Colleges and universities play a vital role in contributing to society, perhaps more so now than ever before. As President Brian W. Casey has said in several speeches recently, it’s Colgate’s responsibility to prepare students to be reasoned thinkers before sending them out into the world.

Our alumni are also doing meaningful work in academia, utilizing what they learned at Colgate and applying that knowledge as administrators at leading institutions nationwide. They’re shaping the next generation — and, at the same time, sorting out weighty issues like affordability, access, mental health, and the value of a degree (the number of students enrolling in U.S. colleges’ and universities’ undergraduate programs in spring 2022 was 662,000 fewer than the previous year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center).

“We’re at a moment, a tipping point in education,” says Jeanne Follansbee ’78, who is a dean at Yale College and a vice chair of Colgate’s Board of Trustees. 

Colgate Magazine talked to Follansbee and eight other (out of approximately 2,000)  alumni who are higher education professionals to learn more. 

Featured alumni include:

Darien McFadden ’88, director of the Center for Counseling and Mental Health at Amherst College

At colleges around the country, the current senior class is the last one that had any semblance of a pre-COVID-19 experience, points out Darien McFadden ’88, director of the Center for Counseling and Mental Health at Amherst College. “Everyone else has had a very mixed educational experience, and they missed out on a lot of markers — celebratory things, like even having a normal college orientation — that those of us who are older took for granted,” he says.

Darien McFadden ’88; photo by Philip Keith

The pandemic is one reason for the mental health crisis among young people, but “it’s broader than that,” McFadden says. “I think we’ve been seeing a trend toward increased anxiety and overwhelm for several years now.”

Generation Z has been called the loneliest generation, and social media use is considered to be a contributing factor. “The ironic thing about social media is that it’s not very social,” McFadden notes. “All of these opportunities for people to have windows into the lives of other people
does not do a tremendous amount for developing true social connection, knowing how to communicate with each other, learning life skills.”

At Amherst, like other college campuses, there’s a rising demand for mental health services. McFadden and his team have noticed an increase in students wanting weekly therapy sessions, for example. And while some experience serious mental health challenges that require clinical help, others are simply craving a space to connect and talk about normal struggles.

The pandemic is one reason for the mental health crisis among young people, but “it’s broader than that.”

Darien McFadden ’88, director of the Center for Counseling and Mental Health at Amherst College

“Not everything is a mental health issue,” McFadden says. If a student had a death in the family, for example, it would be appropriate for them to feel sad. “My fear is that if we keep encouraging people to see a therapist simply because they’re experiencing painful feelings, we, in some ways, are telling them that their healthy emotions are bad or too much. And that’s a real concern.”

A solution to that problem, he proposes, is broadening wraparound support — i.e., enlisting campus partners, such as deans, professors, and coaches, to serve as a listening ear. “Is there an opportunity to talk [to someone] and maybe find out that what you’re experiencing isn’t so unusual?”

McFadden has been at Amherst for 22 years (nonconsecutively; he spent time off campus working in community mental health) in various capacities. When he was promoted to director this past January, he had two stipulations: He wanted to stay involved in the postgraduate training program he’d been leading, as well as continue to practice clinical work. The training program is important to him because it has a multicultural focus: “We need more clinicians in the fields of counseling, clinical psych, and social work who know how to work with diverse populations.” He adds: “It is our responsibility to make sure the services we offer students are accessible to the diverse population we have.”

In addition, he wanted to keep a small caseload because “I am a clinician at heart,” he says.

McFadden has known he wanted to go into psychology since childhood. “I was the kid in class to whom everyone went to tell their problems,” he says. In sixth grade, when his mom returned to college to finish her degree, he pored over her psychology textbook. McFadden majored in the subject at Colgate, along with English literature, and was president of the Psychology Club his senior year. It was his roles as a residential adviser and a peer counselor with a support call-in program, though, that he credits as his best career preparation. 

Today, at Amherst, McFadden is “most proud of having developed relationships with students who have felt impacted by our connection.” He’ll receive emails from former students who reach out to say hello and update him on their lives. “That means a tremendous amount to me.”

