Welcome Letter Spring 2018

Sonya Stephens
Acting President

Dear members of the Mount Holyoke College community,

Welcome back to campus, and a special welcome if you are new to the College. I wish everyone a happy, healthy and successful 2018, and, on February 16, 新年快樂 and best of luck in the Year of the Dog. It was a great pleasure to meet with our newly admitted students at the Honor Code Ceremony on Sunday afternoon in Abbey Chapel, and to spend some time with them at the President’s House over tea.

Dining Commons

This is an extraordinary beginning to a semester, as we open the doors of the new Dining Commons, and expect to have all of the facilities of the Community Center available to you by the end of April, including the cafe/pub. I hope that you are enjoying the delicious food and amazing selection, the iPads with access to nutritional information, and the different dining rooms, each with its own character. While there are still some finishing touches to be made, and work will continue both inside and out, we look forward to your joining in the launch of the Dining Commons. The week ahead is devoted to #MountHolyokeFood, a photo challenge each day that culminates in the reveal and tasting of the new Mount Holyoke ice cream flavor on January 30 at 4 p.m.


Equally important, this semester also marks the launch of the College’s integrated advising software platform, Pathways. The system supports students’ individual development and their path through Mount Holyoke. Pathways will help integrate advising information essential to students’ academic and cocurricular experiences on our campus and beyond our gates. Pathways is designed to support current advising efforts, as well as being a place where you, as students, can get real-time information about your academic performance. The system will also report communication between students and the members of their advising network.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)

The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiative at Mount Holyoke will celebrate the first anniversary of BOOM! (Building on Our Momentum). Nearly one year ago, in March 2017, at the first BOOM! conference, we began a conversation with our community members, partners and friends to explore possibilities for new avenues of progress. Several of your recommendations have already been implemented, and, as we look forward to appointing and welcoming a new chief diversity officer to our campus, our eyes are on the future. BOOM! is just one way in which we express a commitment to inclusion at Mount Holyoke.

This winter, following campus-wide participation in the first BOOM! Conference, we decided to include in the academic calendar a “Day of Community” in each of the next three academic years, starting in 2018-19. While we will not cancel classes this spring for BOOM!, we will celebrate the anniversary with a variety of events over several days, from April 2 to 6. I look forward to sharing more information with you about these exciting events. For now, please save the date and contact Dorothy Mosby, associate dean of faculty and professor of Spanish, or Kathleen Pertzborn, chief of staff to the president, with questions.

Building on your feedback and the DEI Steering Committee’s work, we are developing a DEI action plan that will help us implement ideas and bring about the change we want to see. To kick off this action planning process, Mount Holyoke has engaged Kathy Obear, a nationally renowned expert on social justice education. She will be on campus to facilitate three days of foundational diversity and equity training, with a focus on analyzing our policies and practices through an inclusive lens. More than half of our faculty and staff will complete this training in February and we will announce more dates in the future as we work towards 100 percent participation.

Spring events

There is much to look forward to in the weeks ahead. Apart from the many Mount Holyoke traditions (like DisOrientation and Pangy Day), we will:

There will be many other opportunities ahead to reflect on the past and on contemporary events and society:  

  • This evening, January 23, the Mount Holyoke Orchestra will present NEVER Again, a concert memorializing the Holocaust and the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, or their March 2 concert, The Games of Chance, with musical settings of Emily Dickinson’s poems, among other delights.
  • The Art Museum also opens a new exhibition today, Piece Together: The Quilts of  Mary Lee Bendolph, with a lecture by Dr. Alvia Wardraw on January 31.
  • Pharoah’s Daughter, February 10, celebrates Sephardic, Arabic and other Middle Eastern musical traditions.
  • The Weissman Center has announced the visits of Arlene Dávila (February 1), who will speak on the topic “Latinos, Race, and the Politics of Space Making in the Art World,” and of the Honorable Carmen Yulín Cruz Soto, mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, on April 24.
  • The Global Challenges Conference will focus on Global-Local Inequalities: Social Action and Entrepreneurship for Change, with a public lecture by Diana Wells, president of Ashoka, on Friday, February 16 at 7:30pm.
  • The site visit to Washington D.C. (March 8 – 9) is for students interested in careers in public service (the deadline for applications is January 30).
  • Senior Symposium (April 21) celebrates the intellectual interests and research of the graduating class.
  • The Miller Worley Center for the Environment will host the Environmental Film Festival April 19 – 20.

This is just a flavor of what is to come this semester, alongside many other speakers and events organized by academic departments and student organizations.

We look forward to welcoming, on February 5, a new communications leader, Chuck Greene, and we will continue our work on the visual identity of Mount Holyoke and how best to promote the College and our community. Over the course of the spring semester, I will be inviting you to join me and the officers of the College to hear about progress on the strategic plan and some new initiatives associated with it, as well as to some informal conversation sessions about the College. More information about the dates and times for these events will be coming soon.

I look forward to spending time with you at these and other events, and send you my best wishes for the semester ahead.


Sonya Stephens
Acting President