the humanities at the core of the enterprise while so many students pursue studies and careers in the STEM fields — and good for them for pursuing them — it’s critical that we continue to have leaders in higher education who are champions of persuasive and beautiful writing, of critical approaches to texts, and of cultural traditions of the sort that Sonya has studied and about what she has written so beautifully.

My favorite essay on the importance of the liberal arts with a kind of humanistic inquiry at its core is written by William Cronon, an historian at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where I spent 10 years of my life in different incarnations. And it’s an essay about the goals of a liberal education. Its title is taken from E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End.“ The essay is called “Only Connect: The Goals of Liberal Education.“ And he writes, “A liberal education is about gaining the power and the wisdom, the generosity and the freedom to connect.” And he goes on, “It is about exercising our freedom in such a way as to make a difference in the world and make a difference for more than just ourselves.” And finally, “Liberal education nurtures human freedom in the service of human community, which is to say that in the end, it celebrates love.”

Sonya Stephens’s big spirit and big heart, her intellect and her wit inspire love. Love of community, love of ideas, love of other people, love of inclusiveness. I love her spirit. I love her big laugh. I love her glasses (laughter) and I love the prospect of having Sonya Stephens as a partner and colleague among the Five College presidents. Thank you very much.

Photo of Paula A. Johnson, President, Wellesley College

Paula A. Johnson, President, Wellesley College

on behalf of the Seven Sisters

“'There cannot be too many Mount Holyokes.' More than a century later, these exuberant words still resonate. In its aspirations for social justice and equality, in its expansive and inclusive vision for higher education, Mount Holyoke was and continues to be both a beacon and a touchstone."

Paula A. Johnson, President, Wellesley College, on behalf of the Seven Sisters

I’m Paula Johnson and it is my honor to share this great occasion, the inauguration of Sonya Stephens as the 19th president of Mount Holyoke College, and to extend greetings to President Stephens on behalf of the Seven Sisters: Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Radcliffe, Smith, Vassar and Wellesley, where I’m honored to be president.

As the first of the Seven Sister colleges, Mount Holyoke has always held a special place in our collective history. From the start, you inspired us by your example and you continue to do so today. This is in no small part due to Sonya Stephens’s leadership. As most of you know, she arrived at Mount Holyoke in 2013 as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty and quickly made an impression with her energy, wisdom, intellectual vigor and humor.

Just three years later, she was named acting president. Since then, she’s accrued an extraordinary list of accomplishments, now reflected in every aspect of Mount Holyoke life. And I’d like to quote Board Chair Barbara Baumann who said, “Rarely has an acting president acted more.” I’m impressed, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. Indeed, I might have predicted as much after my own first encounters with Sonya a couple of years ago.

Our paths crossed shortly as we both took the helms of our respective institutions. We both attended the Harvard seminar for new presidents, better known as New President School. So very quickly I knew that Mount Holyoke had landed a prize, and I very quickly came to hope that she’d be named to the permanent post. I’m thrilled that this has come to pass, not only from Mount Holyoke, but for all of us who will have an opportunity to work with and to learn from this extraordinary leader.

I’m especially excited for Mount Holyoke students, now poised on the brink of adulthood, soon to join the ranks of this school’s remarkable alumnae. Will they follow in the footsteps of New Deal legend Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to a U.S. cabinet post? I think too of New York congresswoman Nita Lowey, and so many others working to secure a more just and equitable world.

Will they, like Emily Dickinson, Wendy Wasserstein and Suzan-Lori Parks write words that shift our perceptions of the world and our place within it? Or will they, like obstetrics pioneer Dr. Virginia Apgar find ways to transform science and medicine for the good of humankind? Or will they chart courageous and inspiring paths in domains yet to be charted, perhaps beyond the public eye, yet no less important? Thanks to Sonya Stephens, I have no doubt that these and so many other options will open as never before.

When the Seven Sisters were founded, women had few opportunities for higher education. Today they have many and yet I believe our role is at least as important now as it was then. Almost a full century after the passage of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote, full equality remains a distant dream. Unequal pay, sexual harassment, barriers to reproductive healthcare — these are but a few of the barriers that we’ve yet to surmount.

They are chilling signs of a renewed backlash, even as women surge into the political arena. To be sure, our missions have evolved. The concept of sisterhood has been replaced by sibling-hood, a reflection of a new appreciation for the two often constrictive vagaries of gender. But this does not mean that we reject our history. Quite to the contrary. The past seeded our present, and nowhere is this more evident than at Mount Holyoke.

This thought came to me as I read how Mount Holyoke students draped the school in black to protest pro-slavery aspects of the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. How could they not bring to mind today’s Black Lives Matter activism? Similarly, Mount Holyoke founder Mary Lyon’s commitment to educating women from poor families brings to mind today far broader diversity and inclusion efforts, efforts to which Sonya Stephens has been passionately committed. In championing science education for women, Mary Lyon also laid down the groundwork for today’s effort, efforts to break down historical barriers to STEM-field careers, another significant priority of President Stephens.

And in her then novel approach to fundraising, somewhat like today’s crowdsourcing campaigns, Mary Lyon showed the same innovative mindset that we need to thrive in the 21st century. It’s the same mindset that Sonya Stephens now brings to Mount Holyoke. So this moment is especially meaningful to me in light of the unique bond between Wellesley and Mount Holyoke. As some of you may know, Wellesley’s founders Pauline and Henry Durant took Mount Holyoke as their model.

Henry Durant served on the Mount Holyoke’s board, and Wellesley’s first president, Ada L. Howard, was a Mount Holyoke alumna. The Durants’ admiration for Mount Holyoke appears to have been boundless. “There cannot be too many Mount Holyokes,” is how Henry Durant is said to have put it. More than a century later, these exuberant words still resonate. In its aspirations for social justice and equality, in its expansive and inclusive vision for higher education, Mount Holyoke was and continues to be both a beacon and a touchstone.

There cannot be too many Mount Holyokes. For all the truth of these words, today we have but one. Happily, in President Stephens’s hands, its future is assured. Thank you.

Photo of Dame Carol Black, Principal, Newnham College, the University of Cambridge

Dame Carol Black, Principal, Newnham College, the University of Cambridge

"When I met Sonya, it was wonderful because she had that spark, that energy, something very, very special."

Dame Carol Black, Principal, Newnham College, the University of Cambridge

Good afternoon to you all. I’m Carol Black. I’m principal of Newnham College, which is one of the three women’s colleges in the University of Cambridge. And I hope you realize you’ve got a bit of Cambridge here (laughter). I really bring greetings in three forms, and the first is a little bit formal because it is a greeting from the vice chancellor of Cambridge University, and I’m going to read this out to you. The vice chancellor is Professor Steven Toope, and he requested me to read out his message of congratulations to Sonya. So Sonya, here we go.

“I take great pleasure in the success of any of our Cambridge alumnae. It is especially gratifying to see a member of our collegiate community rising to the top of a sister institution and contributing so decisively to the education of the next generation of women leaders. Sonya’s career as a researcher and university leader is the embodiment of the college’s founder call to go forward, attempt great things, accomplished great things. Her formal inauguration as Mount Holyoke’s College’s 19th president is a cause for great celebration. My congratulations to you, Sonya, on this auspicious day, on behalf of your friends and colleagues at Cambridge — the original one” (laughter).

You heard from Rosemary a little bit of what it’s like to be a student, an undergraduate in the University of Cambridge. We try very hard to take the best possible students and then we try to make them better still. We want to stretch their minds. We want them to be innovative. We want them to be able to stand their ground and argue their ground in an appropriate way. And then we want them to go forth. And some go forth in the United Kingdom, but some like Sonya go forth and come to Mount Holyoke, and here I believe you do have a bit of what Cambridge believes it produces. It produces great people to be great leaders.

I met Sonya for the first time in 2013 when I came to find out what Mount Holyoke was like. You’re older than my own college, which was founded in 1871, and I’d heard such wonderful things about you, and I still remember the amazement of your buildings when I first came, of the beauty of the gardens and of the joy of just sitting in your chairs and just thinking.

And when I met Sonya, it was wonderful because she had that spark, that energy, something very, very special, and I wanted to stay connected to her. I wanted to share some of my challenges, which are quite similar to the challenges that you have here in your college, and I’m deeply grateful that we have managed to say in touch.

My second greeting does come from Newnham itself, from a college that is one of the 31 colleges in the University of Cambridge, and it’s very proud to be a women’s college. I think there’s no better time than this to be a women’s college, and I’m delighted, absolutely delighted to be with you today.

My final message really is for Sonya herself. I met someone very, very special five years ago, and even though I had to say to my own college on Friday, I’m not going to be there for you for the opening of the academic year, I’m going to share the time with someone I hugely respect.

You have a great woman to be your 19th president and I’m absolutely delighted to be here.

Photo of the Mount Holyoke College Glee Club singing at the Inauguration of Sonya Stephens

The Mount Holyoke College Glee Club

Stephanie Council, Director of Choral Ensembles and Lecturer in Music

“What Shines”
music by Nathan Jones, poem by Marjory Heath Wentworth ’80

Photo of Maria Z. Mossaides ’73, President, Alumnae Association at the podium

Maria Z. Mossaides ’73, President, Alumnae Association

on behalf of the alumnae

"President Stephens, we applaud you for defining the Mount Holyoke community so broadly, embracing diversity, equity and inclusion for all students, faculty, staff and alumnae."

Maria Z. Mossaides ’73, President, Alumnae Association, on behalf of the alumnae

I’m Maria Mossaides, class of 1973, and I serve as the president of the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association. Mount Holyoke was founded 181 years ago as the first institution in New England to offer higher education to women. Our founder, Mary Lyon, and her graduates, proved that women were as intellectually capable as men.

We are an institution of trailblazers. Mary Lyon had a very bold vision. She was not only offering a college-level curriculum to her graduates, but was expecting that their training was such that they could assume leadership roles. And she exhorted them to go forward, attempt great things, accomplish great things, go where no one else is willing to go.

Mary Lyon understood that her students would need to support each other in their pioneering efforts to launch careers. She also recognized that her graduates, grateful for the education and support they received, would in turn sustain Mount Holyoke. She would not be disappointed, but instead would be pleased by the fanatical loyalty Mount Holyoke alumnae have for their college.

President Stephens, we applaud you for defining the Mount Holyoke community so broadly, embracing diversity, equity and inclusion for all students, faculty, staff and alumnae.

We look forward to the leadership that will ensure, in the words of our “Alma Mater,” that “Mount Holyoke forever shall be.” And we expect that through your leadership Mount Holyoke will continue to thrive and continue its leadership in the 21st century.

On behalf of the 38,178 living alumnae, I am honored to welcome you as our 19th president and pledge that we stand willing and eager to support you with the same devotion that those early graduates gave to Mary Lyon. We trust that you too will serve as a trailblazer in promoting women’s education and the liberal arts, in eliminating every form of bias, and in sustaining the unique Mount Holyoke community which we treasure across the globe.

Thank you.

Photo of Adelita Simon ’19 at the podium

Adelita Simon ’19, President, Student Government Association

on behalf of the students

"With action under President Stephens' acting presidency, the work of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative began with her charging the initiative group of students, faculty and staff who led the committee. These efforts of the DEI led to the first BOOM! conference and to the hiring of Mount Holyoke’s first ever chief diversity officer."


Adelita Simon ’19, President, Student Government Association, on behalf of the students

“Hola, bienvenidos todos.” Good afternoon, everyone. Distinguished guest, community members, faculty and staff, alumnae, students, my name is Adelita Simon and I am this year’s Student Government Association president.

I am so humbled to be speaking on a very special day that celebrates this College, and truly honored to speak on behalf of some of the most amazing people I know. Students. Students who are change-makers in their own right, who are, every day, improving this institution and the world around them. Now being at Mount Holyoke for my fourth year, I recognize how special Mount Holyoke really is. In particular, how it acknowledges the values of intersectionality of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, ability, age, national origin, religion-spiritual identities and so much more.

This intersectionality, which is in our classrooms, our core curricular activities, our personal relationships. And with that intersectionality comes responsibility. Responsibility to ensure that there’s connections, communication, resources for those facets of identity.

Twenty-five days ago, I welcomed students back to campus, challenging them to share their stories in the best ways they could. President Sonya Stephens, I encourage you to do the same.

From the few months I’ve really gotten to know President Stephens, there are three facts I learned that I want to share with everyone. One is that she is a first-generation student, two that she’s a mother and a mother to a son who is now attending college, and three, well, that she’s British and also (laughter) now an American citizen.

These three pieces of your story have helped me to really begin to see you as a person in which I can connect to. And I challenge you to further share your story with the entire community because we want to know who you are as a person. I hope through your few years as acting president, you were able to truly grow, learn and embrace Mount Holyoke, its community and where it hopes to go.

As we hear your story and you hear our stories, let that remind you of your responsibility and our responsibility as a community. We have a responsibility to be open to hearing from others and listening actively. We have a responsibility to provide resources, representation and support for our community culture. For us to learn from each other, mutually respect each other, support each other, for us to share our leadership and to have accountability to each other.

And these go to all our scales of community. Our Mount Holyoke community, our Five College community, our community within our neighboring towns and our global community. It’s important that our whole community is engaged at all levels, working towards action that will cultivate the environment in which we aspire to work together.

With action under President Stephens' acting presidency, the work of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative began with her charging the initiative group of students, faculty and staff who led the committee. These efforts of the DEI led to the first BOOM! conference and to the hiring of Mount Holyoke’s first ever chief diversity officer. These are important steps in moving our community forward, and I challenge you, President Stephens, to not let this momentum stop and to continue pushing on student concerns, feedback and ideas in regards to DEI.  

I have come to love Mount Holyoke for what it is, for what it was, and for, and for what I hope it will become. And I’ve really come to love each of us individually in this community for who we are, who we want to be — and I do so through our mistakes, our faults, our accomplishments and our successes.

It’s no lie that Mount Holyoke wasn’t created for many of the students attending today, but our existence on this campus and in this community is paving the way for future generations of students like us. For us to see and experience all of us working together towards creating a common purpose and victories, and to see and acknowledge that we are all on this learning journey together.

In this process, we have made this our home, our MoHome, and I believe in the power of us to form an empathetic, diverse, equitable and inclusive community that will spread beyond the gates after our time here. Our stories matter, as well as our ability to hear and listen to each other’s stories. Our stories are stronger together. They create a tapestry which tells a collective Mount Holyoke story and global story, one that shows the beauty in all our differences.