Maureen O’Connor ’78, president of Palo Alto University

Majoring in psychology at Colgate has not only been pertinent to Maureen O’Connor’s role as president of a university that specializes in the subject, but it’s also shaped her leadership skills. “There are many leaders in higher education with a psychology background,” O’Connor notes from Palo Alto University (PAU) in California. “It’s good for the breadth of the work we do,” she says, adding that her law degree has also been useful.

Maureen O’Connor ’78; photo by Bryan Meltz

Becoming a university president wasn’t O’Connor’s intention; she wasn’t even looking for a new job when PAU approached her about the position. But, in each of her roles — as a law clerk, professor, department chair — she’s been motivated to take on more responsibility and “fix things, make things run better.”

The field of environmental psychology — how people engage with the world — was introduced to her during Jan Plan research with Jack Dovidio, who is now Charles A. Dana Professor of psychology emeritus. It was a new field at the time, and she got hooked. “I loved psychology and I loved research, but what I cared about was applying it to real-world problems,” O’Connor says.

After Colgate, she worked for the U.S. Department of Justice, writing criminal justice reform grants. “I realized there’s all this research on human behavior, and it’s not getting into the policy arena,” O’Connor says. “If I had a through line of my career, it’s taking data and research and trying to find ways to develop better policies — whether it’s higher education policies or policies in the legal system — that are more consistent with what we know about human behavior.”

She then pursued a dual degree in law and psychology at the University of Arizona, became a law clerk, and started her academic career at the City University of New York — where she’d rise through the ranks in her 18 years there.

“Pretty early on in my career, I realized I couldn’t stand when things weren’t working well,” O’Connor says. Instead of complaining about the situation, she’d take on bigger roles that would enable her to implement change. When PAU approached her with the presidency in 2016, O’Connor thought, “I could take everything I’ve learned and apply it to a whole university.”

The role is unique in that she’s in charge of a young institution (PAU was founded in 1975) and she succeeded a president who was in the position for 32 years. First on her agenda was updating infrastructure, administrative policies, databases, organizational structure — “all of the things that support the education.”

Last year, she unveiled a strategic plan, which — just as Colgate’s Third-Century Plan articulates — emphasizes the importance of embracing the institution’s distinctions and building upon them. In the case of PAU, which specializes in education in psychology and counseling, predominantly at the graduate level, O’Connor says: “We are at the forefront of psychology and counseling. That is what we do. Let’s not try to be what every other university is trying to be. We have something to offer that nobody else is doing in the same way.”

Providing a research-based education is expensive, O’Connor acknowledges. But although large, online universities can offer a more economical option than in-person learning, “it misses every benefit that I took away from Colgate and what we’re trying to do at PAU,” she says. “It misses the engagement with research active faculty and with direct one-on-one mentoring and the support that students really need to excel.”

As PAU looks toward its 50th anniversary in 2025, O’Connor’s goal is to ensure that the university is thriving for another 50-plus years. For that, she’ll continue to rely on her psychology background, which began in a Colgate first-year seminar. “I’m not doing a study every time I make a decision or going to the literature every minute, but it’s there,” she says. “And I know that when I’m stuck, or if I’m trying to strategize about something, I have this great base of our field to draw on.”

Now longtime friends, Maureen O’Connor ’78 and Jeanne Follansbee ’78 were two of the first members of both the Swinging ’Gates and the women’s intramural hockey team.

Jeanne Follansbee ’78, dean of summer session at Yale College

At age 35, Jeanne Follansbee ’78 decided it was time for a career change and went back to school. The inspiration? Volunteering on Colgate’s Board of Trustees. “I realized my hobby was so much more fun than my job,” says Follansbee, who had been running her own advertising consultancy. So she enrolled in Boston University to earn her master’s and PhD in English, doing her homework alongside her two children, who were grade-schoolers at the time.

Liberal arts is the best form of education for a changing world.

Jeanne Follansbee ’78, dean of summer session at Yale College

Now dean of summer session at Yale College, she has a couple of decades of higher education experience under her belt. And, adding up her two separate stints on Colgate’s board, the vice chair has served for 18 years (she previously served as director of the Alumni Corporation 1981–85). Here’s how she got to this point in her career and what she thinks about higher education today.

After finishing her PhD, she became a lecturer in Harvard’s history and literature program. When her term ended there, she was appointed as a junior faculty member in English at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro. She returned to Harvard after three years and became the director of her former program. “Taking on the administrative piece was great for me,” she says. “I loved it.” Next was a year at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, where she was academic dean.

