The following is from the Spring 2021 issue of VISION.
By Patrice Athanasidy
The Board of Trustees of the College of Mount Saint Vincent appointed Dr. Susan R. Burns president effective January 1, 2021. She comes to the Mount from Clarke University in Iowa where she most recently served as vice president for academic affairs and dean of faculty. She succeeds Charles L. Flynn, Jr. as president.
“I am humbled and honored to be selected as the next president of the College of Mount Saint Vincent and I am delighted to join a community committed to providing transformational student-centered learning opportunities in and beyond the classroom,” said Dr. Burns in accepting the appointment as the College’s sixth president.
As Chief Academic Officer at Clarke University, Dr. Burns shaped key initiatives for the institution. She helped reorganize the university’s 19 academic departments and expanded its portfolio of undergraduate and graduate offerings. While chair of Clarke’s strategic planning task force, Dr. Burns worked to restructure the university’s budget.
Most recently in 2019, Dr. Burns served as interim president of Clarke. During her short tenure, she led the university through a presidential transition and created successful strategies to increase enrollment and reduce the institutional budget.
Dr. Burns sees many parallels between Clarke and Mount Saint Vincent. “They were both founded by sisters, originally a prep,” says Dr. Burns. “As I did a little more investigation, I had a true heart, mind, and soul feeling that I needed to look at this opportunity further. Then I found I fit with the community and the culture of the Mount too.”
Dr. Burns points to the Sisters of Charity as one of the reasons she was drawn to the Mount. “The Sisters are incredibly intelligent, compassionate and passionate. The impact of their presence has been really powerful.” She adds, “I so appreciate how this institution is Catholic with the big ‘C’ but also Catholic with the little ‘c.’ I saw it from a distance and now it is palpable.”
Referring to the pandemic, Dr. Burns says most of the interview process happened remotely. She says the feeling of community came through even on the computer screens, and now that she is on campus, it is even more evident.
The parent of college-aged students, Dr. Burns has hope for the future. “I am a realist, but an optimist.” She believes the Mount’s concern for community is beneficial in these times because everyone focuses on the safety and health of all in the community and that benefits everyone.
“Susan Burns possesses the talent, experience, and enthusiasm to continue to build this extraordinary and important institution, ensuring it remains among the finest, most authentically inclusive liberal arts colleges in the nation,” says Dr. Flynn, President Emeritus. “Her dedication to students and to the values inculcated by a Mount education—knowledge, competence, civic responsibility—dovetail beautifully with the College’s mission. In this time of extraordinary cultural, economic, and educational change, we are confident that we have made an inspired choice for our next president, and that she will boldly and effectively guide the Mount into its next chapter.”
Susan R. Burns received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in experimental psychology from Emporia State University and her Ph.D. in social/personality psychology with an emphasis in child development from Kansas State University. Prior to her tenure at Clarke, Dr. Burns was associate dean for academic affairs at Morningside College, where she held the rank of full professor. She is the recipient of several awards for faculty excellence from Morningside College and received the Distinguished Faculty Award from the American Association of University Women. Dr. Burns is widely published, authoring numerous articles and research papers for peer reviewed journals as well as several books and book chapters.
As Dr. Burns looks to the future of the College, she says, “The Mount lives its mission and values in a manner that not only welcomes all dreams, but transforms the lives of its students, their families, and generations that follow through its commitment to excellence in the liberal arts tradition and in all academic programs. The College’s deep commitment to Vincentian service, social justice, and authentic inclusivity align with my personal and professional commitment to the common good and Catholic intellectual tradition. I look forward to working in partnership with the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, and the Sisters of Charity of New York to sustain and build upon the success Mount Saint Vincent has achieved under the leadership of Charles L. Flynn, Jr.”