Mount Holyoke College makes interim president Sonya Stephens its permanent leader

SOUTH HADLEY — Mount Holyoke College has named Sonya Stephens as its 19th president.

Stephens has served as the college’s acting president since she was appointed to a three-year term in 2016. In a unanimous decision, the college’s board of trustees have now named her as permanent president, effective July 1.

“I am so pleased to have this opportunity to renew my commitment to you,” Stephens said in a statement to the Mount Holyoke community. “And I am energized by the prospect of beginning anew, even as we build upon Mount Holyoke’s historic legacy of excellence, and upon our recent work together.”

In an email, board of trustees chairwoman Barbara Maumann said that as Stephen’s second year came to a close, the board undertook a review and feedback process to decide whether to appoint her or to begin a national search.

“We are thrilled to say that we did not have to look further than our own campus to locate the individual who provides both the continuity and the vision to lead the college into the future,” Maumann said in that message. “Sonya’s intellect, courage, broad knowledge of Mount Holyoke, high energy level and personal warmth have impressed us all.”

Stephens and Maumann were unavailable for interviews Monday afternoon.

Stephens previously served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty when she arrived at Mount Holyoke in 2013. An expert in 19th-century French literature, she began her academic career at Royal Holloway, University of London. Stephens came to Mount Holyoke from Indiana University Bloomington, where she chaired the French department and served as that university’s first vice provost for undergraduate education.

On July 1, 2016, Stephens replaced Lynn Pasquerella, who had been the college’s president for six years. 

As acting president, Stephens has overseen the implementation of the college’s strategic plan for 2021, a self-study for re-accreditation and a plan to become carbon neutral by 2037, according to a college press release. 

Under her watch, the college also has created its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiative, which led to the eventually hiring of the college’s first chief diversity officer.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at [email protected]