What first drew you to Haverford?
Everything drew me to Haverford, in the first place and for a long time. I’ve been in liberal arts education for about 25 years, at two other small liberal arts colleges, and of course everyone in that world knows about Haverford. They know that it as a place of excellence with talented and creative students, faculty, and staff, and also the Quaker heritage that really lets it be a place of community, contribution to community, and integrity, all of which are undergirded by the truly lived student Honor Code. All of that draws me to Haverford.
AND my husband is a Haverford grad! He’s class of ’82, so I’ve had Haverford in my hip pocket for a really long time because I’ve known Dave for over 30 years, and we’ve been married almost 26 years. We moved cross-country and the Haverford Magazine went with us wherever we were. So even though it wasn’t like I was studying Haverford there, I did have some familiarity with it and lived with a Haverfordian for a long time. And I know that Dave really loves the values of this place. So that also is a way that I’ve thought for a long time about how Haverford would be an amazing place for me to be. You never know how that’s going to play out, and I’m still so incredibly fortunate and humbled by the fact that it’s happened in this way. I’m just thrilled to be here!
Do you have a favorite part of campus?
The first thing that comes to mind is the Nature Trail. I’ve walked it almost every day that I’ve been here (one day it was thunderstorming and I didn’t get to go out), either in the early morning or the evening. Last night, for example, I saw a doe with her triplets! They were spotted and tiny. Another time there was a fox in the middle of the trail, looking at me, tail outstretched. And of course if you walk at night there are all the fireflies. It’s just magical!
And the new library! It’s incredible. I was lucky enough to get a tour last week; the library staff is one of the first small groups I met with. I met with them on my second day, and that space is fantastic.
What was your first-year experience like as an undergraduate at Cornell?
It was fantastic! I loved Cornell. I left my state of Wisconsin because I needed a different, more expansive adventure. And this is all a first-year experience, right? You come to a place that you think you love, but you kind of love it on paper. I’d actually never visited it. And, literally of course because of the generation I’m in, it was literally all on paper because there was no internet. I was drawn to Cornell because it was founded in 1865 for men, women, and people of color. So it was founded upon a principle of complete inclusion, and that was really attractive to me compared to other Ivy League institutions, which were not founded that way. Cornell is also New York State’s land grant institution, which means public, but it’s a university of seven undergraduate colleges some of which are public, some are private. I love that idea of bringing together the public and the private in one place.
I knew what I wanted to study; it was government. I was going to be a lawyer, and I switched in my very first year, probably within the first six weeks, to being a chemistry major. So Cornell was transformative for me, intellectually and academically.
But also my living experience — we did not have Customs, we had RAs — was also really great. I was the president of my dorm and so I was really involved in thinking about programming and bringing people together, and that was really fun. I met lots of people from all over the world and had my eyes open wide compared to when I first stepped foot on campus.
A shift from a major in government to chemistry is a big change. Do you have any advice for first-years as they meet with their pre-major advisors?
I know, not only from my personal experience but also from being a professor for so long, that being open-minded about what you’re experiencing is so important. That’s the advice I’d give to people: be as open-minded and exploratory as you can possibly be. That starts with how you set up the classes that you take. Are you willing to take a class that has a prefix that’s not something you’ve had in high school? Maybe you don’t know about sociology, anthropology, or psychology because your school didn’t offer things like that. So that would be one: be open-minded.
And number two: be curious. That’s not just about the academic part, but about: “why did your professors, or how did your professors, get into what they’re doing?” Often times, even at a small, small place like Haverford, students can be intimidated about having conversations with faculty. But a simple question to ask a faculty member, even if you’re shy or nervous, is “How did you become a mathematician?” or “How did you become a jazz instructor?” you name it, and they might have a really interesting story to tell. So be curious in all kinds of ways.
These are all easier said than done. We’re not, sort of, built that way. Another way of framing that is risk-taking. Take some risks! This is a safe-ish place. From the perspective of a 17 or 18 year old it might not seem safe, but I know it’s a safe place to take risks about what you’re studying, what you’re thinking about. Maybe you’d like to take Chinese even though you think it’s going to be super hard, which it is for most people. Excellent! Great place to take a hard class and be taught along the way.
What are you most excited about for this upcoming year?
I’m really most excited to get to know students. My last job was as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty, the equivalent of what the provost is here, and that didn’t really remove me from students, but I had much less student contact than I had as a professor; I was mostly focused on work with faculty. So I’m really excited about working with students because my first love is teaching. I’m not going to be teaching here, at least not right away, so I won’t have student contact that way, but my job as president is to know students and to understand what you’re interested in about Haverford and how Haverford can be changed into an even better place for you and for students who come after you. I’m in this work because I love 20-something-year-olds. Your age group is just fantastic; you’re changing, you’re developing, you’re exploring, you’re having crises of confidence, crises about “Who am I?”, “What are my identities? How do those intersect?”, and I just find all of it really stimulating because I have complete confidence in the journey that you’re on!
Any additional advice for the incoming class as they enter their first year?
Have fun! This is advice for all of us, and especially first-year students. We can tend to get super serious about what we’re doing, and that’s cool, but it’s not cool when it leads to stress and lack of well-being. So, what can you do for fun? How can you intersect with the other first-years you’re meeting? Other faculty and staff? What makes your heart sing?