Mount Holyoke College on Tuesday named Danielle Ren Holley, dean of the Howard University School of Law, as its next president in a move that will give the women’s college its first permanent Black female leader.
Holley, who will assume the position on July 1, succeeds interim president Beverly Daniel Tatum, who has served in the role since last July. Tatum is president emerita of Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta.
Holley, who joined Howard in 2014, said she sees similarities between the missions of historically Black colleges and universities and women’s colleges. Young people are more often seeking campus communities that reflect their personal values, higher education experts have said.
“That ability for students to choose an educational environment in which they can say, this environment fully not only accepts me but my identity is a key part of what’s empowering me inside the college community,” Holley said in an interview.
Many women’s colleges have reported declining enrollment in recent years. After years of losing students, Mills College in Oakland, Calif., agreed in 2021 to merge with Northeastern University in a deal that closed last summer. Salem College in North Carolina, meanwhile, adopted a health care focus in 2021 to reverse enrollment declines.
Mount Holyoke, a liberal arts college in South Hadley, has avoided the drastic declines of its peers and has become more selective over the years, Holley said. She expects more students will seek out women’s colleges because of the “tumultuous and fractured time in our country’s history.”