More turnover at the Five Colleges, as presidents of Mount Holyoke and Smith announce plans to leave
Two more presidents among the Five Colleges have now announced they are departing, following the news last year that Amherst College President Biddy Martin would step down at the end of this academic calendar.
Mount Holyoke College President Sonya Stephens announced this week she will be leaving in August to become president at the American University in Paris.
Stephens said the uniqueness of leading an innovative, liberal arts college in Paris was an opportunity she could not turn down.
“France has long been home to me, even though by my accent you can hear that I'm originally from the U.K.,” Stephens said in an interview Thursday.
Stephens came to Mount Holyoke in 2013, first as the dean of faculty. In that role, she focused on the South Hadley, Massachusetts, school's academic mission and helping to start new majors, like data science. When she became the college's interim president in 2016 and president in 2018, Stephens said the campus itself became a priority.
“A dining commons was critical, but the dining commons was really focused on building intellectual and social community on our campus,” Stephens said. “That speaks to directly to commitments in diversity, equity and inclusion, in the sense of belonging on our campus, which also connects to environmental justice.”
The Mount Holyoke College Board of Trustees said it plans to identify an interim president for the 2022–23 academic year, and then launch a formal search process for a new president.
Stephens' announcement came just a few days after Smith College President Kathleen McCartney announced plans to leave the Northampton school in June 2023, after leading it for a decade.
“When I retire, I will be 68 years old, which seems a good time to step away,” McCartney said in an interview last week. “I also think that changes in leadership are good for institutions because new leaders have different ideas.”
McCartney said she is proud of her efforts to make Smith College more accessible and affordable.
“We raised a tremendous amount of money for financial aid,” McCartney said. “We’ve eliminated loans from our financial aid packages, and we’re offering new funding to our students.”
According to the college, its Board of Trustees will launch a search for Smith’s 12th president this spring.