Today at Yale, Follansbee collaborates with the faculty to develop the summer curriculum (which comprises approximately 225 courses) and the study abroad programs. In addition, she’s chair of the First-Year Scholars, Yale’s summer bridge program for first-generation, low-income students. “I find it inspirational to work with these students,” she says. “Making the transition to Yale brings lots of challenges. It’s about helping them succeed.”

She majored in English at Colgate, but says that one of her favorite classes outside the department was astronomy with Professor Vic Mansfield. Her daughter, Karen Quinn ’08, also had the chance to take a class with Mansfield when she was a first-year, before he died in 2008.

Being a board member has been a “mutually beneficial relationship,” Follansbee says. As she engages in strategic conversations about the direction of Colgate, Follansbee brings her perspective from working at Harvard and Yale. Similarly, she brings what she learns through Colgate’s board planning back to Yale.  

“I think liberal arts is the best form of education for a changing world,” she says. “The things I learned as an undergraduate and that Colgate continues to emphasize — critical thinking, great communication skills — are even more important in the world we’re living in.”

Follansbee gives kudos to Colgate for its plans to implement interdisciplinary learning through the Robert H.N. Ho Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative and the Middle Campus Initiative for Arts, Creativity, and Innovation. “To cross not just disciplinary lines but also divisional lines requires a really broad imaginary canvas with a lot of people willing to work together,” she says. “Interdisciplinary thinking expands the toolbox students have. It also benefits faculty and their scholarship. It provides different lenses for thinking about how to approach a particular problem, but it also shapes how to frame the problem.”

I feel like we’re at a moment, a tipping point in education. There’s considerable anxiety about the cost of higher education and about the value of liberal arts.  I believe it’s crucial to highlight the value of the kind of education Colgate provides. We’re training the next generation of flexible, creative, and visionary leaders.”

Follansbee’s grandfather was Winthrop, Class of 1919, and her father was Winthrop Jr. ’53.

Liz Enos ’90, senior associate director of financial aid, Trinity College

 Finding the Right Fit

“To students and families, I would say, there’s a college for you. It might, at the end of the day, not be the one that’s at the top of your list, that one might be unaffordable, but there’s always a way to obtain the four-year degree. It’s just a question of finding the college that’s the right fit for you, and part of that fit is financial.”

Advice to Parents

“Do your homework. As early as you can, start figuring out how to best position your student. You have to look at your student’s strengths and weaknesses, what they want, how committed they are to a particular career path, for example. I have four children of my own; my daughters knew what they wanted to do. The question for them was what’s the school that’s best known for this career path, and in their case, they were able to go to state schools, keep their borrowing low, and go right into the career paths that they both wanted. It was worth every penny for them to get the training they needed to do the careers they knew they wanted to do, but not every kid is going to be in that position.

“There is a significant amount of students who have no idea what they want to do. Then I think it’s critical to find a place where that student feels at home, where they feel like they can thrive, the campus resonates with them, where they look around and say, ‘These are my people, I’m going to fit in here.’ If they’re happy and they’re flourishing, they’ll find their pathway.”

Be Honest

“Know what you can afford and be up front with your kids. So many parents want to provide this dream for their student, and they’re not willing to have the hard conversations. Have them early, so you’re not springing this on a kid who has their heart set on some unattainable experience.”

On the Liberal Arts

“It’s that idea of exposing yourself to all kinds of subject material that maybe you didn’t know was going to spark an interest in you. I majored in French and minored in theater, and people were like, ‘What was the plan there?’ but those were the courses I loved.”

The Importance of Higher Education

“Being at a place like Colgate solidified for me the importance of higher education in general, liberal arts education specifically. It certainly resulted in me feeling like what I do matters, that I’ve chosen a career path that makes a difference and is important for students and families to make their experience a success. Having that valuable experience myself positioned me to want to make that possible for other people.”

Emily Roper-Doten ’02, dean of admission and financial aid, Olin College of Engineering

Emily Roper-Doten ’02; photos by Leise Jones

Her path began at Colgate, quite literally, on a campus tour.