So I end by saying, President Stephens, “bienvenida.” Welcome to your official role as president. We challenge you to continue your commitment in your role, now to initiating and pursuing an empathetic and diverse, equitable and inclusive community, and for you to continue sharing your story.

Thank you.

Photo of Cindy Legare at the podium

Cynthia Legare ’82, Benefits and Training Manager, Human Resources

on behalf of the staff

"The leader of a community sets the tone. Throughout her time here as the dean of faculty and acting president, and now as our president, Sonya Stephens has worked to set a tone of inclusion, of innovation and a strong desire to be curious, to reflect and to move us decisively forward."

Cynthia Legare ’82, Benefits and Training Manager, Human Resources, on behalf of the staff

Good afternoon, honored guests. I am Cindy Laguerre. I am deeply honored to be with you today on behalf of the staff of Mount Holyoke College and to join the many voices welcoming our new president, Sonya Stephens.

As we celebrate our past, our present, and our future of course, I would like to share, in keeping with the theme here, three things that I know about Mount Holyoke College.

Number one, I know our staff. I come from a long line of staff members. My great-grandmother worked for 25 years on the personal staff of President Mary Woolley. My grandfather worked at this place for 40 years in facilities management. Both of my parents and numerous other relatives have spent decades in food service, campus police, administrative offices and facilities management.

It’s been my pleasure to work here for 28 years, and I can tell you this, that the mission of Mount Holyoke College rings true with those of us who spend our days making this place a home for our students.

I know our students and alumnae. I’m a proud pegasus from the class of 1982 (woots, laughter). Forty years ago, as I sat in the amphitheater, wearing my newly purchased MHC red T-shirt, I thought, “Is this place right for me? Do I belong here?” And I’m happy to say that I did. Surrounded by so many bright and accomplished women, and being a shy and introverted commuter student, I wondered secretly if I had what it took to be a Mount Holyoke woman. And when my eldest daughter decided to choose this place for her college experience, I was thrilled. And each year at Convocation as we gather to kick off the new year, I am still in awe of the bright and accomplished women that choose this place as their home for at least the school year.

And finally, I know our community. The following passage from the staff handbook describes community this way: “A college does not become a community by naming itself, by so naming itself. Community is a dynamic condition, difficult and necessary to achieve. Reached by active synthesis, by the consensus of free wills and free intelligences agreeing to pursue objectives in common in an atmosphere of general sympathy, forbearance, respect and trust.”

As a staff member, as a student, as an alumna and as a parent, I tell you unequivocally that our community is strong. And in a world where discord has seemingly become the norm, it is a privilege to work at this institution and to have such a capable and caring leader in our new president, Sonya Stephens.

The leader of a community sets the tone. Throughout her time here as the dean of faculty and acting president, and now as our president, Sonya Stephens has worked to set a tone of inclusion, of innovation and a strong desire to be curious, to reflect and to move us decisively forward.

And I do know this; with President Stephens, or Sonya as most of us know her, leading our work, I am more confident than ever that Mount Holyoke forever shall be. Together, we are intelligent, we are strong, we are capable, we are a community, we are Mount Holyoke.

Congratulations, Sonya. Thank you.

Photo of Amy Martin at the podium

Amy E. Martin, Director, Weissman Center for Leadership; Professor of English on the Emma B. Kennedy Foundation

on behalf of the faculty

"How do we welcome someone who is already such a central member of our community, who has devoted herself tirelessly and fully to the mission of Mount Holyoke, to an inclusive women’s education, to the liberal arts, and to advocating passionately for the continued relevance and vital importance of what we do and who we are?"

Amy E. Martin, Director, Weissman Center for Leadership; Professor of English on the Emma B. Kennedy Foundation, on behalf of the faculty

I am Amy Martin. Today, on behalf of the faculty, I welcome all of you, students, staff, other faculty colleagues, alumnae, trustees and esteemed visitors and friends of the College. And I also welcome Sonya Stephens as she becomes the 19th president of Mount Holyoke.

Perhaps “welcome” seems a strange salutation from us to you, Sonya, when you have already led us for five years, first as dean of faculty and then as acting president, and when you have already accomplished so much.

How do we welcome someone who is already such a central member of our community, who has devoted herself tirelessly and fully to the mission of Mount Holyoke, to an inclusive women’s education, to the liberal arts, and to advocating passionately for the continued relevance and vital importance of what we do and who we are?

It seems a little strange to welcome you when you have already led us so ably and when we see you every day as you work and engage with students, faculty, staff and alumnae.

But if we remember what the word welcome really means, it’s not strange at all. “Welcome,” at its roots in old English, means, “to greet gladly.” To welcome not only a guest but also someone already among us, someone whom we know, someone we embrace. In this case, someone who has stepped up to lead us, to represent us in the world, to engage with us in common and in uncommon ways in difficult conversations, and to build and strengthen our community.

Welcoming is about fellow feeling and common purpose. It expresses bonds both small and large, individual and collective, local and global. Those crucial connections have marked your time here and that mark your vision for the years to come.

As a distinguished scholar of Baudelaire, visual culture and women’s writing, as we’ve heard, you understand the way that intellectual commitment and excellent scholarship ground the kind of education we offer here. As a leader, I’ve seen you stand up for what you believe in and act with deep conviction. As an innovator, you seek ways to enhance our work in the liberal arts and to demonstrate its organic relationship to endeavors and service outside of our campus.

I welcome you for all those reasons, but in particular for what I’ve learned as I’ve watched you out in the world over the last year. In particular because of your true and deep and fierce love of Mount Holyoke. That is the remarkable and essential quality you possess that will sure you, surely make you a successful president, for what binds our community is that kind of fierce love.

So, we welcome the opportunity to work with you to make Mount Holyoke manifest all of its possibilities, to build on our traditions and to imagine and enact our futurity. To live well and respectfully in our present community in all its beauty, diversity and with the fellowship that the warm word “welcome” signifies. You embody this. We need so much that spirit of warm welcome that you bring to us and that we bring to you, now more than ever.

Welcome to our familiar and dear friend.

Photo of the Symbols of the Office of the President: the key, the charter and the seal

Presentation of the Symbols of Office and Investiture of the President

Barbara M. Baumann ’77, Chair of the Board of Trustees

"On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I present you, Sonya Stephens, 19th president of Mount Holyoke College, with the symbols of the Office of the Presidency. These representations of office mark your formal investiture of president."

Presentation of the Symbols of Office and Investiture of the President
Barbara M. Baumann ’77, Chair of the Board of Trustees

It is now my great honor to ask Sonya Stephens to join me on the podium for the three-symbol presentation. On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I present you, Sonya Stephens, 19th president of Mount Holyoke College, with the symbols of the Office of the Presidency.

These representations of office, provided by the College archivist, mark your formal investiture of president.

First, I present to you an original key to the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. This key was salvaged from the fire that destroyed the building in 1896. May its continuing existence be your reminder of the enduring legacy of Mount Holyoke’s founder, Mary Lyon. But for her courage, neither we nor Mount Holyoke would be here today celebrating your installation as president of one of the oldest institutions for higher education in the United States. The key.  

Second, I give you the Mount Holyoke College Charter. Approved by the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on the 11th of February, 1836. This charter has been amended over time as the College as evolved. In 1888, Mount Holyoke was granted collegiate status and named Mount Holyoke Seminary and College. In 1893, again by act of the Senate and House of the Representatives of the Commonwealth, the institution simply became Mount Holyoke College. May this charter remind you, Sonya, that this college’s tradition is one of dynamic transformation.

Third, I bestow upon you the official Mount Holyoke College seal, engraved on a bronze medallion designed for this day. Like the charter, the rendering of the seal has changed over time as the College has changed. But the core elements of the design have always remained constant.

On behalf of the Board of the Trustees of Mount Holyoke College, I now charge you with all of the rights and responsibilities of the presidency of Mount Holyoke College.


Photo of Sonya Stephens at the podium during her Inauguration

Sonya Stephens, Nineteenth President of Mount Holyoke College

"It is with deep gratitude for your support, and an admiration for, and in celebration of all that Mount Holyoke is, that I stand before you today and accept these symbols of office and this charge, cognizant of the responsibilities that they represent, and of the honor it is to be in the service of this remarkable institution and its members."

Inaugural Address
Sonya Stephens, Nineteenth President of Mount Holyoke College

Thank you all.

Chair of the Board of Trustees Barbara Baumann, President of the Alumnae Association Maria Mossaides, current former trustees, members of the Board of Directors of the Association, former Mount Holyoke President Lynn Pasquerella, former chairs of the Board of Trustees and presidents of the Association, Mount Holyoke’s extraordinary alumnae, faculty, staff and students, distinguished guests and colleagues from around the nation and the world, my family and my friends.

It is with deep gratitude for your support, and an admiration for, and in celebration of all that Mount Holyoke is, that I stand before you today and accept these symbols of office and this charge, cognizant of the responsibilities that they represent, and of the honor it is to be in the service of this remarkable institution and its members. I am so grateful for your presence today.

As you have already heard, there are many here who have brought me to this moment and to this place, both literally and figuratively. My parents, who are sitting just over here, have always wondered, I think, quite what was coming next (laughter). You probably still are (laughter). And yet, they have been unrelenting in their love for and their belief in me.

The friends from high school, college and every other phase of my life, from the U.K. to France, from Canada and the U.S., are here in person or in spirit. Among those here today are individuals, as again you have heard, who played a part in admitting me to college at 17, who have seen me through my undergraduate and graduate experiences, who are or who have been departmental colleagues and fellow French scholars and “dix-neuviémistes.” There are people here who brought me to America.

There are some in my thoughts who could not be present, who are no longer with us, and whose influence remains, whose voice I sometimes hear echoed in my own. And then there is this extraordinary community that is Mount Holyoke. An extraordinary community of alumnae, faculty, staff and students, Five College colleagues and representatives of the South Hadley community.

Last and very much not least, there is my family. My remarkable menfolk (laughter). My husband, Jon, and my sons. Louis, streaming this in a residence hall in his second week of college, 3,336 miles away (laughter) — if he didn’t get a better offer (laughter) — and Oscar. Your seemingly endless support and love for me and your respect for this work that takes me away from you so often are testimony every day to what equality for women, equality for all truly looks like.

It is, then, the power and generosity of individuals and communities at every stage in my life that has lit the path and sustained my effort and that has always shaped my understanding and commitments. And that is especially true here at Mount Holyoke, binding me to you and to the bricks and mortar, the leaded lights, the rolling landscapes, to the clanking radiators and the core values of this college that I have come to love and now to lead.

It is for a reason that we talk of this place at home. What makes this home so very special is the value that we place on the exceptional differences within it and the opportunity to be in community with each other, continually learning to be better. This is what is transformative. We discover who we are in places that expose us to difference.

For me, that first and enduring moment of discovery was in France and in French.

I was always what they call an “integratively motivated language learner,” committed to a language because it enabled me to connect with people and their experience first and foremost, and then to the literature and culture as a expression of these. I didn’t just want to learn French. What I really wanted from first contact, and then purposefully from adolescence, was to be French (laughter).

The discovery of other places, other languages, other ways of seeing and reading enabled me to grow in my ways of thinking and in my sense of self. There was, in the desire to be changed by the learning and the experience, both a critical moment and a critical conception of what it means to fully embrace the unknown, to lose the self in a quest for understanding of, and communication with, an other. Then after long immersion to bring the fullest, retrospective and active reading to every experience, to every encounter.

In this pursuit of understanding, everything is a linguistic puzzle, a cultural index, a dictionary of signs and images. These name or represent the objects and the systems that we read in the complexities of a culture we enter and unravel. It is this cultural literacy that facilitates the social processes and make more inclusive and meaningful the environments in which we live and work in our diverse and transnational communities, and especially here at Mount Holyoke. As Gaby Hinsliff described it in an article just last week, speaking another language is first and foremost “a gesture of empathy and respect,” “a fundamental willingness to put oneself out in order to put someone else at ease. Speaking foreign languages is about meeting people halfway, building bridges and accepting differences.” And underpinning all of this, the very structures of a language and the expressions of a culture experienced comparatively, “shed light on a different way of thinking.”

And so when I began to study French poetry, what captivated me after years of studying grammar, as sensemaking, was the notion of poetic “ungrammaticality,” the encoded unreadability of the text, its ambiguity, and the ways in which as readers we try to impose order or meaning, gaining access to significance only through retroactive or hermeneutic reading. Such work, the work of sensemaking, enables us to “start seeing the structures that form a cultural reality.”

In August 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates published an article in The Atlantic entitled “Acting French,” where he describes his own experience of discovery at Middlebury’s French language school, a place, where he says, his “mouth felt alien and his ear slightly off,” perhaps especially in the recitation of Baudelaire, Verlaine and Lamartine. And a place where his past educational experiences and his failures were brought into sharp relief by the better preparation and greater social capital of others despite a separate and uniquely black culture of achievement. One which he says, and I quote, “failed to make him into a high-achieving student,” but it “succeeded at making him into a writer.”

Of his experience of learning French that summer he writes, “I was a boy haunted by questions. Why do the lilies close at night? Why does my father always say ‘I can dig it’? And who really killed the dinosaurs? And why is my life so unlike everything I see on TV? That feeling — the not knowing, the longing for knowing and the eventual answer is love and youth to me. In my long voyage through the sea of language, that was my first sighting of land. I now knew how much I didn’t know. The feeling of discovery and understanding that came from this was incredible. It was the first moment,” he said, “when I thought I might survive the sea.“

Coates recounts how words of encouragement from a mentor, a quotation from French literature remain locked, inaccessible to him. And seeking explanation because it mattered to know, he received not only the advice, but, he said, he “understood something about the function of language,” and “why understanding partitives and collective nouns was important.” Learning French for Ta-Nehisi Coates was a way of rebooting his imagination, of living in wonder, enjoying confusion, “not understanding, and reaching at various things,” he said.

Like Coates, the not knowing and the longing for knowing our love and youth for me. And my first sighting of land was a form of discovery that entailed a willingness, not just across the Channel and then Europe and the Atlantic, but always to seek new waters in the quest for the as-yet-unknown. A quest, despite the deep challenge of different canons and why they exist, for an understanding of the world and its cultures, for an understanding of difference more personal, more real, and more lasting than any Entente Cordiale.

