December 22, 2016

News. Worthy. Times 27.

Mount Holyoke College

The 2016 accomplishments of our College community are, it should come as no surprise, too many to list! And yet we took our best shot at it. Enjoy the season-by-season wrap-up. And stay on the pulse of it all by subscribing to The Gates blog.

1. Presidential transition is announced

Mary Lyon Hall in winter

At the start of the new year, President Lynn Pasquerella announced her plan to step down in June, having been named the president of the Association of American Colleges & Universities. Pasquerella’s six years of leading the College were marked by transformative growth and a commitment to creating a vibrant community. The Board of Trustees, by unanimous vote, appointed Dean of Faculty Sonya Stephens to serve as acting president, effective July 1. As the College’s chief academic officer since joining the institution in 2013, Stephens, a scholar of 19th-century French literature and culture, has led efforts to re-imagine the Mount Holyoke curriculum, reduce class sizes, develop innovative learning spaces, enhance faculty research support and compensation, and recruit new professors. Stephens shared her thoughts on her strategic vision for the College and on the value of women’s education.  

2. A small community that can

Ng Tian Hui, director of orchestral activities and lecturer in music

In January, Mount Holyoke reported receipt of an impressive award. Ng Tian Hui, director of orchestral activities and lecturer in music, was selected as the 2015 winner of The American Prize in Orchestral Programming for his selection of repertoire for the Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra. “This honor is an acknowledgement that even a small community can do remarkable work,” Ng said. In winning the award, Ng beat out big universities, with numerous musicians and orchestras, in addition to schools of music. Score!  

3. Leading with vision? Copy that.

Woyneab Habte '17

Empowered by the skills and vision she gained at Mount Holyoke, Woyneab Habte ’17 founded a copy shop that employs female students in her home country of Ethiopia, on the campus of her former university. In a country where campus jobs are unheard of, and where turning to sex work is often seen as the only way out of hardship, Habte is creating a viable alternative. A key mission of the venture, which she named On-Her-Own and was featured by the College in January, is to offer empowerment along with financial resources—giving students the inspiring combination Habte has found through her job here on campus. Habte placed first in the College’s Pitch5 Competition in March, where she had 90 seconds to wow the judges with her business idea.

4. Surreal medieval retrievals

Detail of a medieval manuscript

File this under “What are the odds?” First a staff member, then two students, found historical musical manuscripts hidden in plain sight in buildings on campus. One fell off the wall in an office in the library and the other was hanging in the Abbey Interfaith Sanctuary. Each piece of vellum—taut, preserved calfskin—features a musical chant in gothic script, prefaced by an elaborately filigreed letter. The manuscripts likely date to the late 14th or early 15th century. The College reported the exciting discoveries this winter. Adeline Mueller, assistant professor of music, later discussed the pieces and the meaning of some of their features with New England Public Radio. 

5. Super Blanch: rising

View of the planned Community Center

In February 2016, the Board of Trustees approved a $50 million renovation and expansion of Blanchard Campus Center, paving the way for a new hub for community and dining. The Community Center will be a place for social interaction—a space to meet, eat, talk, and create—that embodies all of the advantages of our residential learning experience. Student life offices will also be consolidated in the new center. Construction began this summer, as you can see for yourself. Questions? Wondering about the timeline? Want to see an interactive floor plan? It’s all here. This fall, Acting President Sonya Stephens enjoyed a conversation at the construction site with Paul Breen, director of facilities management and planning, to discuss how the new Community Center will contribute to the College’s sustainability efforts.

6. Princeton Review recognizes MHC’s culture of social change

MHC campus in the fall

This winter, Mount Holyoke was ranked 18th in the country on the Princeton Review’s list of the Top 25 Best Schools for Making an Impact. In other words, the College is a top destination for students who want to change the world, at home and abroad. The list is based on student responses nationwide regarding community service opportunities through their school, student government, sustainability efforts, and on-campus student engagement. The recognition jives nicely with the College’s prestigious community engagement classification in 2015 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an award that celebrates how integral volunteerism is to the College’s culture.