As a high school student, Emily Roper-Doten ’02 was part of a group following a guide up and down the hill. She liked the experience so much, she decided not only to enroll at Colgate, but also to follow in that student’s footsteps — walking backward. After being a tour guide for a couple of years, Roper-Doten was encouraged by Gary Ross (the Jones and Wood Family Vice President for admission and financial aid) to become a senior intern in the admission office. That experience, as an interviewer and helping with April visit days, gave Roper-Doten the realization that she wanted a career in higher education.

She double majored in educational studies and theater, then attended Boston College’s higher education administration program. While earning her master’s, she interned in a variety of related areas. “I kept coming back to admission as being the place I wanted to be.”

Higher ed is at a moment of seeing that we have lots of different ways to evaluate candidates for our schools.

Emily Roper-Doten ’02

Several universities offered her a position after she graduated, but Olin College attracted Roper-Doten because it was such a different place. It was a brand-new institution at the time — its first graduating class was 2006 — which offered a rare career experience. “I just kept thinking, when will I ever have an opportunity to work at a new college again? Colleges aren’t founded that often,” she says. Higher education institutions can be slow and difficult to change, so Roper-Doten relished “the idea of a place that was saying the old rules don’t apply. We’re purposely trying to build something different from the ground up. It was this radical idea that engineering education is broken, and we should turn the educational model on its head.”

To “get that next level of experience,” after two years at Olin, Roper-Doten joined Tufts University. She spent nine years there, first as an assistant director and then as an associate director before returning to Olin in 2015 as the dean of admission and financial aid.

“This innovative educational format and a commitment to gender diversity and engineering in STEM was compelling to me,” she says.

It’s a small college, with 350 undergrads. “We’re small and specific on purpose because of what it allows us to do in the educational model,” she explains. The applicant pool has stayed steady at approximately 900 prospective students each year. Roper-Doten explains that their goal isn’t to increase the applicant pool number — because they only enroll approximately 86 students — but, rather, to increase representation in the pool.

“Our diversity is strong,” she says. “We’re seeing students applying from different parts of the world.” Even so, they’re looking at ways to find new populations of students to encourage. When she started at Olin, Roper-Doten says, it was such a new college that students mainly found out about it through word of mouth. “I said, we need to think about who doesn’t know about Olin and how we open up to schools that serve higher percentages of students from backgrounds that are historically excluded from STEM,” she says. Today they’re creating relationships with counselors at schools with underrepresented students and partnering with community-based organizations that focus on college access.

Olin College (like Colgate) is continuing to be test optional for now. “I think higher ed is at a moment of seeing that we have lots of different ways to evaluate candidates for our schools,” Roper-Doten says. “I work closely with our institutional research group, and we look at what are the pieces of data that come in at the point of application, and how that data relates to success on campus.” Much of their research shows that high school GPA is one of the strongest indicators of how a student will perform, she explains.

“For different schools, you may see a different predictability in testing with what the student’s performance is. I don’t feel like I can speak for all colleges, but I do think it is our job as enrollment leaders to do the due diligence on this, and it’s a necessary part of our process.”

Christelle Hayles ’15, DEI specialist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Another alumna whose campus experience built a foundation for her work is Christelle Hayles ’15, who worked for Colgate’s Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS) and ALANA. Now, as a DEI specialist at MIT, she provides her thoughts on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

What did your responsibilities at OUS and ALANA entail?

It largely centered around student support via formal DEI programming, community-building initiatives, and trainings. The bulk of it largely centers around informal and formal one-on-one or group support. The first thing that is necessary to situate yourself in a DEI role is to position yourself as a resource liaison, but most important, a trusted thought partner and listening ear.

Christelle Hayles ’15; photo by Philip Keith

How has your philosophy major guided your work?

Philosophy gave me the tools to ask questions that help to make sense of the systems we operate under. There is still a lot of work to be done on how to have conversations around race, gender, class, and oppression in general, as well as the role universities have in rectifying those systems on their campuses and in service to their communities. Philosophy also taught me that not everyone will see DEI work as imperative as I do and what it means to be in conversation with folks of oppositional belief systems. (Thank you, Professor Maura Tumulty!)

How do you lead people in conversations about DEI?