In a recent book “Sensemaking: The Power of the Humanities in the Age of the Algorithm,” Christian Madsbjerg makes a compelling case for the activity of the title. He says, it is “an ancient practice of cultural inquiry. With sensemaking,” he argues, “we use human intelligence to develop a sensitivity toward meaningful differences — what matters to other people as well as ourselves.” While my story and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s narrative about language acquisition and cultural curiosity at Middlebury, describe a certain point of access to discovery and to self-discovery and some convergence, what they underscore is the way that the quest for understanding and the pursuit of knowledge across disciplines calls upon every part of our humanity.

This quest is at the heart of the liberal arts from Socrates and Cicero to the present, and what guides a Mount Holyoke education in the 21st century, whatever the disciplinary prisms through which it is experienced. The special opportunity afforded by the liberal arts is that of intensive inquiry and exchange across a diverse spheres of knowledge, and as Mark William Roche has argued, “concerning the highest of human values.” Exchange that happens with peers and faculty invested with each other in this pursuit. In this place of learning, where intellectual challenge is in all that we do, where pursuing ideas and collaboration is a lifestyle, we choose inquiry and discovery over solutionism. We know the value of a liberal arts college and of this one in particular. We know that what happens here is extraordinary and transformative. We know that the attributes of a liberal education — creativity, critical thinking, decision-making, logical and persuasive argumentation, communication skills, and yes, problem-solving too —  are core to what we do, to all that we do and that a big part of that education is preparation for broader social engagement and action.

Most importantly, the ways in which we engage in this inquiry and the disciplines of the liberal arts investigate what makes us human, and the institutions, structures and systems that might inhibit or support the fullest expression and realization of our humanity and of other life forms on our planet. As Ella T. Grasso, Mount Holyoke class of 1940 and the 83rd governor of Connecticut said when she addressed the graduating class in 1975, “This is the point of your education: to place human interests and ideals at the heart of your existence, to see, to recognize, to understand. That is the spirit of humanism.”

In a deeply disturbing and important work, “Age of Anger: A History of the Present,” Pankaj Mishra offers a bleak diagnosis of our current era of renewed nationalism, hatred of invented enemies, racial violence and misogyny.

He concludes that “It has become,” this is a quotation, “It has become impossible to obscure or deny the great chasm, first explored by Rousseau, between an elite that seizes modernity’s choicest fruits while disdaining older truths and uprooted masses, who, on finding themselves cheated of the same fruits, recoil into cultural supremacism, populism and rancorous brutality. The contradictions and costs of a minority’s progress, long suppressed by historical revisionism, blustery denial and aggressive equivocation, have become visible on a planetary scale. They encourage the suspicion that the present order is built upon force and fraud; they incite a broader and more apocalyptic mood than we have ever witnessed before.”

Seeking to explain the origins of this, probing emotions and an astonishing breadth of ideas, offering an extensive bibliographic essay to bring his readers to fuller understanding and citing a list of thought partners in the acknowledgments because, he says, “There are just too many political contacts, intellectual idioms and mentalities in this book, for any reader to master on their own,” Mishra’s book stands as a sort of journey through the liberal arts and as a “cri de cœur” for the kind of sensemaking that we now urgently need. What he describes as “some truly transformative thinking about both the self and the world.” This is at the heart of our work here.

It is in this context then that we must shape a future for Mount Holyoke and the common good to continue to prepare individuals for such transformative thinking, individuals who will live up to the expectations of the first black major party candidate for the U.S. presidency, former U.S. representative and one-time Mount Holyoke faculty member, Shirley Chisholm. That they will, and I quote her, “assure that the goals of our government, of our nation, are the purest, the most moral, the most democratic and the most noble. Let us decide right now,” she said, “to ignite our inner fires of commitment, idealism and determination. In this moment and in this place, this is what we must do. We must start here to shape and sustain the kinds of communities and the social order that we want to see to ensure that our goals are the purest, most moral, most democratic and the most noble” shaped by idealism, wrought by determination.

And so as we press on with the priorities already outlined in the Plan for 2021, with more vigor, yet-higher standards and expectations, and with renewed commitment, vision and energy, there are some new initiatives that recommend themselves as imperative and urgent.

First, we will reassert the relevance and power of a Mount Holyoke education and of a women’s college that is the most inclusive. A women’s college that is bold and expansive in its understanding of its mission and of gender itself, a college that fully embraces the exploration of identity and at which individuals can discover and define themselves away from dominant cultural norms. This, it seems to me was at the heart of what Adrienne Rich, in another time and at another women’s college, described as “the soul of a women’s college.”

We will also center inclusivity in the fullest way, challenging inequity, acknowledging prior histories of exclusion and past wrongs, and building upon decades of student resistance and protest, as well as on work here by those students, by faculty and staff who have gone before us, and those engaged in that work here and now. We will together determine and in short order, the best way to further institutionalize these efforts, visibly and programmatically with deep collaboration across the existing centers and departments, with the cultural houses and other programs on campus and in higher education more broadly, in order to work here and every day toward an anti-racist, anti-discriminatory and equitable community on campus, and to promote such a world beyond it. Only by centering these efforts in this way, by resourcing them, and most importantly by continuing the individual learning to which I, and we must all, commit, can we realize this vision.

We will continue to build an inclusive administration, staff and faculty and to reimagine, as we have always done, a curriculum that looks critically forward as well as to the past, and that connects academic discipline with creativity and existential inquiry, that links self-discovery and intellectual pursuits both to experiential opportunities and to that higher purpose.

In line with these commitments and in this moment of deep divisions, this age of anger, we will launch a new public lecture series, one that promotes conversations across ideological difference, bringing together panels of experts of every political stripe to engage with each other and with us, and to model within our community what freedom of thought and speech and learning from difference can look like when it is done with courage, compassion and with skillful care.

To respond to the faculty’s express desire to teach together across disciplines and in the true spirit of contemporary learning and transformative thinking, we will create opportunities for team-taught courses that tackle the most pressing and salient issues of our time, and in so doing, create for students a new sophomore experience that develops the capacities we associate with liberal learning, those most needed for a better world.

And because this work needs to be life- and planet-sustaining, we will push forward to make the necessary investments here on campus in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will promote local and global food justice and sustainability. And we will invest in further opportunities for environmental education across the curriculum and through our campus Living Laboratory and the Miller Worley Center for the Environment.

This work is our work. It is the sensemaking work of our era and our commitment to continued human endeavor and change. The moment demands nothing less, for as Naomi Barry-Pérez, director of the Civil Rights Center in the U.S. Department of Labor and class of 1996, wrote to me this week, “This is our place of growth and respect and freedom.” This is our commitment in and to Mount Holyoke.

Whether we approached that work as a scientist or a sculptor, through critical social thought or creative writing, through gender studies or geography, or through the study of languages, literature and culture, we are bound together in the longing for learning in the quest for Emerson’s “new and” — still — “unapproachable America” and world, in this commitment to the highest purpose of Mount Holyoke. A purpose that caused that America and that world forward.

This education is not a luxury. It is a need. Like language and poetry and the worlds and communities and meanings they draw us into, it is the way we discover empathy and forget ourselves. The way we forge our relationships, a collective future and a new America. As Audre Lorde explains, “The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives, has direct bearing upon the product which we live and upon the changes that we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This is poetry as illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are — until the poem — nameless and formless.”

This work of ideas is illumination itself. And my hope for and commitment to the future of Mount Holyoke is that here we will pursue and name our ideas and our passions, and that here, within a light that realizes our magic, we will give form to the lives and to the vision that in their turn will shape that future.

Thank you.

Photo of Chris Benfey at the podium

Christopher Benfey, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English

"I thought I might share three poems by Emily Dickinson on the loose theme of the arts and sciences."

Closing: Three poems by Emily Dickinson, class of 1849
Christopher Benfey, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of English

My name is Chris Benfey. It’s a great honor to deliver the last word at this joyous occasion for President Sonya Stephens. I thought I might share three poems by Emily Dickinson on the loose theme of the arts and sciences. Dickinson attended Mount Holyoke for one year, the academic year, 1847 to 1848. It happened to be Mary Lyon’s last year of teaching at the seminary, and Dickinson studied chemistry with Mary Lyon. We know one detail of that class. We know that Emily Dickinson was very excited to learn the properties of sulfuric acid.

Poem number one.

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.“

Poem number two, and here you have to imagine the chemistry class.

“‘Faith’ is a fine invention
For Gentlemen who see!
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency!“


“I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –

Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise – “

For our new president.


Download a PDF version of the programs

Inauguration Panels   Inauguration Ceremony


Jon Western, Sarah Adelman, Kate Ballantine, Thomas Ciufo

Panel I: “Making Change, Making Knowledge, Maker Culture”

Moderated by Jon Western, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty and Carol Hoffmann Collins ’63 Professor of International Relations

Saturday, September 29, 2018
9:30 am
Gamble Auditorium

Panel I: “Making Change, Making Knowledge, Maker Culture”

Moderated by Jon Western, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty and Carol Hoffmann Collins ’63 Professor of International Relations

This transcript is lightly edited.

Jon Western
I want to welcome you this morning to this faculty panel. Thank you for coming, and for coming this weekend to celebrate the Inauguration of Sonya Stephens as the 19th President of Mount Holyoke College. The community is excited for this event and this day and for Sonya’s leadership. We’re just grateful that she’s stepping into this leadership role for the College, and to continue the vision and leadership that she’s provided over the last couple of years as the acting president, and before that, as the dean of faculty.

My name is Jon Western. I’m the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Dean of Faculty. I am also the Carol Hoffmann Collins Class of 1963 Professor of International Relations. I’ve been here since 2000, and love this institution, and the students and faculty and staff that I get to work with every single day. We’re very excited to be here to celebrate the Inauguration today. We have a very special panel set up for you, to showcase some of the work that our faculty engage in every single day with our students.

The title of this panel is called “Making Change, Making Knowledge, and Maker Culture.” We’re asking three faculty members, Professor Sarah Adelman from the Department of Economics, Professor Thomas Ciufo from the Department of Music, and Professor Kate Ballantine from the Department of Environmental Studies to share with you, with us a little bit about their work. Not just their scholarship, but their engagement with students, and how their work from restoration ecology, from music, and from applied research in economics prepares our students for incredibly complex challenges that they’ll be experiencing as they leave Mount Holyoke.

And the ways in which our contemporary research in the classroom, in the labs, in the studios, working with students, prepare our students for understandings of really deep contemporary challenges and problems. And how our pedagogies, both in the classroom and in the research environments support our students. I’ll be asking a few questions in a conversational format. But what I’d like to do is just introduce each of the three faculty members that we have here this morning.

Professor Sarah Adelman to my far left, is an associate professor of economics. She’s an applied microeconomist, and her research focus is in health and nutrition in developing countries. She’s spent time in Uganda researching her thesis, and has worked in Malawi and Liberia as well. She has also come off of a four-year term as the senior class dean. So, while maintaining a very active research agenda and outstanding teaching, she served as the class dean for the senior class for four years. She received her PhD in economics from the University of Maryland at College Park and she has a BA from Stanford University. She’s been at Mount Holyoke since 2009. Thomas Ciufo is an assistant professor of music. Thomas is a sound artist and improviser, composer and music technologist, working at the intersections of electronic music, electro acoustic performance, sonic art, and emerging digital technologies. Thomas came to Mount Holyoke in 2017 as part of a new innovation tenure-track hiring line and we’re very excited that he is here.

His research and teaching interests include, audio recording and production, acoustic ecology, innovative approaches to teaching, learning, and career development. He is serving as the principal investigator for our MEDIAL Project, which is our art and technology projects that are grant funded by the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. He’s also a faculty affiliate in the Makerspace. He joined us, as I said, in 2017 and holds a PhD and an MA from Brown University, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Northern California.

Kate Ballantine is an associate professor of environmental studies. Kate’s research uses restored ecosystems as an opportunity to learn about the ecosystem processes and development. She is the founder and developer of the Restoration Ecology Program here at Mount Holyoke, and you can often see her out and about in hip waders and boots with her and her students, conducting basic research and applied research to investigate how restored wetlands develop and function, and what restoration methodologies may stimulate desirable — or in some cases undesirable — ecosystem functions. Professor Ballantine joined us in 2012, and holds a PhD in MS from Cornell University and an undergraduate degree from Smith College.

We’re very delighted to have the three of you here to talk a little bit about your research. We’ll talk for about 30 to 40 minutes or so, and then we’ll open it up for your conversations. But the first question I’d like to ask, and maybe each of you can respond in a couple of minutes, just explaining how your work engages students directly, and what types of work and experiences do your students get in your classes and your research projects.

Sarah Adelman
I’m an applied economist, which means that I’m a numbers cruncher, really. That actually offers a lot of fun opportunities for my students, who are interested in learning a little bit about datasets, learning about statistical methods. As Jon mentioned, my research is around health and nutrition, and thinking about how households make decisions around health and nutrition.

But I also have a side interest in conflict, and what are the economic causes and consequences of conflict. This is an area that my students are really interested in. A few years ago, this is kind of where we are right now in the research, I gave a group of students access to a large dataset that follows households in northern Uganda from a period of internal displacement. So, conflict induced internal displacement, and kind of through their resettlement back to their homes after the conflict.

We have data for when they were living in internally displaced persons camps, and we have data from when they were actually able to go back home. So, my students now, I gave them access to the dataset. I gave them a little bit of literature and I said, you find something interesting in this. What are the interesting stories? I have students working on, what does conflict do to pro-social behavior? What does conflict do? What does exposure to conflict do to people’s willingness to participate in public projects? What is their willingness to vote? What is their level of trust in their government?

These are all ideas that my students have been able to develop together. Then, they work together on, how are we going to answer those questions. I’m almost irrelevant in this process, which is kind of wonderful. Really, it’s just getting together and thinking about, okay, well, what information do we have, and how can we use that to answer this question.

Thomas Ciufo
First, I just want to thank Jon for inviting me today, and congratulate Sonya on this exciting day. I’m very excited to be here. As Jon mentioned, this is just my second year at the College. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here. And that was highlighted as I started to think about just a few ideas and experiences to share, that highlight how the College is thinking about innovation. And the challenge was narrowing it down to just a few examples.