7. Be bright. Take flight.

Fulbright Logo

The Fulbright Program knows leadership—and goes global. So, too, does Mount Holyoke. The United States government’s flagship international educational exchange program, designed to increase mutual understanding between peoples of the world, operates in more than 160 countries. Recipients of prestigious Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. In February, Mount Holyoke was named one of the top producers of Fulbright students among undergraduate institutions in 2015–2016. And in May 2016, five new MHC students and alumnae were offered Fulbright grants to support their work and research around the world.

8. Weave. Believe. Achieve.

Celine Mudahakana '17

Celine Mudahakana ’17 is in the business of transforming lives. In March 2016, she was awarded a $10,000 grant by Davis Projects for Peace to pursue Weaving for Peace, an initiative she began in 2013 to help impoverished women in her native Rwanda. Using foot-powered looms, the women of Weaving for Peace create cotton scarves. The profits enable the weavers to buy food, to send their children to secondary school, and to lead their households with greater ease. Future plans for Weaving for Peace include moving from a rented classroom into a space of their own—complete with water, electricity, a product showroom, a dormitory, and a vegetable garden.

9. Creating partnerships that work

Entering Holyoke sign

This spring, Mount Holyoke College and the Holyoke Public Schools launched a partnership: the Urban Teachers Pathways Program. Through this new initiative, 10 district educators will pursue master’s degrees at the College—at minimal cost and as they continue to work. A full range of teaching and learning courses are taught at the College or at a local Holyoke public school through Mount Holyoke’s Professional and Graduate Education division and its Master of Arts in Teaching program. The goals? To enhance Holyoke staff retention and to bolster their skills in the classroom, which will improve educational outcomes for the students they teach.

10. Thoughtful, viable, specific: MHC students pitch at the Clinton Global Initiative

Students at the Clinton Global Initiative University meeting

Among the 1,200 students from 100 countries who gathered in April for the ninth annual Clinton Global Initiative University meeting were 13 Mount Holyoke students. This marked the third year in a row that MHC students received such a nod. The strong showing speaks to the caliber of the College’s programming, said Entrepreneurship Coordinator Tamara Stenn, who coached the students for the event. “We had a very large number of students for the size of our school,” Stenn said. “They really stood out in how deeply thought-out their projects were. Our students had viable, important projects that addressed specific needs they had personal experiences with.” Read all about it!

11. FYP = you + me

Michelle Hurst '74 and Laakan McHardy '16

The spring Alumnae Quarterly included a Find Your People connection that we just loved. Actor Michelle Hurst ’74 and Laakan McHardy ’16, a theatre arts/psychology major, connected in November 2015 when Hurst spoke at the Black Alumnae Conference. McHardy was assigned to be her assistant. The two shared an immediate understanding of each other and have kept in touch as McHardy navigates one of her newest roles: that of an alumna. Per Hurst, “The sisterhood that comes from being at MHC lasts a lifetime. Really, it does.”

12. A raucous standing ovation for a beloved professor

Professor Vinnie Ferraro

On April 11, Professor Vincent “Vinnie” Ferraro was celebrated by friends and colleagues on the eve of his retirement and in recognition of his 40 years at the College. In addition to founding the international relations department—the first of its kind in the nation—and teaching countless classes, Ferraro advised thousands of students. “This man knows how to tell a good story,” said Courtney Brunson ’16, as she presented Ferraro the student-choice “Love Your Lyon” award for best storyteller on campus. “He has made the lives of men and women from the past come alive for all of us.”

13. MHC team wins a “Best” at Five College DataFest

Members of the MHC DataFest team

More than 20 teams competed in a weekend-long Five College DataFest contest in April. They were tasked with constructing meaningful information from millions of data points taken from Ticketmaster, the online ticket sales company. “There were about 4.3 million points of data,” said Zollie Yavarow ’17, who was on Ze2st, the Mount Holyoke College team. Yavarow and five teammates spun the raw numbers into a specific narrative. For their efforts, they took home the the prize for “Best Business Suggestion.” A big round of applause for their big-data analysis! 

