The Inauguration of President Nicola Pitchford

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Dominican University of California will celebrate the inauguration of Dr. Nicola Pitchford as the University’s tenth president on Friday, May 13.

Community will be at the core of the inaugural celebrations. Along with special invited guests, all Dominican, faculty, staff, and students, along with partners and children, are welcome to attend.

The installation ceremony begins at 4 p.m. on the Forest Meadows Field with introductions by Dr. Carolyn Klebanoff, chair of Dominican’s Board of Trustees, and Hannah Roitman ’22, president of the Associated Students of Dominican University of California (ASDU). Blessings will be offered by Sr. Margaret Diener, O.P., Dominican Sisters of San Rafael.

Jeff Chu, author and co-curator of the podcast Evolving Faith, will deliver the invocation. Dr. Yvette Christiansë, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English and Africana Studies, Barnard College, will deliver the Keynote Address. Dr. Mary B. Marcy, President Emerita of Dominican, will present the University seal to President Pitchford.

A reception on the Forest Meadows Field will follow the ceremony. The installation ceremony will be held under an open-air tent to maximize airflow. Closer to the event date, Dominican will confirm public health protocols for all guests, consistent with the latest guidance from Marin Public Health.

President Pitchford’s term began on July 1, 2021. Her immediate focus has been the continuation of work that began under President Marcy’s leadership to fully develop a distinctive model of academic programming and student support, which today is nationally recognized as the Dominican Experience. Dr. Pitchford served on the original design team to establish this signature student learning experience, developed over the past decade with a focus on social mobility through equitable access to connections and experiences for all students, regardless of background or social capital.

The Dominican Experience is rooted in well-established research demonstrating the benefits of engagement in high-impact practices that deliver a network of full support to nurture deep learning and achievement. The Dominican Experience integrates curriculum with a fully coordinated system of academic advising, career and internship services, global study opportunities, community service projects, faculty-mentored research, and a digital portfolio that will serve as an electronic resume.

In her first 10 months as president, President Pitchford also has articulated her goal around teaching for ethical action: to advance Dominican’s mission by preparing students and our institution to respond to the crises of climate and natural resources, racial inequity, and economic disparity.

“I believe the core task of higher education in our changing world is the education of the whole person, nurturing habits of critical thinking and flexible intelligence that equip our students to engage ethically and carefully with others and to adapt their skills to both existing and emerging community challenges and career opportunities,” President Pitchford says.

“I remain compelled by the vision of an institution that makes available a high-touch, intimately scaled, liberal arts-based education to students who have never been able to access this in the past.”

In recent months, Dominican has celebrated several key milestones aligned with this goal:

  • Earning a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) designation from the U.S. Department of Education. Under the broader MSI designation, Dominican qualified specifically as both a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI), with more than 25% of undergraduate students identifying as Latinx and more than 25% identifying as Asian American or Pacific Islander. MSI designation underscores the university’s commitment to continuing to increase diversity at Dominican and to serving the needs of future students, particularly those from historically underserved populations.
  • Signing separate Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreements with two Marin County nonprofits – Canal Alliance and Performing Stars of Marin – to collaborate on programs, leverage resources, and develop college-career pathways with a long-term focus on addressing racial inequity in Marin. Community-identified needs will be at the center of the work. The partnerships signal a deepened institutional commitment to addressing issues around diversity, equity, and inclusion, both on and off campus.
  • Announcing that construction will begin this summer on the Center for the Dominican Experience. Located within the Archbishop Alemany Library, the two-story facility will incorporate centralized student service offices, smart classrooms, conference rooms, a digital portfolio lab, a spacious learning commons and art gallery, and a new outdoor learning plaza. The Center will be a place for building community – welcoming students, faculty, staff, and community partners to gather at the heart of our campus. Dominican has raised $5.7 million toward the $7.9 million goal for construction.  The Center is due to open in late Spring 2023.

President Pitchford joined Dominican in 2011, serving first as Dean of the School of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (now the School of Liberal Arts and Education) and, beginning 2014, as Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. In 2018 she stepped in as Dominican’s interim President while President Marcy completed a research sabbatical.

Before joining Dominican, Dr. Pitchford served as Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Associate Chief Academic Officer at Fordham University from 2009-2011. Dr. Pitchford joined the faculty at Fordham in 1995 as an Assistant Professor of English and received tenure in 2001. She also served as Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of English, Co-Director of the Literary Studies Program, and as Chair of the Department of English.

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