Kathleen McCartney

President, Smith College

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Kathleen McCartney's Story

Kathleen McCartney is the 11th president of Smith College. A summa cum laude graduate of Tufts University, she earned master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from Yale University.

Since assuming the presidency in July 2013, McCartney has focused on issues important to women around the world. She has launched important initiatives on college access and affordability, campus discourse, design thinking and the liberal arts, women in STEM, and the capacities students need to succeed and lead. She has forged education partnerships with leading organizations, including the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, edX and MassMutual. Under her leadership Smith has engaged noted architectural designer Maya Lin to re-envision its historic Neilson Library in the context of its renowned Frederick Law Olmsted campus.


McCartney was previously dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE)—only the fifth woman dean in Harvard’s history. She doubled HGSE’s financial aid for master’s students, raised funds for international faculty research, and dramatically increased fellowship support for doctoral students. A signature accomplishment of her tenure was the creation of a three-year doctorate in educational leadership developed in collaboration with the Harvard Business School and Kennedy School of Government.

An authority on child development, McCartney’s research has focused on childcare and early childhood experience, education policy and parenting. She has authored more than 150 articles and book chapters and was a principal researcher for a 20-year study of the effects of child care on child development. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Education, the American Educational Research Association, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychological Society. In 2015 she was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Council on Education (ACE) and to the Consortium on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) Board of Directors. She was the recipient in 2009 of the Distinguished Contribution Award from the Society for Research in Child Development. In recognition of her thoughtful and creative leadership at HGSE, The Boston Globe in 2011 named her one of the 30 most innovative people in Massachusetts. In 2013, she received the Harvard College Women’s Professional Achievement Award, which honors an individual who has demonstrated exceptional leadership in her professional field.