14. Commence the going forth, the being brave, and the disrupting!

Commencement 2016

The class of 2016 went out with a bang. (There was even an Oprah sighting!) The keynote speech at Commencement was a window into a social justice leader’s motivations and modes of action. Joia Mukherjee of the global nonprofit Partners In Health has dedicated her life and career to advocating for health care access and human rights for the poorest of the poor. She invited Mount Holyoke College’s graduates to join her in transforming the world for justice and peace. “There is no way to do this without you,” she said. “We need psychologists, chemists, philosophers, musicians, poets, librarians, programmers, we need all of you. We need to disrupt and rebuild this world.” Watch the highlight video.

15. The MHC student experience? “Enviable and inspiring,” per Vanity Fair.

Graduating students during the Laurel Chain parade

Vanity Fair profiled Mount Holyoke in May, highlighting the College’s rich traditions, strong community, and broad inclusivity. Several students met on campus with author Lisa Birnbach, who went on to pen the article. “The richness and intimacy of these students’ experiences are enviable and inspiring,” wrote Birnbach. “I have not heard so many students talk about appreciating their educations. These young people are studying bespoke curricula—with professors and deans collaborating to make their goals more attainable. ... Academically, these schools are as rigorous as the top coed colleges, if not more so.” Well said!

16. For believing in us? For standing by us? Our sincerest thanks.

Mount Holyoke students in class

Thank you for supporting the sisterhood. With annual gifts from nearly 10,000 donors—a shout out to the incredible support from the class of 1966’s 50th reunion—The Mount Holyoke Fund soared to its second-best year ever by the end of May. Your investment of $9 million supports the College’s greatest needs and unlocks students’ potential, inspiring leaders and transforming futures. Such a transformative opportunity, said Celestelle Webster ’18, “is worth way more than the money donated. It is the energy donated, the time donated, the belief in what Mount Holyoke College stands for.”

17. NACE Award: nice job!

Some of the Sophomore Institute staff

In June, Sophomore Institute, a half-day professional conference offered every winter at Mount Holyoke College, won the 2016 Career Services Excellence Award from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) in the small college category. The conference is designed to help second-year students kick off the internship search process by honing their career-management skills.

18. Acting President Sonya Stephens takes the keys

The President's Hose on campus

On July 1, Sonya Stephens became acting president of the College, having been appointed to succeed former president Lynn Pasquerella. As Stephens and her family moved into the President’s House this summer, she and House Manager Brenda Adams gave us an inside look at their first few days.  

19. The rise of an alumna’s culinary empire

Margarita Forés

Mount Holyoke College alumna Margarita Forés—celebrated for her culinary empire of top Italian restaurants, home décor, floral artistry, and a cooking school—has occupied the hearts and palates of fans in her hometown of Manila, Philippines, for more than 30 years. Hers is a household name throughout Asia and beyond. And as the College reported in July, this year Forés earned the prestigious title of Asia’s Best Female Chef 2016 as part of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards.

20. For the thrill of finance—and equity

A scene from the movie Equity

Seen many financial thrillers that showcase powerful female characters? Former College trustees Audrey McNiff ’80 and Barbara Moakler Byrne ’76, both investment bankers, were happy to change that. They took on an exciting project as funders and co-producers of “Equity,” a film by screenwriter Amy Fox and director Meera Menon. “Equity,” like the 1988 comedy “Working Girl,” is one of few female-driven film narratives about Wall Street and the first ever written, directed, and financed by women. After being shown at Sundance Film Festival in January, “Equity” was sold to Sony Pictures Classics for a broader summer release.

21. Convocation 2016: can you say flash mob?!

Mary Lyon wows the crowd at Convocation 2016, during the flash mob

With cheers and roars, members of the Mount Holyoke community officially rang in a new academic year in September under an overcast sky, with sunshine in their pockets and a bounce in their step. And with a little help from Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” To watch it is to love it!