I’m going to start by just acknowledging that, music technology may not be a field that you’re that familiar with. Nor, maybe, have you heard the term “sonic art” before. But broadly speaking, my work fits under the umbrella of music technology. Sometimes that means I’m creating an original sound work in a studio or on location environment. Sometimes it means I’m performing live electronic music.

As Jon mentioned, I also have additional research areas I’ll mention in a minute. But this is an example of a live performance of improvised electro acoustic music. This is with a collaborator. We’re both playing computer extended instruments. This means, we have instruments that may look semi familiar, like an electric guitar, or a north Indian classical sitar, but these instruments have been extended through sensor technologies that, then communicate in real time to computational systems, computer software that we write, that transforms our sound live and reintroduces that into the performance context.

That’s a little bit about one example. That ties in with a really exciting collaboration I was able to do last spring. As I think we’ll all acknowledge, we’re very excited about working with our students in many different kinds of ways, in addition to the classroom. I had the opportunity to create a collaborative piece with the Mount Holyoke College Glee Club, and their incredible music director, Stephanie Council. This was a workshop process that took us about four or five months of collaborative exploration.

I started by recording the choir, doing some simple musical gestures, took that back to my studio to work with it. Then, through an iterative process of trial and error exploration, we developed together a sort of combination text and graphic score that would steer the trajectory of the performance. The piece ended up being for recorded and live performed, treble voices, as well as real-time computer processing. That’s the picture on the left. My live processing rig, and a computer-controlled pipe organ. The pipe organ in Abby Chapel can be remotely controlled, which is pretty interesting process. This was really a wonderful experience to be able to work with these students, and it’s paying dividends.

Again, this year, I’m doing a seminar, a hybrid seminar applied class in electronic and computer music and experimental music. And some of the students in this group are in the class, and they have firsthand experience about a particular example of experimental music. That’s one example. I also want to mention some new initiatives at the College too, in particular. Jon mentioned the, the Sherman Fairchild Foundation Grant, which has given us an incredible support system, as well as the College’s additional buy-in to develop some new facilities.

Really, those new facilities are about creating new opportunities for our students, the new types of coursework, and the new experiences we can bring to the student. The two pictures on the left are our first new music technology lab built over the previous summer. This is in Pratt. This is a 12-station lab that allows students to do hands-on work in electronic and computer music. They have a small mini keyboard, an analog synthesizer and current software. This supports introductory music and technology courses, as well as other courses for students across the campus.

The lab on the right is our newest facility that was built over the last winter break. That’s a more advanced single-user and small group studio. This space supported a new projects and sound and media arts class that I offered last spring, a interdisciplinary course open to students from across the campus. We had choreographers, dancers, filmmakers, environmental scientists, all working together. And this class grew into a really strong collaboration with Bernadine Mellis [ Five College Senior Lecturer in Film and Video Production] and her class in advanced video production. I had students designing sound and music scores to accompany original film works by some of our other students. This is a four-year grant project. We’re starting the second year this year. We’re investing a lot of the resources in the Makerspace, which I’ll talk about in a minute, and then we’ll be continuing across the span of the next three years. This has been a big effort by a number of people, including much effort before I even arrived on campus. I’m really appreciative that these resources have come together to support these new initiatives.

I just wanted to mention briefly one other new course that I’ve introduced to the College. I wanted to do this partly because of sharing the panel with Kate. You’ve probably heard all of those words individually, but maybe not thought of them in context. I also want to use this as an important illustration of the richness of a liberal arts environment and the simple notion that arts and sciences are not at odds. That we create these sort of separations that are really artificial.

I think this class, and many of the other classes that we have on campus, speak to that. This is a course I offered last fall. Again, no prerequisites, open to students from across the campus. We did have some environmental studies students, but we also had students with a wide range of backgrounds. Basically, they start to explore what sound means in a social, cultural and environmental context, and how we can learn more about the world we occupy through the sounds that we create. I’m hoping to offer this again, and I’m hoping to bring Kate in, and some others from across campus to really enrich this as an interdisciplinary course offering.

The last one I want to mention, again, I’m assuming many of you are familiar with this. This project has been ongoing. We have a current Makerspace in the Art Building. It’s been extremely successful. We have great faculty buy-in, we have great faculty leadership from Kathy Aidala [chair, Department of Physics] and the steering committee behind this. The College is deeply committed to it. But the current space is extremely small and completely overbooked. As you may know, we’re currently in construction and renovation in the Prospect dining hall. We’re going to be moving in December into January, into about an 8,000-square-foot new facility. This is really an incredible opportunity for the campus and our students. The upper right is a combined metal and woodworking shop, including computer controlled machines that can cut and mill various materials, water, jet cutter, CNC mill.

The general workspace on the right involves sewing, electronics, soldering stations, general workspace. We have a multi-use classroom. We have a small incubator, innovation, brainstorming space, as well as a lounge to welcome and greet students and help orient them to this new space. Again, I want to stress that this is a cross-campus resource. This isn’t for any single department.

It’s to really give all of our students an opportunity to experience this hands-on, student-centered, self-directed, experiential learning and that’s kind of what ties together, hopefully, all the initiatives that I’ve mentioned today. But as I said, there’s so much going on at the College that’s moving in this direction. It’s really an exciting time, and I’m very thankful to be here and to contribute any way I can.

Kate Ballantine
This is so, so great. There’s so much overlap, and I just love that you’re pointing that out. My research focuses on the long-term development and functions of restored ecosystem. For example, you see a wetland here with a bunch of research stakes. We go mucking around in places like this. I’m a restoration ecologist, and there’s often some confusion about, what is restoration ecology. How do you restore in a world where, really, everywhere is affected by humans? How do you restore in a world that’s changing? The climate is changing. How do you restore when we really don’t even understand all the ecological and social aspects of any given project in any field, including restoration ecology.

So, just to put us all on the same page, restoration ecology are the principles that guide or assist the process of restoring an ecosystem that’s been degraded, that’s been damaged, or been restored. And one of the big take-home messages that I would love everyone to leave with is that, this is happening everywhere. All types of ecosystems, at all scales.

We have small community groups working to restore their grazing land in deserts. We have groups working to restore their soils in the tropical forest, small community groups. Then, we have multi-billion dollar, cross-national, multi-nation, massive multi-year projects, as well. We’re spending $410 billion on registration every year in the United States, and more than $4 trillion worldwide. So, this is happening everywhere. People sometimes don’t think they’ve seen a restoration project. Oh, you have. They’re everywhere. It’s a big deal.

The thing is, it’s not all being done that well. So, we spend a lot of money, heart, time on it, but we don’t necessarily know what we’re doing. That’s why I’m just out there saying, we need deep thinkers in this field. We need people who are educated in restoration ecology and who are deep critical thinkers. Hence, Mount Holyoke College is the perfect place for a restoration ecology program. We are the only undergraduate restoration program of our kind. And the reason we’re perfect is because, we have students coming from all over the world, with many different interests and expertise, and they long for purposeful engagement. They want to be able to take care of what they love, including the natural environment that we all depend on. In addition to that, look at our campus. Students can be out in the field one minute and back in the lab, processing their samples five minutes later.

They don’t need to have the privilege of having a car to be able to drive 20 minutes to their field station. They live on their field station, and it is hard to express just how important that is. What we do in my lab is, we typically start in the lab, doing highly replicated experiments, where we can have a lot of different treatments. For example, Nia here, we’ve made a bunch of mini wetlands, and she’s changing the atmosphere, soil conditions in those wetlands, to look at how that affects greenhouse gas emissions. So, climate functions of a wetland, and how that affects water quality functions of a wetland. And we take the information that we learned in the lab from experiments like this, and we go into the field, and we see, how does this translate into a real world setting. Where we can’t have as much replication. We can see what’s going on in a real world setting.

One of the things that we do is not just the science or the research, we see that the science informs the practice of restoration, and the practice, in turn, informs the science of restoration. But mutually important, and equally informing, are the social dimensions of any project. That is often ignored, but it’s one of the most important things we do, is we see these three pieces as equally important and mutually informing.

I’ll give you an example from right here. I thought I’d focus on this example, because you’re here for the weekend. Maybe you’ll have a chance to walk around upper lake, and you’ll see there’s a tributary that enters upper lake called, Project Stream. That’s the students. They voted on that name. It was a previously unknown stream. I thought it was very creative. But they were interested in the health of the lakes on campus, because they run into the Connecticut River. They wanted to know, how healthy are these lakes? And they found that actually, like more than half of our streams in this country, they’re heavily polluted with nutrients. So, Project Stream was heavily polluted with nutrients. They proposed a restoration project. These students did all of the background research, the archival data, the interviews, the designs.

They came up with a long-term monitoring system and they advocated for this project. Here, you see one of the six years of students that have worked on this project, with some early stages of their visions and designs for the project. This is from a design charrette, and that was transformed into a final design of all these students’ ideas. This is what’s happening out at the site right now. This is the rendering. So, these students had an idea, based off of their observations and background research, and as we speak, it is becoming a reality. And far into the future, we will be learning from and studying the system.

It’s already being used. We have countless independent projects and courses out there. There’s a dance class out there. Thomas and I have talked about collaborating on acoustic ecology out there. We have an extensive instrumentation system with monitoring, where classes from across campus are using deep wells, our transect systems, and then we do countless talks and tours, field trips, education programs.

Students aren’t just here during the year, working. We have summer internships that are paid. Many of these are on campus, where students do the monitoring work, and they also get to pursue their own questions, their own research questions, that span across the disciplines. Then, we have students off-campus. I have research projects that I’m doing in eastern Massachusetts, New York state, western Washington. So, our students are getting to meet and work with practitioners from across the country and across the world. They don’t just focus on scientific research or their scholarship. They also contribute to the education and the outreach and the actual practice of restoration, because again, those are all linked up. One example of this is, the field trips that we do. We do countless field trips for local elementary and high school students. In the middle, you see an example of a group. We have 100 students from Springfield come up every spring, and about 10 to 15 students from the REP, the Restoration Ecology Program, run stations for that.

We do a lot of work like that. Another example is, the Restoration Ecology Summer Scholars Program. That’s a free program for high school girls in the summer. That was actually started by a restoration ecology student. It was her class project, and we just finished its fifth year. The thing that I love about this project is that, the summer students, who have been working on their research all summer, then work with the high school students. And for them, it’s a real aha moment. Gee, what I’m doing is actually pretty sophisticated, pretty cool, pretty high impact.

And it’s a peer-mentoring opportunity for the high school students. Many of them, it’s their first college-friendly experience. It’s demystifying. What are these college students, what kind of research do they do? How can I get involved? It’s pretty powerful stuff. In fact, the evaluations that we’re getting are tear inducing and it’s an example of what we do at Mount Holyoke more broadly, and what makes our work worth it, and worthwhile, and so rewarding. I truly am inspired by the reaction that we get from these students. You can see why, with students like these, I agree with the eminent biologists, E. O. Wilson, when he proclaimed that this is the era of restoration ecology.

Jon Western
Thank you. These are three amazing faculty members. We have 230 faculty members on campus, each doing amazing things. I just want to thank you for the brief introductions to your work. One of the things that you can see when you go through, whether it’s Skinner Hall, where Sarah is working, or over in Pratt, or either out in the field station, or in Kate’s labs, just the energy and the dynamic community around that.

It’s not uncommon to have dozens and dozens of Sarah’s students just milling around on the first floor of Skinner. She’s opened her office as a lab for her students to work in. We’re working on getting her some additional space.

Sarah Adelman
You all heard it, you all heard it.

Jon Western
I think it’s a reflection of the intellectual vibrancy that’s happening every single day. I want to ask a little bit more about, both the specific skills in the disciplines that you’re working with with your students, but also the transferable skills. Those things that have the students who are not necessarily going to be majoring or going into PhD programs, or into advanced study, specifically, but leaving Mount Holyoke. How do you think the work that you’re doing with the students is preparing them for the next step?

And when they come back for their 80th reunion, the class of 2020 comes back for their 80th reunion. That will be the year 2100. So, when they look back on their careers, how will they look and see how Mount Holyoke has prepared them for a world in which scientific discovery and technological innovation, the transformation of human conditions, how will we have prepared them for that world? That was a small question about, what transferable skills are you preparing them today. But in the broader context of how we’re preparing these students for a life in which they will have to continue to adapt and to evolve into a world that is constantly moving and changing.

Sarah Adelman
This morning, I was sitting with my three-year-old. I don’t know why, I started thinking about my mom’s elementary school. It’s called the Graham School for Girls, a southern grammar school, and I thought, what on earth did she learn there, that she possibly uses today? That was kind of the same idea that I had thinking about my son, and what are we teaching him that’s going to be meaningful to him.

So, yes, it’s the same types of questions that I have for my students, as well. What is going to be meaningful to them? Most of them are not interested in PhDs in economics. Most of them are interested in going and making a lot of money. I can offer them skills, like statistical programming. I can offer them the skills and thinking about how to work with data. But there’s also a bigger set of skills. For example, how do you even think of what an interesting question is? And how do you take that question, how do you break it down to figure out how to solve it?

That’s a transferable. That’s a life skill. The other thing is, how do you take what you’ve learned and help somebody else understand it? My students are amazing at teaching each other how to get up to speed. I’m sure you have the same experience of, “Now that you’ve been here, you’ve been working with us for a couple of years. You are the expert now.” You bring a sophomore in and get them up to speed. That’s really exciting.

At the 80th reunion, I’m hoping that my students will have memories. We, right now, are kind of meeting in this little attic room, very Hogwarts-like room in Skinner. Yesterday, for example, we had a several hour discussion on p-hacking, which means, basically data mining types of things. What happens when you get a result that looks important? Is it really important, or is does it just appear important at random? And thinking about the body of knowledge that we have in front of us, but how much knowledge has not been shared.

So, what do we share in the scientific community? What don’t we share in the scientific community? And what does that mean for the knowledge we have, that we’re using to improve people’s lives? For thinking about poverty programs, what do we actually know about the effectiveness of these poverty programs? We have some of the research but we don’t have all of it. We don’t have the body. So, what are the papers that get attention, and what are the papers that don’t get attention, and what does that mean for how we’re going to use our resources to fight poverty?

Thomas Ciufo
It’s a really important question, and it’s one that I’m personally thinking about all the time. I work in curriculum design and curriculum development, and I have a deep interest in pedagogical methods. We are a liberal arts college. We’re working with students with a wide range of interest, and that’s one thing that I really love about it. Oftentimes, I’m not teaching any music majors or minors, or maybe some percentage, right? A lot of my courses are designed to engage students from across the campus.

