Sonya Stephens

Acting President, Mount Holyoke College

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Sonya Stephens's Story

Sonya Stephens is the acting president of Mount Holyoke College, a position she assumed on July 1, 2016. She was appointed by unanimous vote by the Board of Trustees for a period of three years.

She succeeds the College’s eighteenth president, Lynn Pasquerella ’80.

During her tenure Stephens will preside over key campus initiatives such as the development of The Plan for Mount Holyoke 2021, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) reaccreditation process,facilities master planning, and the Community Center. She will also plan and launch a new capital campaign.

Stephens joined Mount Holyoke College in 2013 as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. As the chief academic officer, she was responsible for faculty research and curricular support, faculty governance, and academic budgeting and infrastructure. She oversaw an operating budget of $52 million and worked closely with divisions across the College including the Miller Worley Center for the Environment, the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives, the Weissman Center for Leadership, the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum. She also collaborated with the Five College Consortium on shared initiatives, departments, programs, and faculty hiring.


As dean of faculty, Stephens led efforts to enhance the reputation of the College, and to increase support for faculty research and curricular innovation. She oversaw the implementation of new degree requirements, and the restructuring and reenvisioning of the Career Development Center. She was also instrumental in the creation of innovative academic programs such as the Mount Holyoke Data Science Initiative, a new Nexus concentration in data science, and the Women in Data Science partnership, a collaboration with Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and Smith College.

Stephens also promoted the deep integration of The Lynk, Mount Holyoke’s curriculum-to-career experience, within academic departments and the strategic alignment of information technology resources to enhance and showcase it. She led initiatives to renovate classrooms in support of innovative learning, to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration, and to develop a venue and program in support of emeriti faculty and their continued scholarly engagement with Mount Holyoke.

Prior to coming to Mount Holyoke, Stephens spent seven years at Indiana University Bloomington, serving as chair of the Department of French and Italian and, for nearly five years, as the University’s first vice provost for undergraduate education. She led the campus-wide development and implementation of new general education requirements and was responsible for assessment and accreditation efforts. Her support of teaching and learning was both instrumental and collaborative, and led to the development of an integrated Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. She also oversaw the creation of the institution’s roadmap for student success.

Previously, Stephens spent 15 years on the faculty of Royal Holloway, University of London, where she chaired the Department of French, and led the creation of the School of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures. She served for eight years as the faculty-in-residence director of a team responsible for the academic and personal welfare of 850 undergraduates.

Stephens holds a PhD in French and a bachelor of arts in modern and medieval languages from the University of Cambridge. Her master’s degree in French studies is from the Université de Montréal, where she was a Commonwealth Scholar. She developed her deep commitment to women’s colleges when she did her undergraduate work at New Hall, a college for women at the University of Cambridge that is now known as Murray Edwards College.