It’s a personal journey to not only do this work, but to even consider doing this work. When I am coming into a space and the conversation is around diversity, equity, and inclusion, my main goal is to meet everybody where they’re at. There might be folks who have had these conversations every day of their lives, or folks who are just figuring out what diversity means to them. Being able to steer the conversation where everybody takes something back with them requires patience and a certain skill set, but also requires being able to utilize the Socratic method — asking, ‘Why do you think that way? That’s an interesting point. Where did you learn that?’ Being able to find where folks are coming from and their approach to DEI helps me make sense of a strategy in terms of, ‘What are your DEI goals? If you don’t have any, how do we set them?’

What does your role at MIT entail?

I am the DEI specialist for three academic departments: biological engineering, chemical engineering, and material science and engineering. I work collaboratively with the departments to foster an inclusive working and learning climate/culture that embraces intersectional identities, promotes diverse critical knowledge, and centers the lived experiences of marginalized communities to ensure that community members feel like they belong and can thrive. Additionally, I work alongside the DEI committees in each department, and with the department’s corresponding department heads, to facilitate the development/implementation of departmental strategic plans on DEI, and evaluating the progress in order to guide the departments in strategies that lead to long-term and sustainable inclusive excellence.

I believe that universities should approach systemic problems with systemic solutions. 

Christelle Hayles ’15, DEI specialist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

How do you think DEI work should be approached?

I believe that universities should approach systemic problems with systemic solutions. Applying a systemic and restorative justice lens to any university’s operational systems is a tall ask because universities risk losing the support (financially or metaphorically) of donors, alumni, and partners. In many ways, universities cannot make such bold moves in terms of updating their systemic operations because they could lose what they perceive to be the legacy of their institution. I argue that there is a brighter future for the higher education institution that courageously steps out to integrate DEI into the DNA of the university.

How do you personally hope to make an impact?

My goal is to position DEI as a standard and systemic part of whatever institution I am in. Like my mentor taught me: The goal is to weave DEI into the full fabric of the institution.

Jean Morrison ’80, university provost and chief academic officer, Boston University

The honorary degree citation for Jean Morrison ’80 at Colgate’s 2022 Commencement recognized her as someone who is “constantly seeking ways to increase access to the sciences for underrepresented populations.”

Morrison has fought for equity in the five institutions where she’s studied, taught, and served in leadership roles — including her current position as the provost and chief academic officer at Boston University. 

Jean Morrison (second from right) testifying before a House committee about sexual harassment in STEM. Photo by David Scavone ’77

In June 2019, she brought that fight to the government when she testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in the Hearing on Combatting Sexual Harassment in Science. She told them about her experience as a woman geologist pursuing her doctorate in the ’80s. In that male-dominated environment, “bullying behavior was baked into the system,” she said. “Back then, efforts to change that culture were only sporadic and arose from individual efforts, and not from the scientific or academic communities at-large. In fact, you would not have been considered a serious scientist if you even raised the issue for discussion.”

In that hearing, Morrison laid out a plan to make BU a more welcoming place for women as well as students of color and other underrepresented groups. In addition to her own experience, Morrison explained that the issue was particularly personal because her daughter was in a STEM PhD program at the time. “I want to be sure that she has the opportunity to thrive,” Morrison said. As provost, she also supported the launch of BU’s ARROWS (Advance, Recruit, Retain & Organize Women in STEM) program. 

More recently, Morrison was responsible for the university establishing the Center for Antiracist Research through the hiring of Ibram X. Kendi. “[The center] does the scholarly work behind understanding systemic racism and history of racism, particularly in the United States, and policy matters around those processes that have sort of inherently structural racism,” she explains.

“All institutions of higher education, except HBCUs, were founded and developed without the context of having inclusion at their core, and they all have a great deal of work to do,” Morrison adds. “It takes a commitment to the issue and the focus of time and energy to help identify those systems that aren’t helping us to bring in more diverse faculty and staff members. And of course, we’re always working on the diversity of our students to ensure that a Boston University education is accessible and attractive to students from underrepresented groups.”

Although there’s still much work to be done, “the world has come a long way” since Morrison was a student, she says. She is grateful to have had a nurturing environment in Colgate’s geology department, finding mentors in professors Bruce Selleck and Jim McLelland. They all remained friends until the two professors passed away in 2017 and 2021, respectively.