For me, it often means, just zooming out and keeping the big picture of their trajectory in mind, as I think about how to construct experiences, or navigate experiences with them. More specifically, about transferrable skills. I’m actually a little less held down by content requirements. It’s not like I’m preparing them for statistics two, which is preparing them for statistics three, and if I don’t get this core foundational content, they won’t be able to move forward. I’m doing experimental arts and media arts. So, we’re in a space of ambiguity and discovery by nature, which means I’m more interested in things like problem solving, resiliency. How do you try something, have it just completely go off the rails? How do you figure that out relatively quickly, rather than way into it? How can you assess ideas? How can you generate ideas, and how can you work with ambiguity? I don’t know the answers. We’re exploring together. And specifically at the intersection of arts and technology, how can I help students that have often not felt included, welcomed, or able to participate, to find their space within that if they want it?

If they don’t want it and they come into a class and go, yeah, I’m all set, that’s great. But they shouldn’t have these barriers of, “no one in technology looks like me,” or, “I don’t see anyone. I don’t see a place for myself in it.” Again, resiliency and developing confidence, that if the motivation’s there, they can be successful in these areas. They can go where they want to go. Those are some of the things that I’m interested in, in terms of facilitating learning experiences with my students.

Kate Ballantine
What I’ve observed is that, when they go from being consumers of knowledge and they cross that bridge into doing original work, to being producers of knowledge or doers of projects, it’s kind of a hard habit to break. You kind of want to do more of that. You don’t want to keep doing things that have been done. You want to be out on the forefront, because it’s an exciting place. Often, the reason we’re not there is because it’s intimidating, or there’s not access to it. But here, they’re in this learning environment that forms a foundation of experience and a culture that becomes part of their standard and habit, that they draw on for the rest of their lives, 80 years later, I should think. That wisdom, that know-how, that community, knowing what it’s been. They draw on that for the rest of their lives.

They form habits here. Once you’ve presented in a restoration showcase for 130 community members, some of whom are elected officials, you never have not-done that. Once you’ve written a grant, you can’t undo that. You’re someone now who writes grants. And I think, throughout their courses at Mount Holyoke, they have these experiences overcoming these, demystifying these challenges. And it’s who you are now. So, my students publish. They present at conferences. They win prizes at those conferences. And we have collaborations where, we work in other peoples’ labs, others work in our labs. We get requests for our expertise on other peoples’ projects. That puts them in a position of know-how and power. These are all things that form habits. They also form connections. It’s very interdisciplinary. These are people from the humanities, social sciences and sciences. By meeting people from across the field of restoration ecology, they now have people they can do informational interviews with. What are the pros and cons of what you do? What do I need to do to be able to do what you do? They get opportunities. These sometimes turn into internships and jobs.

But more so, they notice things. I have students who write me from those jobs, from those grad programs that they’ve gotten into through their connections here, who are saying, “Oh, I feel so much more prepared, because we did this already.” Or, “I had to write this grant, but I did that at Mount Holyoke.” Or, “I had to do group work, but I gained those skills here. I had to solve this problem. You told me this is what projects look like, and I was prepared for that. It was normalized for me.” Those critical thinking skills, those group work skills, those communication skills, talking to people about what you do as a reflection of whether you really understand it, those are all things we do.

Then, the noticing piece is, I have students who say, “You know, I was in a group, and they were telling me that I shouldn’t stir it that long, because it was taking too long. And I knew that that’s what was needed for the reaction to be completed, and I have a standard. So, just because the guy comes in and he says, ‘hey guys, stir it longer,’ I’m not going to wait for that. I have a standard, and I have a culture that I’m coming from that supports me in doing good science and doing good group work.”

The things that they will rely on in 80 years are the habits, the standards, the community, and then those transferable skills that, no matter what the jobs are 80 years from now, those skills will be important for them. I really believe that.

Jon Western
One question that I have is, in the liberal arts environment, faculty members have to balance research and teaching. And that has often been seen as somewhat as attention, to some extent. But it seems to me that, the three of you, reflective of a larger group of faculty we have here are actually that distinction between your research and the teaching is actually, not in conflict with one another. I wonder if you could just take a minute or so to describe how you learn and grow as a scholar, from the work of engaging with your students in the research environment.

Sarah Adelman
I can give a quick example. I have a general interest in pro-social outcomes. I had never thought of institutional trust. This is a political science term, like what Jon thinks about. That’s not a concept that I had. But I had a politics student in my lab, and she brought that concept to me. So, that became a true collaboration, looking at how exposure to conflict affected this specific type of trust that I didn’t even know existed. That’s been really exciting. I wouldn’t have that experience without her. They ask good questions. My students ask good questions.

Kate Ballantine
You make a really good point. It’s a new field. There’s not a lot of people who’ve been trained in restoration ecology. But science itself is a long standing practice. There’s something about being able to do science well. Just because you’re a scientist doesn’t mean you’re necessarily watching out for implicit bias and other things, traps that scientists fall into. We talk a lot about doing science well. And part of doing science well is, expanding your field of view to all the other things that are relevant to your project. And in restoration ecology, pretty much any field is relevant in restoration ecology. So, my students really bring in a lot of their expertise and their background that they’re taking across campus. So, students in your courses are coming into my classes and coming into my lab with those questions and with those experiences. And because none of this has been done before, it’s truly original work. When they do an experiment or they do a project, and there’s that moment — and it’s one of my favorite moments — where they realize, “You really don’t know the answer.” This isn’t something that’s been done before. It’s not like in high school, or even in other classes, where, secretly, the professor knows what you should find. I don’t know. It’s never been done before. We are truly at the edge of knowledge. You are the great explorers into the unknown. I really don’t know what you’re going to find, or how it’s going to work. Because this is real world, and there’s real world consequences.

When they have that moment, usually the second or third week of class, it’s a bit of a, “This is really new for me, because I’m not used to there actually being consequences.” Then, they start thinking in a whole new way. I’m along for the ride with that, because I’m seeing what new things come up. I’m seeing what experiences and questions they go through. It reminds me of what it’s like to be at that stage in a career, which is kind of the stage of the field is in.

So I’m learning from them, and going through it from them, because we’re all out in the middle of an unknown territory. Everything we’re doing is original. People say, what’s the site going to to look like? I can give you predictions, based off of the science. But this site is going to be informing the science, as well. It’s going to help us understand future projects. That’s true for all restoration projects.

I’ll just say, I see restoration projects. They’re everywhere around us. If you know what to look for, you’ll see that, too. I see them as experiments just waiting to happen. What are we going to learn from this site and how it develops over time? Practitioners who are doing the projects don’t necessarily have the time, the money, the expertise to answer those questions. Oh, but we do. So, we’re linking up with practitioners, researchers and practitioners, to understand these sites better, and improve the practice, which we spend so much time and money on, and is so important for the health of this planet, and our well-being as humans.

With the students and their motivation and what they’re learning and they’re contributing to that, sort of the whole field is growing. It’s not just me. Really, I think the field of restoration ecology is benefiting from having people like our students, because there aren’t many of them out there, but there will be more.

Thomas Ciufo
The three of us share a lot of common goals in the way we approach teaching and learning. Being exposed to students and working with students from a wide range of backgrounds is really exciting. They bring their expertise from their field, which may or may not align with anyone else’s in the class or with mine. As Kate mentioned, I’m not interested in being the sole bearer of knowledge or experience or information. I’m teaching collaboratively. And in, again, another parallel, we’re not just trying to reiterate and transfer known content. That really just isn’t very interesting, and it isn’t very productive. In science and in art, we’re often on this explorer’s path. Helping students to have a support system in which they can navigate that is really important.

Now, coming back a little more specifically to the question, I don’t see my creative work and research as separate from my teaching at all. They’re completely interlocked. And one specific example is, the collaborative piece with the coral group. That was an exploration. We worked together. We workshopped. And I didn’t try and hide the challenges and problems, either technological or aesthetic or creative. I went into some of the rehearsals like, I don’t know. This isn’t really working, is it? How do we be in that, and and figure out how to work with that?

In that regard, my commitment to my practice is its own thing. But it’s also a commitment to bringing that experience back into the classroom. And what I can do is, model an engaged, active lifelong learner practitioner. And reall,y I’m doing the same things they are. I’ve been doing it longer. And the big difference is, again, I’m more resilient. When it doesn’t work, I’m not going to give up. To me, that modeling and sharing of our research and that willingness to engage the unknown ... We don’t know the answers, and that, I think, creates the collaborative experience for the students that can be really beneficial.

Jon Western
This is one of the reasons why we have been able, over the last several years, to recruit and retain an outstanding faculty in a liberal arts environment is, as many of you may know, over the last probably six or seven years, the next couple of years, almost half of our faculty will be new to Mount Holyoke, as a result of a generational change. And our ability to go out and recruit and retain faculty is largely in part, because the faculty who we’ve been able to hire, want to be here and working with our student population.

The number one thing we hear from our faculty is that, when they come to the campus and when they make their decision, one of the best recruiting devices that we have are the students that we have here. Because they are coming from so many different lived experiences, and so many ways in which they ask different kinds of questions out of those lived experiences, that challenge us and impress us every single day. That our scholarship and our research and our creative energies transform over the course of our time here as faculty members, understanding because we’re engaged with these students every single day.

We’re not in really deep silo disciplinary areas, although we do have mastery of field and specializations that have to happen. But I think this is just wonderful example of the many kinds of collaborations that faculty have with students every single day on campus. I do want to open it up for any questions or comments that any of you may have.

Question from the audience
How do you grade?

Thomas Ciufo
It is a good and challenging question. Especially when we’re saying we we’re inviting students to take risk, to try things that may fail. I don’t have this resolved, even though I’ve been working at it for a long time. But some of the things that help, for me, are, with creative work, I always do work in progress showings and work in progress reviews, which give them an opportunity to show that they’re engaging along the line, rather than like, I don’t know, it’s two days before I’m going to knock something out. So, even if they are showing work in progress that shows activity and engagement and careful thought, and it doesn’t pan out, that’s fine. They weren’t blowing it off. That’s one.

The other is, using multiple small check-ins. They do writing reflections, and they do listening reflections. We have many more data points, rather than just one gigantic project that they completely stress out about for the whole semester. That’s some of it. And I’ll be honest, I often have kind of compressed grades. If they work really hard and they show up and they engage and they make work and they come to office hours when they have problems, they do pretty well. I struggle with that, and, in in a sense, grading, I think, is not always completely productive to learning. And figuring out how to make those mutually compatible is an ongoing challenge, I think.

Sarah Adelman
That’s the worst part of the job, I think. For me, I try to help students recognize that there’s a distinction between the time in which you’re ... I’m going to borrow Rick Feldman’s language. But a time of which you’re performing, and a time in which you’re learning, and you perform ... I’m assessing your performance on an exam, but I’m not assessing your performance any other time. So, when you’re in the class, when we’re working on something, that’s when you’re supposed to be making mistakes. You’re supposed to. My first year seminar we said, okay, today, we’re just actually going to start out by talking about when we felt like the biggest failure, so that we can start normalizing the idea of failing. I’ll give you an opportunity to perform, but it’s going to be a long way down the line after we have a lot of opportunity to fail.

Jon Western
Let’s go to another question, and then we’ll have a couple of responses for each question.

Question from the audience
I have a question about the students we’re bringing in. Are they, by nature, risk takers and looking at a problem solving? Are we taking them from high school seniors who are more perfectionistic-oriented and probably trying to control their lives into a different realm? Can you just talk to us about that transition?

Kate Ballantine
I think it really runs the gamut. I think a lot of it depends on their background. Some of it depends on what they perceive as what’s required of where they’re going. So, if they have a clear vision of what they want to do, say, med school, they might have associations with that as having no room for slip ups, you need all As. So, depending on their background and what they perceive is where they’re going, you’ll get a full mix. Also, the times, I think, have a lot to do with it, sort of the broader feeling on campus, and even beyond, can really affect how secure they feel in taking risks. So, one of our jobs is to create a classroom culture or a lab culture that facilitates enthusiasm and excitement and a normalization of what it is to actually do a project and normalize it.

That means that there’s a lot of ups and downs and moments of doubt. I just absolutely love what you said, Thomas, about, you go to the choir and you’re like, I can’t figure this out. And that shows, well, that’s part of the process. There’s no point at which you’ve learned it, and then you’re just cruising along for the rest of your life. I’m telling them all the time. I am always giving and receiving feedback from my colleagues, and certainly hope to for the rest of my career.

So, I think normalizing what it is to do a real project is, in part, the risk taking and the ups and downs and the moments of excitement and the moments of dread and so on. But I say that, we get it all coming in. So, hopefully, we can create these little beacons of attractive light around the excitement of experiments and all that they entail, or the projects and all the entail. Some are here for that. Some never wanted to do it. But hopefully, they all get an experience with it.

Question from the audience
Thank you for this morning. I’m really fascinated by the connection between foundational areas of research and academics, and the future, and how we mush it all together and forge new paths like you’re talking about. Thomas, as an example, when you were talking, I was thinking about, I wonder if you guys have ever sent your students into the physics lab to learn about waves and optics and the foundations of wave equations and harmonics and things, as it relates to that, and expanding it to a music concept, so that students who ... And vice versa, right?

So that, students who were sitting in the physics labs toiling away at our equations, could see different applications of it, rather than just the 18th century, 19th century progression of traditional physics concept. So, how do you make those ties between future and past and foundations and brave, new bold thinking?

Thomas Ciufo
That’s a great question. We’re doing a lot of that, and we’re constantly looking at more opportunities to expand that. We have a class in music in the brain, which combines music psychology and neurobiology. I teach basic acoustics in my music-related classes, and I encourage the students to get deeper knowledge in the related fields, and try and tie them together. Computer Science, we have a strong collaboration. We have several dual majors, computer science and music. And I think the bigger initiatives that we’re launching, like the makerspace, really speak to that.

It’s not a physics lab, it’s not an art studio. It’s all of those things. And the course work that we’re designing for it, that’s already in place ... I design engineering for everyone, robotics, architecture uses it a lot. I’m going to be developing a course in building and inventing new musical instruments that lead to new performance practices. Many, many of us are deeply committed to that interplay, and we’re always looking for new ways of showing the students how these fields interrelate. But there’s a lot more to do. It’s an ongoing process, for sure.

