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Bergeron to step down at semester’s end

The dean of the College will be inaugurated as president of Connecticut College in January

Dean of the College Katherine Bergeron will leave the University to become president of Connecticut College beginning Jan. 1. She will continue her duties as dean this fall.

Bergeron has been a prominent voice in President Christina Paxson’s strategic planning efforts and recently emerged as a major advocate of online education initiatives at Brown.

The Connecticut College Board of Trustees announced Bergeron’s selection in a press release on the New London, Conn. school’s website Aug. 20, after a nearly nine-month search to replace current president Leo Higdon, Jr.

Higdon, who has held his position since 2006, will step down this December. Bergeron will be inaugurated in January after students have returned from winter break, said Amy Martin, a spokeswoman for Connecticut College.

Bergeron’s resignation comes amidst a series of high-level administrative turnovers. Paxson just completed her first academic year at Brown, and Provost Mark Schlissel P’15 began his tenure at the University in July 2011.

Dean of the Faculty Kevin McLaughlin P’12 also assumed his current administrative post in July 2011 but has served as a faculty member since 1996.

Dean of the Medical School and Biological Sciences Ed Wing stepped down last year, as did Vice President for Research Clyde Briant, Chief Investment Officer Cynthia Frost and multiple other deans and administrators. Major administrative turnover frequently accompanies a presidential transition, The Herald has previously reported.

In an email to The Herald, Schlissel suggested the turnover has no single cause, writing that many administrators who recently stepped down had served for several years.

Schlissel will head a search committee for a new dean of the College. The University will determine the committee’s composition this fall, he wrote, and the committee will first consider candidates from within the faculty.

Bergeron said she was asked to apply for the college’s presidency this summer in a “compressed timeframe.” She added that her first presidential task will be to acclimate to the New London area and the college’s network of students, faculty members, staff members and alums.

“I’ve benefitted so much from my experiences with the amazing Brown undergraduates and the passionate and dedicated faculty,” Bergeron said. “It’s made me very excited to move into a position that is really focused entirely on undergraduate education.”

As an academic administrator, Bergeron headed the Task Force on Undergraduate Education in the 2007-08 school year. The committee oversaw one of the largest assessments of Brown’s curriculum since the 1980s. Her work on the committee resulted in new academic standards for University concentrations and reformed academic advising.

Under then-President Ruth Simmons, Bergeron worked to increase the number of first-year seminars and expanded the writing requirement, the University’s sole academic requirement. The expansion of the writing requirement in particular drew student criticism as recently as last fall, with some calling it poorly implemented or contrary to the open curriculum.

Bergeron has played a major role in the technological side of a Brown education: She helped install the prerequisites feature on Banner, which  prevents students who do not meet certain course requirements from enrolling without an instructor override. The change elicited criticism from some faculty members, The Herald reported at the time, with some saying the changes in Banner represented “a quasi-change in culture” at the University.

More recently, Bergeron has spearheaded the University’s involvement with Coursera, a massive open online course service, and called for a prominent University presence in the realm of online education.

Bergeron worked at the University for two years, the first as a professor of music and the second as chair of the music department, before assuming her current position as dean of the College in 2006.

Her appointment to the deanship was not without controversy. In the year following her appointment, five colleagues from her office — including two long-serving deans and a research analyst — left the University to seek employment at other institutions. Several of the departures — part of a restructuring of the dean’s office — involved staff members being fired or choosing to quit because they did not approve of changes Bergeron had made, The Herald reported at the time.

The restructuring created the position of deputy dean of the College, to whom all deans would report, and changed the titles and responsibilities of many of the academic deans already in place.

A new dean of the College will join Paxson as she pursues her new capital campaign and strategic plan. The plan — expected to be finalized this fall — will guide Paxson’s tenure as University president, The Herald previously reported.

In the past year, Bergeron headed the Committee on Education Innovation, one of six strategic planning committees created by Paxson. Bergeron said the research she conducted on the committee has helped her set goals for her final semester at the University.

“Things that have to do with science education, online education, in the engaged scholars program and diversity education at Brown are some of the highlights that we’re going to be working on very assiduously this fall,” Bergeron said.


A previous version of this article was published Aug. 20 at 1:41 p.m.


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