Campus Updates

Visit the campus updates page for information on Mount Holyoke's response to the global pandemic. 

May 2021 Board of Trustees Meeting Summary

May 26, 2021

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,

Each year, the spring meeting of the Board of Trustees is anchored by a joyous and important action: Approval of the awarding of the degrees for those undergraduate and graduate students recommended by the faculty. For the second year, this vote occurred during a virtual meeting. 

We are very proud of the many achievements of the class of 2021, including Frances Perkins scholars, and all those pursuing an advanced degree. We also recognize those in the class of 2021 whose degrees were awarded previously. We applaud the tenacity each graduate demonstrated as they navigated an uncertain landscape, supported by faculty and staff interactions that equally required significant additional work and great adaptability. We look forward to seeing students, faculty and staff back on campus in the fall as we prepare to return to in-person teaching and learning and the fullest expression of the residential experience — with all the usual provisos relating to the course of the pandemic. 

The Board meeting of May 6–8, 2021, was focused on ensuring Mount Holyoke’s continued success in the future. Key sessions included strategic planning, the changing enrollment landscape and predicted declines in domestic applicant pools due to lower birth rates, enrollment strategy, and the Student Conference Committee surveys. For much of the discussion, we were joined by faculty, staff and students from the College Planning Committee, the Admission and Financial Aid Advisory Committee, and the Student Conference Committee. Their participation in these conversations brought valuable insights and helped to establish shared understanding as we address complex strategic issues facing the College. 

Typically the Board reviews and approves the budget for the upcoming fiscal year in May. The College and trustees are confident that we will achieve a balanced budget for the current year, fiscal year 2021. But as noted in previous communications, the COVID-19 pandemic placed unexpected financial pressures on Mount Holyoke — challenges that may continue for several years. To have the most accurate information prior to approving a budget for fiscal year 2022, which begins on July 1, we will meet in June. President Stephens will share updates with the community following our discussion.

On several key measures, the news is very positive for Mount Holyoke and reflects the ability of the College community not only to meet the challenges of the pandemic but also to exceed expectations in many ways. These achievements result from a palpable commitment to Mount Holyoke, as well as professional and personal sacrifice. These include:

  • Successfully creating, delivering and completing a new seven-and-a-half week module curriculum through Mount Holyoke’s Flexible Immersive Teaching (FIT), remotely and across the globe.
  • Meeting key enrollment goals for the class of 2025, demonstrating Mount Holyoke’s ongoing reputation and strength among liberal arts colleges.
  • A holistic community-wide approach to anti-racism and diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • Near-record financial support from alums and friends of the College, particularly for endowed student financial support. As of May, gifts to The Mount Holyoke Fund were more than $9 million, with overall contributions totaling more than $50 million for the fiscal year.
  • A strong endowment that currently exceeds $950 million due to robust investment performance and gifts. 
  • A comprehensive COVID-19 asymptomatic testing program, along with health and safety measures, that led to very low COVID-19 positivity rates on campus and prevented large outbreaks.
  • Ensuring stability in the operating budget while preserving the academic core and student support.

Several faculty members saw their scholarly and teaching excellence rewarded with professional advancement, successfully meeting the requirements for promotion and reappointment. Others announced their intent to retire. The Board of Trustees approved the following recommendations:

Promotion to full professor:

  • Amber Douglas, Psychology and Education
  • Audrey St. John, Computer Science

Tenure: 

  • Lisa Iglesias, Art Studio 

Promotion to Senior Lecturer:

  • Jacquelyne Luce, Gender Studies  

The reappointments of:

  • Esther Castro Cuenca, Senior Lecturer in Spanish
  • Rick Feldman, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Organizations and Society
  • Hannah Goodwin, Assistant Professor in Film and Media Studies  
  • Bernadine Mellis, Five College Senior Lecturer in Film Media Theater

Appointments to endowed chairs:

  • Katherine Aidala, Kennedy-Schelkunoff Professor of Physics
  • Anouk Alquier, Reverend Joseph Paradis Visiting Instructor in French (renewal)
  • Iyko Day, Elizabeth C. Small Associate Professor of English
  • Catherine Le Gouis, Reverend Joseph Paradis Professor of French
  • Olabode Festus Omojola, Hammond Douglas Professor of Music
  • Dylan Shepardson, Robert L. Rooke Associate Professor of Mathematics
  • Ajay J. Sinha, Julie ’73 and Helene ’49 Herzig Professor of Art