Jon Western
And these are some concepts that we’re developing, in terms of thematic courses, that Sonya has asked us to think about, and she’ll be talking a little bit about, maybe later today, and in the future, of a sophomore experience, thematic courses, where they’re really interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, exactly on these kinds of concepts. We’ve had a lot of experience teaching linked courses and collaborative courses. Eva Paus, who’s here in the audience, runs a biannual course on global challenges.

That course brings together faculty, usually, six to eight faculty from different disciplines to talk about the different theoretical methodological approaches, disciplinary kind of approaches to the same concept. So, those kinds of courses. One of the issues, when we’re thinking about the long-term curricular stability of the institution is, how do we create space for the faculty to do more collaborative teaching and create opportunities.

That’s something that resonates deeply with me in my own experiences here at Mount Holyoke. I’ve had an opportunity to teach multiple linked courses and collaborative courses over the course of my 19 years here. It is one of the most professionally fulfilling and rewarding, and then you just see the students, and their engagement with that. And when they come back 15 years later, 10 years later, five years later, and speak about that kind of an experience, that’s really profound. So, we’re committed to doing more of that. But that requires a lot of sustained effort on the curriculum. We have a mic coming.

Question from the audience
As I recall, it was my understanding, publication has always played a role in the tenure track and in academic achievement, or achievement among the academic community. And I’d like to know, how has the definition of publication, how has the role of publication evolved and changed, and how does it fit into the overall picture of the faculty and how they function? Thank you.

Jon Western
Let me turn it over to Kate. She’s recently tenured, so she can speak a little bit about this.

Kate Ballantine
So, you’re referring to the idea of publish or perish, which is the idea that, you have to ... In order to make original contributions into your field and to move your field forward, how do you do that? Well, it’s by communicating what you’ve found in your projects. And one of the main ways we do that is through publishing. In my field, that’s usually peer reviewed journals, where I’ll submit the results of an experiment and my peers will review it. Other people, it’s more common to write books. But all of us have a publication requirement.

I actually publish with my students, because there’s really no better feather in their cap for getting grants and into graduate school and getting jobs than to have published their contribution to the field, publish their research. So, like teaching and like service, how much you’ve published is going to be an important part of your promotion and tenure process. It’s a way for the external reviews, the people outside of the college, to understand your contribution to the field. Is it significant, is it high quality? So, we do publish.

It is an interesting dilemma, I think, especially pre-tenure, because how much you publish and the quality of your publication does matter. And sometimes, working with students is a real asset to that, but sometimes it can also make it complicated. Because you want to do projects with students, but they might not be the most publishable or the most high profile publications that they can do at that stage.

So, I think a lot of professors do actually face that question of, how can I engage students in the research that’s going to be publishable for them, and also get the quality and number of publications that I want to contribute to the field, and that are necessary for me to move forward and get promotion or tenure. So, it’s complicated. Yeah, that’s my honest answer. I don’t know. You might have more thoughts on that.

Sarah Adelman
I’ve changed the way that I worked with students since getting tenure. I think, pre-tenure, I had my students working on things in a very initial stage, while I had my big things going on. I don’t have that constraint anymore. Yeah, it’s nice having tenure.

Jon Western
I will say, we’re a liberal arts college, and so the expectations for scholarly growth and development and research are consistent with our peer institutions in liberal arts colleges. We’re not expecting to produce at the same level of an R1 research university, where faculty will have graduate students, post-docs, a whole set of incredibly specialized and highly trained community around you.

We’re working with undergraduates. So, the research expectations, we have a very high rate of reappointment and tenure, and that’s largely attributable to the fact that we have a very strong searching process. When we hire people, we hire people who are committed to this institution, to this project. Then, we have a lot of faculty development to support the pre-tenure faculty when they’re here.

So, we do protect them on College-wide service as best we can, so that they can work on developing their growth and development as teachers and researchers, first and foremost, as pre-tenure faculty. Then, after tenure, to be more engaged in the college service. We don’t exclude it, but we also want to try and balance that. I think the other thing is just that, there is an inherent tension with a probationary period. Risk taking is something we want to encourage.

And that will evolve in the course of a faculty member’s career over time. When you lose control of a classroom, there is a lot of learning that happens in that environment. But when you lose control of the classroom, there’s also a lot of ... I was in the makerspace and had my students creating drones at one point. Lost complete control of that class, and was just sweating bullets, because I was just completely, this is not what I’m supposed to do. I’m supposed to have some control over that.

That was a learning environment for me, to understand that, in fact, when you lose complete control of the environment, the students are aware of what’s happening around them, and learning to problem solve in very real time. But as a pre-tenure faculty member, that may be a little bit more challenging. We’re fully aware of that in our professional growth and development. We have a teaching and learning initiative to support our faculty when they arrive on campus through their first six years, and then beyond. It’s an evolving process for all faculty members.

We are at time. I realize there are more questions, so maybe the faculty members can spend a minute or two, if you would like to come down. But I want to thank you for coming out this morning, and I want to thank Kate and Thomas and Sarah for, not only this morning, but the amazing work that they do every single day, year in and year out, for our students and for our colleagues. So, thank you.

Panel 2: Ellen Chilemba, Heather Harde, Eva Paus

Panel II: “Entrepreneurship and the Liberal Arts”

Moderated by Eva Paus, Professor of Economics; Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives; Chair, Program Committee, Entrepreneurship, Organizations and Society

Saturday, September 29, 2018
11:00 am
Gamble Auditorium

Panel II: “Entrepreneurship and the Liberal Arts”
Moderated by Eva Paus, Professor of Economics; Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives; Chair, Program Committee, Entrepreneurship, Organizations and Society

This transcript is lightly edited.

Eva Paus
Good morning, welcome to the second panel this morning on the occasion of Sonya’s Inauguration. It is fantastic to have these two panels. My name is Eva Paus, I’m professor of economics, and I’m the director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives here.

In the previous panel, everybody started out by saying how long they’ve been here — I’ve been here since 1987. So one of the things when you have been here for awhile, is you live the changes. I mean, you change yourself. And I’d like to think I was an active participant in some of those changes, but clearly it’s wonderful to see how the curriculum and how teaching and research evolves with changing times. The panel this morning was a fantastic example of that, of really our faculty working — while grounded clearly in the liberal arts— working at the forefront in their respective fields. But in the end there’s really no better way to demonstrate the enduring value of the liberal arts than the achievements of our alumnae. Any of you could be up here on stage here this morning, but we are focusing on entrepreneurship this morning, entrepreneurship and the liberal arts.

And we have two fantastic alumnae here, each in their respective fields working on the frontier as well. My introductions will be very brief, because they will subsequently introduce themselves. To my left, Ellen Chilemba, class of 2017, who majored in economics. A native of Malawi, Ellen is a social entrepreneur, she is the founder and executive director of Tiwale in her native country, an organization that provides women with the wherewithal to earn a more decent living.

Earlier this week Ellen sent me an email that said, “Well, I’m really busy at the moment because I’m involved in the UN General Assembly, in various activities focused on education for women and girls.” And along with it she attached a small group photograph. So there’s Ellen. And on the left of Ellen is Justin Trudeau. And on the right of Ellen is Emmanuel Macron, and one person over is Theresa May. So I don’t think anybody in this room can probably match that photograph, it speaks volumes I think to what Ellen has done already and what her potential is.

The second alumnae on the panel is Heather Harde, class of ’91. Heather majored in literature, in English, and went on to have this incredible career in tech, as you will hear. Perfect example of the liberal arts, she is one of the most influential women in technology in the national arena. She is currently a partner at Arrington XRP Capital. It’s a hedge fund focused on cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies.

She is a member of the Board of Trustees. And if you look at her LinkedIn profile, you will see her tagline is, “I’ve always loved a good problem, what’s yours?” Which is of course the perfect tagline for a panel that focuses on the liberal arts and entrepreneurship.

This third person, who was supposed to be here, but who unfortunately could not join us, but nonetheless I would briefly like to mention here, Elli Kaplan, class of ’93, majored in international relations and politics. She’s the CEO of Neurotrack, and she is really ill and could not get on a plane to come from California to here, so we will miss her.

I’d like to get the conversation going with a few questions for Ellen and Heather, and then open up the floor for your comments and questions. So my first question is, and that’s why introduction was so inordinately short, is I would like them to share their personal journey. And I would like to know how they got from the gates of Mary Lyon, when they left upon graduation, to where they are today, and in what way, Mount Holyoke provided a foundation for them as they went on their paths and looking back. And I know this will fill hours, we will all be brief in our responses.

Heather Harde
I guess for me it all started with a good trip to the Career Development Center. So here’s to Liz Lierman [director of the CDC], although she wasn’t here at the time. I knew from an early age that I had a real passion for business, but I didn’t quite know what that meant or how to get there. My parents were academics. There really weren’t business people in my family context to look to.

The Career Development Center at Mount Holyoke was an important foundational step for me. They helped me path out how to think about maybe some career tracks that might get me into business school, which was an objective. So it started with an internship my junior year with the Financial Women’s Association in New York, that then got me into an investment banking program after Mount Holyoke, which got me into an MBA program.

And while I was studying for my MBA, I decided I was much more interested in the strategy work and what companies would do after acquisitions, than some of the just finance work I had learned before business school. And I was very interested in how technology was influencing and disrupting traditional media channels.

So after my MBA I joined a large media organization, where I ended up working for 10 years. And I hopped around from different divisions, working on ranges from satellites to newspapers and magazines, consumer promotions and eventually the consumer internet. And there my path moved from just doing the dutiful MBA analysis about acquisitions and business development. They said, “Okay, now that you’re making these recommendations about types of deals to do, we’re gonna hold you accountable to make sure that everything actually happens the way you wanted it to.”

So that moved me from more of a finance role into operations. I really loved rolling up my sleeves and getting my hands into the business of management. When I was at my last division doing acquisitions, I came across Michael Arrington, who ended up being the founder of a business, Tech Crunch. He has a wonderful story where he was starting a blog as a hobby while he was trying to start up a different business, and as will happen in life, the thing he thought he was working on didn’t go anywhere, and the blog was at the right place at the right time and identified him. And within my role, people were coming in and presenting their businesses. And the first page of everybody’s deck, in a very short period of time, said, “As reported on Tech Crunch.” So this guy really has a media company in the making.

So we joined forces and I became his CEO and did all the things that weren’t writing about the business. And loved general management, just tying together all the different resources of sales and technology and operations. And I left my fancy corner office for his spare bedroom, and we grew it from, I think two employees when I first started, to more than 100 when the business was sold about six years later.

After Tech Crunch I took a little bit of a sabbatical. But within this past year, I joined forces with Michael again. He said, “I’ve really been studying the crypto and the blockchain space and I want to do something important there.” So we’ve started a hedge fund that’s investing now in entrepreneurs who are focused on the next wave of technology.

When I think some of the enduring qualities that have been really helpful for me out of Mount Holyoke, it comes back to those critical reasoning and writing skills, being able to present a cogent argument. A lot of what you end up doing in business is pitching ideas and presenting. So being able to put together a persuasive argument is critically important. Just being able to ask the right questions, being dropped into all sorts of situations. And just knowing how to ask the question, and how to identify an answer. The interdisciplinarity that’s taught here has been incredibly helpful, especially in general management where you’re trying to work together and pull teams together and help somebody who might be in sales understand how somebody in technology is thinking about the same problem, and how they need to work together. I’m incredibly grateful for my Mount Holyoke experience, and just the welcoming leadership opportunities that we all had here. I think those again are just life skills that I’ve carried with me since I left here.

Ellen Chilemba
That’s brilliant. First of all, thank you for having us. It’s great to be back on campus, it’s always so rejuvenating to come back. It just feels like coming home, and you’re like, "All right, I’m ready to step out again." So thank you.

I think most of the solidifying of my journey started happening in my sophomore year, junior year. But before I get to that, my entrepreneurial journey started when I was 11 years old. When I was 11, I desperately wanted a cellphone, but when I consulted with my parents, they did say that they would think about it. And eventually they called me and they said they’d come to a decision, and they said that unfortunately, considering all the other expenses they’re taking care of, the cellphone is something that I would have to figure out on my own. And so from there I made a little plan on how I was going to save up to get this phone. I was going to save my lunch pocket money, and then eventually get this phone. I started up, two months I looked at my savings and the price of the phone, and it was going to take about seven years to get that phone. And so for me that was more of a moment that something more tangible in terms of multiplying this money had to be done.

Luckily my mother had been baking a lot, and she had been asking me to bake with her. I had learned a few things about baking, and my siblings approved of my baking. And one thing that I noticed was that after church on Sundays back home, everyone was hungry and people were usually looking for snacks. So I said, “Why don’t I bake cakes and then I’ll take them with me and then sell after service.” So that’s how I started. And within a year I was able to raise that money to get that phone from that initial capital of that pocket money, multiplied into the baking and then eventually getting the money to purchase a cellphone.

And the reason why I wanted this phone desperately was because I wanted to be calling one of my really close friends. We used to always meet up at the library. And all of the time, it was always, you would send an email to each other like, we’ll meet at the library at this time, and then you get there and maybe something happened with transportation, you have no idea. So there was just no other way to communicate.

So I got this phone. And then I get to the library, and I’m really excited that we’re going to reconnect. But then she had recently also stopped coming to the library. So eventually, we didn’t see each other for some time. I tried to reach out, there was no contact. And we ran into each other one day at the marketplace, and what she told me was that her family had decided that it was better for her to get married at that age. Because the man that she was marrying was a businessman that had promised to support her, but also support the family and pay for her brother’s education.

And so for me then entrepreneurship no longer became about the cellphone thing, but rather I was really concerned about if this was the reason why she wanted to marry for education, what if maybe I could share that entrepreneurial journey and help people save money to go back to school and stay in school, instead of being forced into such a circumstance.

So I graduated high school at 17 and started pursuing this journey. The initial plan was to start a small microfinance club for 10 women. But then on the first meeting day of that club, 150 women showed up. So it became Tiwale, which I’ll talk about later on. But the whole idea of Tiwale was that ti was going to be a microfinance initiative focused on helping women start businesses.

We were successful with that, we helped 40 women start businesses, and the businesses were successful, and people were growing. But there wasn’t that substantial change that you want to see where somebody really jumps from the poverty line and they’re at a place where there’s no chance of them falling back in. For instance, we had people start a business, save up, and then maybe a child falls sick and they end up back to where they started.