22. A perfect fit—and a storied tradition

Family portrait depicting the legacy of Hannah Peach '19

Hannah Peach ’19 chose Mount Holyoke because of its academics, community, and equestrian program. Following in the footsteps of 53 family members to continue a legacy began in 1848, is a bonus. While alumnae family trees can be tricky to pin down, it’s likely that the “Peach tree” is the College’s largest. The number is so high in part because two families with long histories of graduates merged at the end of the 19th century when Hannah Peach’s great-great-grandparents married. “I have some pride in knowing how much history my family has had here,” Peach said. “It’s interesting walking around knowing that so many of my family members have walked the same routes.”

23. New for fall 2016? Exciting academic offerings.

an interdisciplinary-inspired graphic

Start with a new interdisciplinary minor in entrepreneurship, organizations, and society. Add a new Nexus concentration in data science, an emerging field with interdisciplinary connections to computer science that is taught primarily at the graduate level. The result? Mount Holyoke is emphatically committed to expanding academic vistas—and career opportunities—for students. And to attracting students with a wide variety of interests, backgrounds, and futures.

24. An activist. An ambassador.

Sajia Darwish in the College's library

Over the summer, Sajia Darwish ’18 built a library for children and youth in her former high school in Kabul, Afghanistan. By expanding access to books, Darwish hopes to inspire a culture of reading. And to inspire hope—reading has long provided Darwish peace and strength. She penned a blog this fall about her experiences: “I have learned how to create a counter-model for the patriarchal society of Afghanistan: through first empowering myself, and then empowering other girls and women.”

25. Much to celebrate at the Art Museum

Art Museum's 140 Unlimited exhibition

Where to begin? The Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, one of the oldest collegiate art museums in the country, celebrated its 140th anniversary in November in big ways: hundreds of new acquisitions, gallery reinstallations, and a birthday bash. A selection of new acquisitions is showcased in a yearlong, museum-wide exhibition: 140 Unlimited. This infusion serves to enhance the College’s commitment to casting the facility as a teaching museum for its students. Also this year, the museum joined a six-college art consortium to expand digital art collections and develop teaching opportunities, and it ranked 11th on a list of the country’s 35 best college art museums. And early this winter, the Art Museum welcomed a new director, Tricia Y. Paik.

26. Embracing challenge and difference: a post-election message

Mount Holyoke College seal

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, Acting President Sonya Stephens wrote a message to the College community in November. The College’s unwavering mission—“to draw students from all backgrounds into an exceptionally diverse and inclusive learning community”—requires commitment and responsibility from all members in even the calmest of times. But when divisive rhetoric and challenges to identities reach a crescendo, the need for us to embrace diversity in all its forms is even greater. Mount Holyoke recognizes and respects the right to disagree politically. But the College vehemently denounces all forms of discrimination and hate. Mount Holyoke remains steadfastly committed to standing by one another and to actively creating a climate defined by trust, respect, and forbearance.

27. #WeAreMountHolyoke

#WeAreMountHolyoke portraits on the fence around new Community Center construction site

Mount Holyoke College is the home to incredible individuals who come together to live and learn in an even more incredible community. As one student says, “It feels like a sample population of the world, like little pieces of cities around the globe have migrated onto campus.” Today, tomorrow, forever: #WeAreMountHolyoke. Meet some of our students!


What’s in store for next year? Join us!  Visit us!

Mount Holyoke, a traditionally women’s college, is for ambitious, independent students from around the world who embrace complexity, cultivate curiosity, and resolve to become agents of change. The tight-knit community is academically rigorous, intellectually adventurous, and socially conscious. As one of the most diverse research liberal arts colleges in the United States, Mount Holyoke prepares students for leadership and cultural awareness on a global scale. Mount Holyoke graduates thrive in all fields, on all continents, and in a vast array of languages.
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