Joe Manhertz ’96, athletics director at St. Bonaventure University

Division I athletics prepares students to be successful, says Joe Manhertz ’96. “You’re double majoring,” he says, referencing the balancing act of academics and staying physically competitive.

Be part of something more than just your team. 

Joe Manhertz ’96, athletics director at St. Bonaventure University

Currently in the second year of his role at St. Bonaventure, Manhertz shares his six main objectives for student-athletes:

1. Educate: That’s part of coming to college, you get an education.

2. Compete, and really go all out: the intrinsic value of sports, the wins and losses, and the emotion that go with those.

3. Nurture: Build more than just working out and competing on the fields; nurture the mind, body, and soul.

4. Play the right way: Make sure we’re following the rules, doing what’s right.

5. Embrace differences: Not everyone sees life through the same lens. I walk through life as a 6’6” African American man. Let’s embrace what’s different.

6. Build community: Be a part of something more than just your team, more than just being a student-athlete. Be a part of the university, be a part of the community, be a part of the state. 

At Colgate: Manhertz played football and basketball. He majored in geography and education.

David Hale ’84, executive vice president and COO, University of Richmond

As some colleges are closing or merging (more than 60 in the past five years, according to the Hechinger Report), it’s a trying time to be in charge of a university’s finances.

David Hale ’84, who is at the helm of University of Richmond’s financial management, says, “We didn’t know what to expect” when the COVID-19 pandemic started. “We didn’t know if we could host students on campus and do our in-person, residential education in the fall of ’20. So as a result, we had to be very careful about our expense control, because residential education is a significant piece of our annual revenue,” he explains. “Similar to Colgate, we were able to move forward.” More
from Hale:

“I focus on the administrative side of the university, not on the academic side. A lot of it is what I helped oversee at Colgate [he worked at his alma mater for 20 years]. At Richmond, my responsibilities include financial management, facilities’ management, information services,
and athletics.”

I wanted to do something more mission-driven than profit-driven.

David Hale ’84, executive vice president and COO, University of Richmond

Majoring in geology: “Bruce Selleck was my adviser, and then he was my colleague in the administration at Colgate, so that was a wonderful journey, and he was a great mentor for me. I loved being a geology student at Colgate, but I didn’t think it was for me, as a career path. So I went in a different direction, and I [entered] an accounting program at NYU. But the Colgate education gave me the confidence and interest to do other things. And certainly, the quantitative skills and analytics skills that I learned being a geology major have helped me to this day.”

After NYU, Hale worked in financial management for the entertainment industry, first for Paramount Pictures and then for Sony. “But I decided I really wanted to do financial management work in the not-for-profit sector. I wanted to do something more mission-driven than profit-driven.” He called Colgate’s career services office to talk to Judy Fischer (a well-known and beloved staff member who died in 2020). Fischer had helped him as a student and did so again. “We’re hiring at Colgate,” she said. There wasn’t a position in his direct line of work, but Hale became associate director of planned giving before moving to the financial offices after a couple of years.

How University of Richmond handled financial uncertainty at the start of the pandemic: “When [COVID-19] first came out, we cut operating expenditures. We froze salaries. We invested heavily in testing, masks, and air filtration units at all of our buildings. We bought new modular units to house students who needed to be isolated. That was a pretty big investment.”

Looking back on 2020: “It was really hard for every single one of us in that moment. We’re still not completely out of the woods, but the financial risk has gone down.”

The Student Has Become the Master 

In looking at the nearly 2,000 known alumni who work in higher education, professors make up the largest cohort. 

Here’s a snapshot of that group:  

Total number of professors: 636

Most popular discipline: English (43 alumni teach that subject)

Institution with the most Colgate representation: University of Vermont
(10 alumni)

States with the most professors: New York (92)
Pennsylvania (45)
California (39)

Professor teaching farthest from Colgate:
Ralph W. Adler ’80 at the University of Otago, New Zealand 

Graduates who teach at Colgate: 4 
Di Keller ’81, Rebecca Upton ’92, Peter Klepeis ’94, Dominique Hill ’05

Class producing the most professors:
The Class of ’86 has 25 professors, more than any other year.

There are currently 36 alumni working at Colgate in various roles.