The retirements of:

  • Robin Blaetz, Emily Dickinson Professor of Film Studies
  • Lowell Gudmundson, Professor of Latin American Studies and History
  • Thomas Millette, Professor of Geography
  • Lynda Morgan, Professor of History
  • Eva Paus, Professor of Economics on the Ford Foundation

The awarding of emeritus status to:

  • Guiliana Davidoff, Robert L. Rooke Professor of Mathematics
  • Michael T. Davis, Professor of Art History
  • Robert Eisenstein, Director, Five College Early Music Program, and Five College Senior Lecturer in Music
  • Leah Glasser, Senior Lecturer in English
  • Lowell Gudmundson, Professor of Latin American Studies and History
  • Lynda Morgan, Professor of History
  • Mark Peterson, Professor of Physics and Mathematics on the Alumnae Foundation
  • Christopher Rivers, Professor of French

In other business, the Board of Trustees elected incoming trustees and recognized the service of members whose terms are concluding. New to the Board in July 2021 will be:

  • Joud Mar'i ’19 as the Recent Graduate Trustee for a three-year term. Mar'i is currently a clinical research assistant at Boston Children’s Hospital and will begin a doctoral program in computation and neural systems at Caltech in September.
  • Ellen Hyde Pace ’81, incoming president of the Alumnae Association 
  • Shirley Wilcher ’73 to a five-year term. Wilcher is executive director of the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity; president and CEO for the Fund for Leadership, Equity, Access and Diversity, and heads a consulting firm.

The departing trustees are: Heather Harde ’91, co-chair of the Finance Committee; David Mahoney P’18, former co-chair of the Education Committee; Camille Malonzo ’16, Recent Graduate Trustee and co-chair of the Board’s DEI Task Force; and Maria Mossaides ’73, outgoing president of the Mount Holyoke College Alumnae Association. We are deeply grateful for their dedicated service to the Board of Trustees and the College, and also thank Mossaides for her leadership of the Association.

Against the backdrop of the numerous challenges that face Mount Holyoke — and the entire higher education sector — the Trustees received encouraging updates during meetings of the standing committees, as well as plenary sessions that included special presentations. The plenaries included:

  • A presentation by an external group focused on the ways in which advanced data analytics can assist Mount Holyoke’s enrollment team in developing effective strategies to identify and recruit talented high school students to the College. This is part of a series of efforts underway to counter the predicted long-term decline in high school-age students, particularly in the Northeast region from which the College draws a high percentage of applicants.
  • A presentation by the leadership of the Student Conference Committee, Lucy Anderson ’23 and Jacquline Rich ’21, about the student surveys conducted over three semesters, beginning in spring 2020. Concerns reflected the impact of the pandemic, specifically around time management, internships, community connection, and health and well-being.
  • A lively and engaged conversation that brought together students, faculty and trustees to consider how Mount Holyoke might approach its next strategic plan. This plenary session was also led by an outside organization with considerable experience in working with liberal arts colleges that draw students from a national pool. Questions discussed included how the academic program might evolve and the role that a College plays in preparing students for life and careers.
  • The Board’s DEI task force provided an update regarding plans for continued education and action, as well as progress against the Board of Trustees Anti-racism Plan of Action. A dashboard and metrics to track progress are in preparation.

As we head into the summer months, we note how much has changed. Even in just a few short weeks since the Board’s meeting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has now deemed masks optional for those who are vaccinated, thanks to the wide availability of multiple COVID-19 vaccines in the United States. Massachusetts, like many states, is beginning to lift many of the restrictions put in place during the pandemic. 

As we all heal from and reflect on this unprecedented year, we are anxious to renew the strong bonds of friendship and shared endeavor that make our community so strong. As Coretta Scott King said, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” 

Thank you for all you’ve done on behalf of our beloved Mount Holyoke during this unprecedented year. We look forward to working together with faculty, staff and students this coming academic year, and wish you some respite and restoration over the weeks ahead.

Sincerely,

Karena Strella ’90
Chair of the Board of Trustees

Sonya Stephens
President