I was seeing these issues during my sophomore year. When I came in, I had this focus was entrepreneurship, where someone is going to start a business and then they’re going to grow it, and more of on the money focus. But then one thing that I learned during my education here, especially taking various classes, taking a class that focused on the environment, or an English class, was seeing all the different factors that come in within someone’s growth. And also within that journey for me as a person was also seeing how, by engaging with other students, everyone’s dealing with multiple aspects, and there’s more things that we want as people.

For me it was seeing my own interests, that I had various interests and various dreams. It wasn’t just about maybe running an entrepreneurship program, but rather, I wanted to pursue music, I wanted to write, I wanted to do this. So that’s where I really started thinking about Tiwale: Do we just want to be a space where we’re helping people grow financially, or do we want to be more of a space where we’re really challenging people to really tap into themselves and really become the person that they want to be.

And so from that, while I was here, we started expanding and fundraising. We bought land and eventually opened a women’s center. And the way our space worked is that we call ourselves where we have a multidimensional path where you pursue, you’re supposed to take a class in education, you’re supposed to pursue something entrepreneurial, but also do career development. But also within that, one thing that I learned here was just about mental health, and personal health. So one thing that we do is also discussions, and we are realizing where people are coming from. So more of my journey, and something that I realize with a liberal arts education, is that as people we have multiple stories and multiple interests and multiple perspectives, and we need to be able to tap into all of those to really reach our full potential.

Currently we’re still working on expanding the school, and we are running that operation. And for me, I graduated with economics, but I do a lot of digital marketing, a lot of writing, and then I’m also in music production. Like I said, liberal arts education, it does that to you, you end up with so many things that you’re passionate about. So from then that’s been more of my journey, is where tapping into the multiple aspects of personality that come about with this kind of education.

Eva Paus
Moving specifically to the entrepreneur, many of you probably know that the College established a new interdisciplinary minor three years ago, and we call it EOS, Entrepreneurship, Organizations and Society. And it combines some business skills with interdisciplinary knowledge and analysis of organizations. And also social context, importantly, and puts a great deal of emphasis on applied learning. Not unlike, in parallel really, with some of the things we heard on the first panel.

For this EOS minor the key person is a new — or not so new anymore — lecturer in entrepreneurship, Rick Feldman, who is joining us here. He is really the anchor of the entrepreneurship program. The committee itself to the spirit is the faculty members of the committee, which I chair, they come from eight departments. Africana studies, economics, environmental studies, music, philosophy, politics, psychology and sociology. So very much an interdisciplinary approach.

So within this context, my next question is, in addition to what you have said already about the liberal arts and how foundational they will have been for your path, are there specific skills, or what specific skills or behaviors have you found to be particularly important to become a successful entrepreneur? And are those skills different for a social entrepreneur, are there differences? And are those skills ultimately — sorry, last question — are those skills ultimately the same if you want to bring about change within organizations?

Heather Harde
One life skill that’s helpful across disciplines and organizations regardless of size, especially in today’s world, I guess would be resilience and flexibility. As I was thinking back to one life experience I had, it was about a year after I finished business school, and I’d just gotten recruited away from one media company to another, to a hot new division. And within four days of my new employment, the company announced that it was merging with another company, and on that day I was told that my employment was no longer needed. I was straddled with a lot of business school and undergrad debt, and I was terrified about the thought of being unemployed and having made the worst decision it seemed to have just switched jobs unnecessarily.

So after hearing the not-good news and digesting it for a night, I went in and I asked if I could meet with the president of this division. And the secretary said, “Well he’s incredibly business right now, but stay after work a couple nights and one of these nights in the next week we’ll fit you in, we’ll get a couple minutes with you.” About five days later, nine o’clock at night, I got a call, the president will see you now. So I walked in and, “Hi, I’m Heather Harde, you haven’t met me yet.” But I said, “I understand the job you hired me for you don’t need, but you’re in the middle of combining two different businesses, and I happen to have come from a finance background. And maybe you have different needs where I could help out the organization. I’d love to stay with the company.” And he said, “Well, let’s give it a try. I can only offer you employment on a week-by-week basis, but yes we have finance needs and let’s just see how it goes.” And that became the start of a 10-year life at News Corp, a company I really loved, having that experience. So I just think life rarely rolls the punches that you expect of it, so I think learning how to be flexible.

Often, when confronted with negative situations, if you can, figure out the positive way through something. Other peers of mine were calling up lawyers and figuring out how to be combative with the situation. And I took a different approach which ended up giving me wonderful opportunities in life. Those are some important lessons I learned that hopefully can be transferable across many fields.

Ellen Chilemba
Definitely for me, one core thing has been flexibility. One exciting thing about starting something young is that there was a lot of, I think the word is naivety, that came with it. For instance, we started operations and then someone asked us, “Are you a registered organization?” And we said, oh, you have to be registered to do this kind of work. And then also realizing, it’s just been that lack of awareness — or rather, just going with whatever you have and making things work — that has been helpful. You haven’t had that fear that stops you from pushing forward. Where for us, if let’s say we had been thinking about being registered first, then maybe we’d have waited years before starting and growing into the organization that we’re growing into currently.

We started as a microfinance program, and then we said, we need to explore something that also brings income into the organization. And then one of the women that’s part of the program said, “I know how to tie-dye, it’s a skill that I would love to teach and share, but I don’t have the resources.” And so we figured out how to get tie-dye resources, and then she’s been teaching the class. And now we have 66 women who are trained and know how to tie-dye. So just being in a space where you’re just constantly going with what’s available and making that work, it takes you further than waiting for a tangible solution, and something that is a game plan that’s fulfilled, and then you’ll be like, okay now I can go with this solution.

The other thing that comes with that is just a general sense of curiosity. Where you have to be someone that’s ever-changing, or in a sense, constantly looking for solutions. We started as microfinance. It was working, but it wasn’t working best. And then we went into tie-dyeing and that was working and skills were happening and we were becoming sustainable, but then also we wanted that growth aspect. And now we’ve become a women’s center where we’re providing education classes, and there’s that education aspect. But you know, there’s always more that we can do. We’re looking at collaborating with HP and maybe getting a computer lab and staring coding classes. Just really expanding the space and constantly in the space of how can we do better. So that curiosity.

And then with those two things together, the final thing that you should have is the willingness to ask for help, as well. Because you never know what door will open from someone. Like some of the biggest connections that really have helped our organization. I mean just with the first example, asking the women, is there a skill that you know that maybe you’d be willing to share? And then someone says, “I know how to tie-dye.” Something random that you don’t hear within an audience all the time, or within your participants, and then you realize the moment you ask. And the same with donors, or even with fellow students, professors here. Where someone says, oh you should talk to this person, you should do this. So really asking constantly, really being in that space of being vulnerable, that’s been very helpful in the journey.

Eva Paus
My last question before I open it up to your comments and questions addresses a general dilemma I think liberal arts colleges face. And that is, we had this fantastic panel this morning, we hear and witness these fantastic alumnae. The skills that employers seem to be looking for, as shown by many surveys like the heart survey undertaken together with AACU, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, that periodically ask employers what skills they are looking for. And when you see the list of skills, it looks like a description of the liberal arts college. All the things we say and all the things you have said now. So that’s on the back end, that’s really promising. But on the front end, we find that prospective students — and many of their parents — increasingly in today’s world, have a much narrower vision.

They’re thinking, we want professional training. For education for our children. And so this focus on professional and technical education, and specifically focus on business education, business is the largest major at undergraduate institutions. Not at liberal arts colleges, but at undergraduate institutions across the country. So given that context, and a challenge I think we’re all wrestling with, my question to the two of you is, based on your experience, and your understanding of the liberal arts but also your understanding of the world of work, would you make the case for the enduring value of the liberal arts, especially in current times of, I’m not talking politically, but economically, technically, of very rapid change?

Heather Harde
Yes. I mean, Mount Holyoke taught me how to think. And lifelong learning is really what it’s all about. I was an English major, and now I invest in the blockchain and crypto-currencies. And as you heard, I had a very meandering path from start to where I am now. I can’t imagine even how you would put a syllabus together to teach crypto and the blockchain — and even if you did, and people studied and memorized certain things, that would be outdated two years from now.

But the enduring values of learning how to reason and write, and present an argument, how to ask the right questions, and then be able to identify what are the right data sources to help you learn and uncover an answer, those are enduring values that I think all of us in the room have relied on to be successful. So I can appreciate, sometimes I think you’ll hear people one and two years out of a liberal arts education, and even I felt this a little bit going from English into finance, you might feel at a little bit of a disadvantage versus people who had more vocational and technical skills immediately. But after that two-year transition, you start soaring past some of your peers. Because you’re able to write. And I think the more time you spend in whatever your profession is, the more the liberal arts pays back to you. So it’s something I think you have to maybe start with a bit of trust in the beginning, but it really proves itself over time.

Ellen Chilemba
I 500 percent agree. It’s just, first of all, every time I meet people who only focus on one thing, I’m like, wow, how could you have trapped yourself like that? How do you know, how are you so certain that this is who you are? Just even starting with yourself, for me my journey has just been constant change of rediscovering what I want to do. And I see that also with my peers, where people are interested in multiple things, and you have to give yourself that space for exploration, and really discovering what it is that you want. And you don’t always have to fully know what you want to do while you’re beginning, or even in the end.

I know my mother started going back to school a few years ago, and she’s excited, she’s exploring something new, she’s been exploring something new constantly. She’s a big inspiration to me, where you have to be in that space where you’re being able to tap into various aspects of opportunities that are available to you. And then just even in the entrepreneurial world, or even in the work world that I’ve only been in for about a year, which is crazy to think about, it feels like a lifetime. I don’t know how you adults do it. It’s rough out here.

But yeah, so that’s how I’m feeling after graduation. But even in that space, the world is becoming more, despite some rhetoric here and there from some people, the world — we’re starting to interact more with each other. In our school we have various students from different places, and then also globally, digitally we’re in constant conversation to people around the world. And people are coming from different backgrounds, different histories and different cultures. And you have to be a person that’s always flexible to learn and engage in something that’s new. And that’s what being in the liberal arts space is, really being able to take various classes that might not be in your area of expertise, but at least you’ve experienced that challenge and been in the space of having to learn something that’s new.

And that’s what most of the work world has been. Where a boss will give you a task, and they say, do you know how to use this? And then you say, no, but I can figure it out. Because you’ve just learned that this is how things work. And that’s what being in this education space teaches you — really, that you’re not going to know everything, but you can get to know everything, and you can get to be in that space of learning. And so please, please tell me you’re pursuing a liberal arts education, always.

Eva Paus
It seems to me that the most powerful speakers for the liberal arts education are the alumnae of a liberal arts education. So as we launch our new website with a lot of alumnae stories on the power of the liberal arts, I would think it’s the most persuasive. If we have time left, I would like to open the floor for comments, questions.

Question from the audience Thanks for your comments about how a liberal arts education has impacted your careers. I’m curious, that may not be grammatically correct, how has having gone to a women’s college had an effect on your careers and your lives.

Ellen Chilemba
We do have people that identify differently here, but then just being in the Mount Holyoke space, for me, the kind of community that we embrace here, where we’re accepting of each others’ differences, we are creating safe spaces, places where people are able to open up and express themselves. I’ve seen that lacking in the world, where people are abrasive to make their opinion a final perspective on how things should be. And then also you see that, for instance, moving from classes here, I just thought that there would be room to talk. And then I went to the first meeting, and I realized you have to fight to talk. Especially just from cis men always talking over and the like. And so for me, coming from Mount Holyoke, I’ve had the privilege to develop this confidence in myself where for me I speak when I need to speak, and I know how to also be able to listen and the like. And I see that in other people their backgrounds are different and that’s not how they always approach a space.

Especially with everything that’s happening in the news lately, I’m grateful for the safe space that I had for four years, and how that built me and allowed me to grow up in a world where I didn’t feel like I had to minimize myself, but in a world where I felt safe to maximize and be the full person that I want to be.

And I feel like that really started picking up here, where I wasn’t conforming to society, because the society here is not one of conforming, but rather one of expanding and really getting to know and growing. So I’m grateful to have had that chance to bloom. I feel like going into the world that I started on a high note, and from then I’m trying to make sure that I keep it that high, because the world can really push you back.

Heather Harde
I think it’s the right place at the right time. And I’m just so grateful to Mount Holyoke for the leadership opportunities that we were able to have on campus. And the flexibility of the environment here, where if you had a new idea, faculty, staff, the administration, everybody always was very supportive of, okay you have a new idea, well let’s help you test that out, or try that out. It was a very safe but empowering place to first develop those skills. It created the right initial momentum that just gave me confidence when I went out into the real world to continue to do that without ever questioning was it okay, or did I need to ask permission for certain things. So I think the right level of support and challenge was a brilliant balance for me here.

Eva Paus

Question from the audience
I’m the class of ’59, philosophy major and forever grateful for that. Thank you, this is a very interesting discussion. A question for you is how you found Mount Holyoke and how you got here in the first place. And a question for Heather is, would you give us a layman definition, elevator pitch of blockchain and cyber? Thank you.

Ellen Chilemba:
In terms of finding Mount Holyoke, I came in as an international student from Malawi. And I was initially looking for a traditionally women’s college. And also I was looking for a space that would be able to work with me financially. And Mount Holyoke was very supportive in terms of that. And then also I was looking for a liberal arts education, because I wasn’t fully certain what I wanted to explore, and I was very interested in the arts as well. And the art department here is very strong. I was particularly in Professor Rie’s work with Japanese papermaking.

And it was strange applying from afar, because I did look at the website, and for some reason I thought you were in a big city. So when I did come to campus, the reality wasn’t quite what I thought it was. There is Thirsty Mind, and we do have a post office, which is nice. So that was new.

But I think for me, those are some of the aspects. And then also a large international population, because I did want to go to a space where I don’t feel so isolated as a foreign citizen. And here we do embrace that. I think when I was applying I remember the international population was 33 percent, I don’t know. It might even be higher.

Eva Paus
Around 30.

Ellen Chilemba
Around 30 percent. So for me, those were some of the core aspects. And Mount Holyoke really met me halfway there. Or maybe even further on way. But on to blockchain.

