The state’s board of higher education approved Greg Summers as the 12th president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Tuesday. He replaces Mary Grant, who left the North Adams college to become chancellor at University of North Carolina at Asheville in January.
MCLA’s Board of Trustees was unanimous in selecting Summers in early March following a six-month search process that saw 59 applicants. Summers is currently provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“I’ve been interested in pursuing this kind of leadership opportunity for some time,” Summers said. “In looking around for potential places I was very drawn to MCLA. It’s an outstanding institution. It’s got exactly the kind of liberal arts mission that I’m personally and professionally very attached to. It’s in a wonderful part of the country and MCLA has been so successful at building a role for itself as a liberal arts institution that serves its community, region and state incredibly well. It was just a very attractive position.”
Summers was one of three finalists who toured the North Adams campus meeting with faculty, students and community members.
“I was really struck by how much passion there was for MCLA,” he said. “It really made it all the more attractive as an opportunity to step into because you really want to be at a place where everybody cares about the success of that institution. It was very clear that the whole region really values what MCLA does for the community, the region and the students it serves.”
With some interviews open to the public, MCLA’s Board of Trustees Chair Tyler Fairbank says more than 180 people responded to a survey of the candidates. He says what made the board decide on Summers was his well-rounded experience in academia and administration.
“He also really understands aspects of administration that are so critical and important,” Fairbank said. “That would be strategic planning, team building, honing and developing programs to meet specific needs that are tied back to the strategic plan and mission of the enterprise. He’s adept at fund raising and admissions work. So he’s really the full package if you will of a candidate.”
Summers joined Stevens Point in 2001 as a faculty member in the history department before moving to his current role in 2011. He holds a PhD in history, earned at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2001. He has a master’s in history from UC Santa Barbara and two bachelor’s degrees, one in history and another in physics from the University of Akron.
MCLA has a combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment of about 2,200 students with concentrations in the arts and social and physical sciences directed by an academic staff of less than 200. Nearly 10,000 students attend University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, which has a teaching staff more than 400. Summers says the smaller student body creates greater opportunities for more people.
“I think of the high impact practices and curriculum like service learning opportunities, internships and opportunities to work closely with faculty on undergraduate research,” Summers said. “These are things that every student who walks in the door at MCLA has a chance to participate in. That’s one of the really strong attractive features of the college is that it can provide that for its whole student body. That’s the niche that MCLA fills and it does it really, really well.”
Cynthia Brown has served as MCLA’s interim president since Grant’s departure in January. The college will form a transition committee with Summers expected to take over July 1.