Nicola Pitchford Inaugurated As Dominican's Tenth President

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Dominican University of California celebrated the inauguration of Dr. Nicola Pitchford as the University’s tenth president on Friday, May 13. Community was at the core of the inaugural celebrations, attended by more than 300 special invited guests, faculty, staff, and students, along with partners and children.

Dr. Carolyn Klebanoff, chair of Dominican’s Board of Trustees, and Hannah Roitman ’22, president of the Associated Students of Dominican University of California, served as co-hosts of the installation ceremony.

“We take this time in the bustle of late spring to celebrate with you – students, staff, faculty, trustees, friends, family, and community members – a remarkable moment for our institution,” Klebanoff said.

“We will revel in community, in our togetherness, at long last. We will recommit to our values, and we will broadcast the message to which Nicola is so devoted: that students are Dominican’s greatest asset, that their diverse backgrounds and identities are a gift, and that the flourishing of all learners and graduates is our highest priority.”

Roitman praised President Pitchford’s impact on the campus community. President Pitchford’s term began on July 1, 2021. Her installation was delayed due to COVID-19 health and safety restrictions.

“This afternoon we will appreciate that Dominican is stronger, more engaged, more invested, more clear-eyed, and more solidly focused on equity and inclusion than ever before,” Roitman said. “We will also acknowledge and commit to the work ahead of us. Nicola never lets us forget that we can do better tomorrow.”

Dr. Yvette Christiansë, Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English and Africana Studies, Barnard College, delivered the Keynote Address. Dr. Christiansë is Professor of Africana Studies and English Literature at Barnard College in New York. She is a celebrated academic, poet, and novelist. Originally from South Africa, Dr. Christiansë has written extensively on the experience of Liberated Africans following the incremental abolition of slavery in Europe and America. She is also an accomplished librettist whose work has been performed at the Royal Opera House and Carnegie Hall. President Pitchford was chairing the English Department at Fordham University when Dr. Christiansë applied for a teaching position, which she was duly offered. They have been dear friends ever since. 
Dr. Mary B. Marcy, President Emerita of Dominican, presented the University seal to President Pitchford.

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 said.

“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.”

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.

President Pitchford’s Inauguration address will be published here later this month.

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