Heather Harde
My father was a professor of environmental science, and I think he wanted to relive his own college decision-making process through me his eldest daughter. So he had me matrix out the qualities that were important in schools. And I had to write away at the time to 70 something schools, I think, to gather information. Over the course of three years, to his credit, he helped me visit, I think, almost 40. Mount Holyoke at the beginning of the process wasn’t at the top of the list. But I walked through the gates, spent a weekend here and applied early decision. So I think there is something that is really important about seeing an institution and feeling the space, and the time that we make for prospective students to be able to come and learn about us, to me is a really important way of helping them make decisions for themselves.

In terms of what is crypto-currency and the blockchain, it’s new technology and mathematics that at its core is a system of transfer. And it’s a system of transfer that is on a decentralized basis that is supposed to help against centralized decision-making. And some of its initial applications are transfers of money. So replacement to fiat currency. But it’s also effectively an operating system. So the same underlying principles might be applied to transferring private information, for healthcare, might be applied to helping to track product through supply chains of companies. It’s quite wide-reaching in what its future applications may be. Clear as mud?

Question from the audience
We have a lot of entrepreneurs now, and we’re now growing more and more entrepreneurs. What is the alumnae network like? How do we support you, how do we provide advice and counsel? How are you networking with other alums — and I should say other women and other entrepreneurs? What are the forums that are out there to actually support you as you go through difficult decision-making, in particular. And if you don’t have finance skills, how do you find finance skills? If you don’t have e-marketing, e-commerce skills, how do you find those? How do we do a better job of supporting you? I’m thinking of this mainly from a Mount Holyoke community standpoint, but we could take it broader than that, if you like.

Ellen Chilemba
I think as entrepreneurs, there’s obviously constant needs. For me, some of my constant headaches are funding, or resources. And at times it’s even maybe just an introduction or the like. And so for me in terms of support, I think having that more in my face on who’s doing what. And then some kind of more introductory spaces where we can really network. Then also, I think that we need to really look into more collaboration. One thing I took out from the UN this week is that there’s so many entrepreneurs, and we’re all working on so many issues and some of them are very similar. And what we’ve done now is that as a people we’ve started embracing entrepreneurship, and we’ve started creating. And we have our own small movement happening globally.

But if we really do want to affect that really massive, tangible change, it’s time we bring these movements together. So I think the alumnae community has that perfect platform to really get those movements together and see ways that we could really measure and ensure that we really do impact something global, and something massive in a sense. Just making sure that the conversation starts not just with alumnae but as with students as well. Because I know a lot of students that reach out, usually about every other week on Facebook. And so really making sure that as alumnae we’re trying to find ways to also engage with current students, and not just staying in the network.

Because students do have that entrepreneurial spirit, and the reason why we do see, as we said in the conversation, that people think they have to focus on one thing, is because they try to tap into that but then there’s not many hands holding out to pull you and support you. And so if we as alumnae could also find out who on campus is doing what, how can we best support that ownership department, and really make sure that students are supported and encouraged to pursue something that they’re interested in, that could be a great starting point.

Heather Harde
Finding mentors along the way is really important, especially in entrepreneurship. It can be lonely. By definition you’re pursuing things in a different direction that other people haven’t thought of yet. I ended up finding most of my mentors in the workplace. But I know that the Alumnae Association is making strides, and is making efforts to open up data so that people can help find connections. It comes back to the individual. You need to figure out who you need to talk to and who can be helpful to you. It’s not waiting for it to be handed to you. But I think looking for those types of collaborations and opportunities where you can tap into resources is really important.

It’s helpful for us — as you’re saying, entrepreneurship is so wide-reaching — it’s important for us to think of the definition of entrepreneurship very broadly. You can see it comes from the boring business to the exciting social front. I have two sisters who graduated from Mount Holyoke in the sciences. One had to open a dentist office, that’s entrepreneurship. One started new programming as an OB-GYN within her hospital, that’s entrepreneurship.

So I think it’s healthy to put a very broad label on that and make that very welcoming. And I think that there are ways that alums can be helpful to one another, especially as we expand what that definition means.

Eva Paus
I want to pick up on one of the points that Ellen made, the connection between alumnae and current students interested in entrepreneurship. And there are a few things going on in we’re in particular trying to pair alumnae with students working on particular projects. So to start a network and a pipeline, if you want to, early on.

Question from the audience
I guess it really depends on whether you put Mount Holyoke at the top. It’s at the top of my list, so when I get on the computer, I’m going to go to the Mount Holyoke website, and I’m going to get inspired by what’s going on, who’s doing what. It’s where I met Ellen. Because I saw a little note about Tiwale, I think it was maybe 10 years ago. And I started ordering some tie-dye tablecloths. So that became my go-to gift to my fellow classmates, and I made a connection with her, and I still follow her on Facebook, because she inspired me that way. And I think that if you do that, you begin to engage in some way on that website. What the job that the alumnae Association is doing and the new communications people are doing in terms of making it easy for us to connect that way is a beginning of a closer relationship with alums, with each other.

Eva Paus
That’s a good note to end on. We’ve had two really very powerful panels this morning, from the students’ perspective, a recent student perspective, from the faculty perspective, from alumnae perspective. Really, the various entry points into the skills and aptitudes and mindsets and abilities that the liberal arts education offers. And the different pedagogies that we use to respond to the very real challenges.

We can all remember. When I came back from doing field work in the mid ’80s in Colombia for two years, and I was going to type my dissertation on a typewriter. And my friend said, "You know they now have this thing ..." And many of us have used the cards, when we had to run the cards through when we actually did econometric work. And if you had asked me in ’85, what is the world gonna look like in ’95? Well we would’ve had ideas, but there would have been so many things we just wouldn’t have known.

And the same thing is true today. In 2018, what’s the world going to look like when the alums come back 80 years from now? It will be a world profoundly, in many ways, different. So it’s really the enduring value of the liberal arts, which was showcased very powerfully. And now please join me in thanking Ellen and Heather.

Weekend Events

Welcome / Guest Registration
Noon – 5:00 pm
New York Room, Mary Woolley Hall
Campus representatives will be available to answer questions. All guests, including delegates and members of the Mount Holyoke faculty representing other institutions, are asked to register.

Community Center Celebration (invitation only)
6:00 – 9:00 pm
Blanchard Hall, Community Center
Please join us to celebrate our glorious new Community Center and acknowledge the support of those who contributed to the project’s completion.

Movies After Dark: Superhero Double Header (students only)
7:30 – 11:00 pm
Gettell Amphitheater. In the event of rain: Gamble Auditorium
We'll have prizes for those who choose to come as their superhero alter ego — ’cause you’re already a superhero!

  1. 7:30 pm: “The New Original Wonder Woman,” featuring Lynda Carter
    The first showing is “The New Original Wonder Woman,” the first episode of the TV series “Wonder Woman,” that first aired in 1975 and featured Lynda Carter. Check out this heroine, created by William Moulton Marston, and modeled partly on his wife, Mount Holyoke College’s Elizabeth Holloway Marston, class of 1915.
  2. 9:00 pm: “Black Panther”
    The second showing is “Black Panther,” the 2018 award-winning and worldwide favorite that smashed records and barriers. “Black Panther” showcases the power of Wakanda, both on- and off-screen.

Welcome / Guest Registration
8:30 am – 3:00 pm
New York Room, Mary Woolley Hall
Pick up a program of the day’s events and enjoy light refreshments. Campus representatives will be available to answer questions. All guests, including delegates and members of the Mount Holyoke faculty representing other institutions, are asked to register.

Panels: What We Can Do Together
9:30 am – noon
Gamble Auditorium, Art Building
Please note that the panels on Saturday morning are expected to be full. If you are registered for the panels and would like to guarantee your seat, please be seated 10 minutes before the panel begins. Stand-by seating will be available to all attendees 10 minutes before each panel begins. The panels will also be available to watch via livestream in Hooker Auditorium in the Clapp Laboratory and online.

Panel I: Making Change, Making Knowledge, Maker Culture
Moderated by Jon Western, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty and Carol Hoffmann Collins ’63 Professor of International Relations

How does liberal education prepare students for entrepreneurship and other careers? Join us for a panel that explores the connection between faculty scholarship and student learning as it showcases contemporary approaches such as restoration ecology, technologies in the arts, and other methods and applied learning by faculty in a range of disciplines. The discussion will also provide an illustration of the way contemporary social challenges and other research problems are a part of Mount Holyoke’s contemporary pedagogies and intellectual vibrancy.


  • Sarah Adelman, Associate Professor of Economics
    As an applied microeconomist, Sarah Adelman works with data rather than theory. Her research focus is health and nutrition in developing countries. She spent time in Uganda researching her thesis and has also worked in Malawi and Liberia.

  • Kate Ballantine, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies
    Kate Ballantine’s research uses restored ecosystems as an opportunity to learn about ecosystem processes and development. Ballantine and her students conduct basic and applied research to investigate how these restored wetlands develop and function, and what restoration methodologies may stimulate desirable — or undesirable! — ecosystem functions.

  • Thomas Ciufo, Associate Professor of Music
    Thomas Ciufo is a sound artist, composer, improviser and music technologist working at the intersections of electronic music, electroacoustic performance, sonic art and emerging digital technologies. His research and teaching interests also include audio recording and production, acoustic ecology, and innovative approaches to teaching, learning and career development. With a focus on digital music and music entrepreneurship, Thomas is developing new courses and facilities to support student explorations in creative music technology. He is also a faculty affiliate in the Makerspace.  

Panel II: Entrepreneurship and the Liberal Arts

Moderated by Eva Paus, Professor of Economics; Carol Hoffmann Collins Director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives; Chair, Program Committee, Entrepreneurship, Organizations and Society

Three alumnae who have become entrepreneurs demonstrate the enduring value of liberal education and the creativity, courage and innovative spirit of our alumnae. Explore their extraordinary journeys in three different fields as they describe the services and products that their enterprises offer.


  • Ellen Chilemba ’17
    Award-winning activist and social entrepreneur Ellen Chilemba has been widely recognized for her work in promoting women’s rights and access to education. As founder of Tiwale, Chilemba heads up a community-based social enterprise that gives microloans to women in Malawi, where girls are often forced to leave school and marry at age 12 or 13. For her efforts, she has been named one of Forbes’ Africa 30 Under 30, Glamour Magazine’s College Woman of the Year, a We are Family Foundation’s Global Teen Leader, a Powell Emerging Leader, a One Young World Peace Ambassador, an Ashoka Future Forward Winner, and a Global Changemaker.
  • Heather Harde ’91
    Named in 2011 as one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company, Heather Harde ’91 has led the way in breaking the technology glass ceiling. As CEO of TechCrunch from 2007 to 2011, Harde built the online publisher into a leading site for industry news and analysis. When it was acquired by AOL in 2010, she became general manager of AOL’s technology properties. She left to become the vice chairman of, an advocacy organization in San Francisco, California, that works to build bridges between the technology sector and the city. She holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
  • Elli Kaplan ’93
    Elli Kaplan is co-founder and CEO of Neurotrack, a digital health company dedicated to the development of a digital cognitive assessment test that will enable earlier and more effective evaluation of patients who may be at risk for cognitive decline and help advance research and treatment of cognitive diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Kaplan has two decades of experience in the public and private sectors, including positions at the White House, the U.S. departments of state and treasury, and the United Nations Development Program. She has also held positions with AIG, Goldman Sachs and multiple start-ups. She holds an MBA from Harvard.

Inauguration Day Gallery Hours and Tours at Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
11:15 am and 1:00 pm
Join members of the Art Museum’s curatorial staff and Student Guide program for a 45-minute tour of special exhibitions and permanent collection highlights. An exhibition of work by internationally acclaimed artist Joan Jonas ’58 will be featured. Open to the first 25 people to arrive at each tour time. All museum galleries are open 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Lunch (students and invited guests only)
noon – 1:30 pm
Skinner Green
Robing and Procession Line-up (delegates and Mount Holyoke faculty)

Prepare for processional (delegates and Mount Holyoke faculty)
2:00 – 2:45 pm
Delegates and Mount Holyoke faculty should report to their assigned room at 2:00 pm. Coats and personal items may be left in the assigned room, which will be locked during the ceremony. The assigned rooms are all located in the Kendall Sports and Dance Complex and will be posted at registration and in the Kendall lobby.

Processional (delegates and Mount Holyoke faculty)
2:30 pm
Under the direction of the delegate marshals, professors Dorothy Mosby and Kenneth Colodner, the delegates will line up in order of the founding of their Institutions. Faculty marshals, professors Katherine Binder and Samba Gadjigo, will lead the Mount Holyoke faculty. The academic procession, led by the College marshal, professor Alan Werner, will step off promptly at 3:00 pm and move into the Field House to begin the ceremony.

Inauguration Ceremony
3:00 – 5:00 pm
Field House, Kendall Sports and Dance Complex
Please join us for the installation of Sonya Stephens as the 19th president of Mount Holyoke College. The Inauguration Ceremony will be livestreamed and a PDF of the program is available.

Inauguration Gala Cocktails (invitation only)
6:00 – 7:30 pm
McCulloch Auditorium, Pratt Music Hall
Join us to raise a glass to President Sonya Stephens.

Inauguration Gala Dinner (invitation only)
7:30 – 9:30 pm
Chapin Auditorium, Mary Woolley Hall
Celebrate the Inauguration of President Sonya Stephens.

[Silent] Discotheque Under the Stars (students only)
9:00 – 11:00 pm
Pageant Green. In the event of rain: Skinner Green under the tent
Dance it out under the stars with our silent disco! Each person gets their own headset and picks the DJ who’s mixing what they want to hear. With a choice of three different DJs, you’ll be able to dance to your own beat. Join us for the quietest, most energetic dance party you’ve seen! We’ll have glow sticks and other light-up items on hand — no need to BYOG (bring your own glow).

Sonya Stephens, Mount Holyoke College

Meet Sonya Stephens

Sonya Stephens is an internationally recognized scholar, educator and leader. She is an ardent believer in women’s colleges and liberal arts education.

History of Mount Holyoke College

Chemist and educator Mary Lyon founded Mount Holyoke College in 1837, nearly a century before women gained the right to vote.
Aerial photo of the Mount Holyoke campus

About Mount Holyoke College

As the first of the Seven Sisters — the female equivalent of the once predominantly male Ivy League — Mount Holyoke has led the way in women's education.