BY MERYL PHAIR ’21
Of the various topics tackled at last Tuesday’s Senate, the most discussed item was the continuation of the presidential search process.
After presentations by Senate Chair Liz Brown ’20 and Dean Amber Douglas, Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum took the stage to speak about the ways that students can get involved in Mount Holyoke’s hunt for a permanent president. Prior to her 2002 appointment as president of Spelman College, a women’s liberal arts college in Atlanta, Dr. Tatum served as professor, dean and acting president at Mount Holyoke College. As a neutral party who has first hand experience in the job, Tatum is involved in collecting feedback from the campus community about the presidential search process.
In December 2015, then-President Lynn Pasquerella ’80 informed the chair of the Board of Trustees that she had decided to take a position as president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
With this announcement, the Board of Trustees concluded that Sonya Stephens, vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of Faculty, should be named acting president of Mount Holyoke College for a three-year term, effective July 1, 2016.
Now, with the end of the three-year term quickly approaching, the Board of Trustees must come to a decision on whether or not to appoint Stephens as permanent president.
“The board has decided that they want to do an evaluation with their constituents to talk about what the college needs and what their priorities should be,” said Tatum.
In consultation with the Mount Holyoke community, the Board of Trustees has developed a detailed position description, or “role specification,” for the next president of Mount Holyoke College. The “role specification” outlines five key competencies of leadership, strategic planning and capabilities, financial stewardship, fundraising and community building.
An online survey was developed with questions that address how Stephens relates to these five competencies and was distributed to the student body via email on Mon., March 5 at 10 p.m. Students have the opportunity to offer feedback by taking the online survey. All responses must be submitted by Wed., March 14. Tatum will hold focus groups on Thursday March 8 with a diverse selection of student leaders.
Tatum will collect the survey data and compile a report that she will then present to the Board of Trustees. Partially based on this report, they will decide whether Stephens will assume the position of permanent president; if not, the Board moves forward with a national search. This decision will be made before the end of the 2018 academic year.
Other topics discussed at this week’s senate include PVTA changes and a new Pathways program.
Brown began the meeting by encouraging all members of the Mount Holyoke community to call their local senators regarding the proposed changes to the PVTA.
“This is a policy that will not only affect students, but members of the Pioneer Valley. We have an opportunity to do something about it but we have to act now,” said Brown.
Next, Douglas, associate professor of psychology and education and director of Student Success Initiatives, introduced Pathways, an integrated advising software platform which was launched in January 2018. It allows students to bring together their individual network of advisors such as academic advisors, professors and residence hall staff, as well as available services like Counselling Services and the Career Development Center.
“It’s a way of working in collaboration with people across campus to get you on the path which is going to make you be the most successful,” said Douglas. The first project survey will go out in the next couple of weeks to collect feedback from faculty and students about the platform and how it works.