Tag: Wellesley College

Dr. Paula A. Johnson Becomes 1st African-American President of Wellesley College

New Wellesley President Paula A. Johnson (photo via wellesley.edu)
New Wellesley President Dr. Paula A. Johnson (photo via wellesley.edu)

article by Jeremy Fox via bostonglobe.com

Wellesley College announced Thursday it had appointed Dr. Paula A. Johnson, a Harvard Medical School professor and advocate for women’s health, as its president, making her the first African-American to lead the school.

Johnson will become the 14th president of the women’s liberal arts college in July. She replaces H. Kim Bottomly, who said in April she would step down after nine years.

Johnson, 56, said in an interview that she felt a special responsibility as the college’s first African-American leader and believes that student diversity is one of Wellesley’s strengths.

She said she would work “to not only strengthen and deepen that diversity, but also ensure that our residential experience is taking full advantage of that diversity, that our young women are really experiencing all the richness that that diversity brings on campus.”

Wellesley graduated its first African-American student in 1887. In 2014-2015, the most recent academic year for which data are available, the student population was 5 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic, 22 percent Asian, and 6 percent biracial or multiracial. Another 12 percent were international students.

On campus Thursday, the appointment resonated with sophomore Gabrielle Taylor.

“For someone who looks like me, a black woman, to become president of Wellesley College — it is so inspiring to me. She truly embodies black excellence,” said Taylor.

Johnson said that Wellesley has important work to do in preparing students for both the great expansion of leadership opportunities for women and the ongoing disparities in women’s employment and health care options.

“Wellesley could not be more relevant today in terms of its role in providing an outstanding liberal arts education, which we know is so critical to developing the next generation and to the future of our world,” she said.

A committee of students, alumnae, trustees, faculty, and staff unanimously recommended Johnson after an eight-month search.

“Even among a superb group of candidates, Dr. Johnson stood out through her record as a scholar and leader, together with her passion for women’s advancement, education, and well-being, the energy and insights she conveyed in our discussions, and her enthusiasm for Wellesley,” Debora de Hoyos, chairwoman of the search committee and a college trustee, said in a statement.

Johnson is the former chairwoman of the Boston Public Health Commission, a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

She attended Harvard and Radcliffe colleges and trained in internal and cardiovascular medicine at Brigham and Women’s. She is the daughter-in-law of a Wellesley alumna and lives with her husband and two children in Brookline.

She currently serves as the chief of the Division of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s and is founder and executive director of the hospital’s Mary Horrigan Connors Center for Women’s Health & Gender Biology.

Johnson’s work has focused in part on biological differences between women and men, seeking to correct a longstanding imbalance in medical research that looked only at men, she said.

“Dr. Johnson has devoted her life to improving the lives of women,” said Charlotte Harris, a Wellesley senior who served on the search committee, in a statement. “She truly understands the issues of equity, inclusion, and well-being that are so important to Wellesley students.”

The women’s college west of Boston has about 2,400 students and counts former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright among its graduates. Johnson said many Wellesley students support Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“There’s a tremendous excitement around the possibility of seeing a woman be next president,” she said. “It’s about leadership, and that leadership reflecting back at you and giving you a sense of pride and hope for what is possible.”

Wellesley made headlines last year when it announced it would begin accepting transgender women in the Class of 2020, following similar policy changes at women’s colleges such as Mount Holyoke in South Hadley and Simmons in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

Johnson said it was a policy change that students, alumni, and the college leadership had embraced.

“The mission of Wellesley is to educate women, and women who will make a difference in the world,” she said, “and I think that embracing transgender women is part of our mission.”

Dina Rudick of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Educational Television for Preschoolers Shown to Benefit Young African-Americans

Sesame Street Cast (Photo via blogcdn.com)
Sesame Street Cast (Photo via blogcdn.com)

A new study authored by scholars at Wellesley College and the University of Maryland found that children who watched Sesame Street when it was first broadcast nearly a half century ago, did better in school as they got older. The data shows that exposure to Sesame Street was particularly beneficial to African Americans and children living in economically disadvantaged areas.

The data shows that Black children who lived in areas where Sesame Street was broadcast on stronger VHF channels where reception was more reliable and viewership was higher reduced their likelihood of being below grade level on academic assessment tests by 13.7 percent several years later when they were in elementary school.

Phillip B. Levine, an economist at Wellesley College and co-author of the study, said that “it is remarkable that a single intervention consisting of watching a television show for an hour a day in preschool can have such a substantial effect helping kids advance through school. Our analysis suggests that Sesame Street may be the biggest and most affordable early childhood intervention out there, at a cost of a just few dollars per child per year, with benefits that can last several years.”

Co-author Melissa Kearney, an economist at the University of Maryland, added that “it is quite encouraging to find that something so readily accessible and inexpensive as Sesame Street has the potential to have such a positive impact on children’s school performance, in particular for children from economically disadvantaged communities. These findings raise the exciting possibility that TV and electronic media more generally can be leveraged to address income and racial gaps in children’s school readiness.”

The article, “Early Childhood Education by MOOC: Lessons From Sesame Street,” was published on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research. It may be accessed here.

article via jbhe.com

Joanne Berger-Sweeney Appointed Trinity College President, 1st Female and African-American to Hold Post

New Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney
New Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney

HARTFORD — Several hundred Trinity College students, faculty and alumni greeted Joanne Berger-Sweeney, named Thursday as the college’s first African-American and first woman president, with enthusiastic whoops and applause.  “How could you have a warmer welcome for someone?” said Berger-Sweeney, a dean at Tufts University in Medford, Mass. “It’s not very often that I get to walk into a room and there’s a standing ovation.”  But then, she noted, to a roar of laughter, there were no seats in the room.

Berger-Sweeney, 55, a neuroscientist who was accompanied at Thursday’s announcement by her husband and two children, told the crowd she fell in love with Trinity the moment she first set foot on campus — shortly before New Year’s.  “We came through the arch … I looked to the left and saw the chapel, I looked to the right and saw this beautiful long walk, and I thought: I think I could be here,” Berger-Sweeney said. “… Some people may want to be on small bucolic campuses in Maine, but not me. I want to be right here.”

After that visit Berger-Sweeney decided to apply and emerged as the winner when the Trinity board of trustees Tuesday voted unanimously for her. She will be the college’s 22nd president.  Berger-Sweeney will take the helm at Trinity as it continues to grapple with financial challenges, a reputation as a party school, security concerns, campus climate and conflict with fraternities and sororities over policy changes.

“Trinity is a forward-looking institution that excels in liberal arts and sciences, and both are areas of excellence for Dr. Berger-Sweeney, who rose to the top of our highly competitive candidate pool,” said Cornelia Parsons Thornburgh, who led the search committee and will become chairwoman of Trinity’s board of trustees on July 1. “She impressed us with her strong academic credentials, curricular innovations, collaborative nature and enthusiasm for the Hartford community.

“I strongly believe that her vision of Trinity College as an elite liberal arts college with an urban pulse is one that will guide us, inspire us and lead us on a path to distinction and greatness,” Thornburgh said.  James F. Jones Jr., who has been Trinity’s president for a decade and will retire June 30, called the moment historic and said that Berger-Sweeney’s appointment brought him “an enormous sigh of relief” to know that his “successor is going to be a star.”

Berger-Sweeney, who has been dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts since 2010, brings with her experience that is relevant to Trinity, Thornburgh said. “At Tufts, she has proven herself in areas that coincide closely with, and are important to, Trinity: proximity to a city, a strong athletic tradition, budget and program coordination, an historical Greek tradition, and a deep appreciation for a liberal arts education.”

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