It’s been 20 years since political scientist and Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam described the decline of communal activity and community in America in “Bowling Alone,” and, with the publication of an updated edition expected later this year — an edition that explores the impact of social media and the internet on this phenomenon — it is clear that Putnam’s concerns have a continuing, and perhaps even greater, relevance today.
The semester is well underway, and everywhere I go on campus there is a sense of shared endeavor in the pursuit of a Mount Holyoke education. I see stacks of books on tables from the library to the Dining Commons. I see desk lamps glowing late in the windows of our residence halls, as the rain and leaves start to fall. And I see students in deep reflection and conversation, their faces lit up by screens of every size — and by ideas and determination. There is here a common pursuit, and often collaboration, but, as I said at Convocation, there is also independence of thought and action, the questioning of received ideas, creative energy and imaginative engagement with democracies of thought and knowledge. It’s hard, in the midst of such evidence of faculty and students committing themselves to this “intellectually adventurous education in the liberal arts and sciences,” not to be in awe of both the magic and the very real challenge of such a learning experience and environment. It is, in the truest sense of the word, awesome.
From the Spring 2019 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
It's that time in South Hadley when the crocuses and daffodils are blooming all over campus, which means not only that spring has finally arrived but that we are about to graduate the seniors — the class of 2019 — and enroll a new class, the class of 2023, sphinxes both. It’s all about yellow!
From the Winter 2019 Alumnae Quarterly President's PenThe current exhibition at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum “The Promise of the Infinite: Joan Jonas and the Mirror” is a microcosmic reflection of the extraordinary, groundbreaking work of Joan Jonas ’58 and also reminds us of the power of the arts, and indeed of the liberal arts.
Jonas’ originality derives from her unusual forms and the connections she makes between performance (sets, costumes, props, scripts, choreography, music and sound), installation and drawing, which, in combination with video, present to the spectator complex perspectives on art, life and what it means to be human. Jonas says, “My work is about layering, because that’s the way our brains function. We think of several things at the same time. We see things and think another, we see one picture and there’s another picture on top of it. I think in a way my work represents that way of seeing the world — putting things together in order to say something.”
From the Spring 2018 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
Mount Holyoke College’s first known international student, Susanna Major, came from Canada and graduated in 1843. The first from outside North America, Toshi Miyagawa, was a Chinese citizen who grew up in Japan and graduated in 1893. (Learn more about Miyagawa on page 34.) Since then, we have grown to be a truly global community, with 605 international students comprising 27 percent of the College’s undergraduate population in 2017. While Massachusetts residents account for almost 20 percent of Mount Holyoke’s enrolled students, those on campus this year come from forty-five states and sixty-nine countries.
From the Winter 2018 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
As the finishing touches are added to the new Community Center, where contemporary dining meets the historic feel of the Mount Holyoke residential experience, we are turning our attention to the programming that will be centered in it, as well as to the opportunities represented by the vacated kitchen and dining spaces in the residence halls. In all that we are doing, there is intent to bring together creativity and analysis, to engage intellectually and socially, and to ensure that we sustain a community of imaginative learners.
From the Fall 2017 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
From the Summer 2017 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
It is an inescapable and heartwarming truth about Mount Holyoke that we are invested in a tradition of traditions. At no time in the academic year, and at no moment during the career of a student, is this more apparent than during the commencement exercises. Not for nothing did one person, about halfway along the path of this year’s laurel parade, offer up a box of tissues. We laughed at her prescience, knowing that, as the new graduates reached the generous ranks of the fiftieth-reunion class of 1967, who were lining the way to Mary Lyon’s grave, there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the parade.
From the Spring 2017 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
If the notion of “return on investment” is a new way of students, parents, policymakers, and the wider public measuring higher education, it’s not a new idea. The value of the liberal arts—and the adventure of discovery that a Mount Holyoke education represents—have always been understood and promoted as an investment in the future, in a life of learning, and as preparation for professional success. What those professions and successes look like has changed many times over the course of Mount Holyoke’s history, especially in the twentieth century, which saw shifts in college career services from vocational guidance to job placement and from career planning and counseling to professional networking. These paradigm shifts reflect social change as much as they do the evolution of work and jobs. Today this means that personal and career development are core to the work of college and that career services have evolved to support that work and to create the communities and networks that position our students for success.
From the Winter 2017 Alumnae Quarterly President's Pen
A strategic planning process, as much as a process to envision and revitalize, is a moment for self-analysis and reflection about what we do well. It is an opportunity to review and recommit to our vision and values; a moment to identify what distinguishes us as an institution; and a time to set higher goals for achievement in those areas of distinction.
The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2021 charts a course for the next five years that anticipates a much longer-range future. It does so confident in what Mount Holyoke represents—a place committed to women and gender equality, academic excellence, liberal education, diversity, leadership, global understanding, and environmental awareness and sustainability—and with renewed energy to make salient (and attractive to current and future students, faculty, and staff) the experience that is the College. This means striving to be yet more exceptional in those areas we claim as such. It also means new commitments.