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BIRGE NAMED MCLA'S 12TH PRESIDENT

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) has announced that Dr. James F. “Jaimie” Birge has been selected by the MCLA Board of Trustees to become the institution’s 12th president. Birge will succeed Mary K. Grant, who last year left the position to become chancellor at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Asheville.

Birge, who has worked in higher education for more than 30 years, has served as the fourth president of Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, N.H., since 2008. Previously, he served as the executive vice president and interim president at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W.V.

The Board’s recommendation that Birge become MCLA’s next president will be submitted for final approval by the Board of Higher Education (BHE), which will vote in a special meeting to be held on Tuesday, January 19, in the BHE offices, 1 Ashburton Place, Boston.

Thursday night’s vote by the board brought the search to a successful conclusion. The appointment followed a national search facilitated by Korn Ferry, a consulting firm which recruited candidates who met the criteria and qualifications for the next president at MCLA.  A group of applicants was forwarded to the 14-member Presidential Search Committee, which selected 11 to interview.

According to Mohan Boodram, co-chair of MCLA’s Presidential Search Committee and a member of the Board of Trustees, “We are so pleased that Dr. Birge will be MCLA’s next president. He will be a great fit for the campus. His appointment comes after an intensive search process and an extensive program of outreach to both the campus and alumni communities, as well as to colleagues and our community partners.

“I wish to thank everyone for their participation in the search process. We received many thoughtful comments, and were impressed by the interest in and commitment to the continued success of MCLA.”

Birge spent much of his early career in the student affairs area followed by work with faculty and staff to integrate community-based learning into academic course objectives.

Birge has worked in public and private higher education as well as with an association of academic presidents. Most recently, his work has been in private higher education.

After serving as the executive vice president and interim president at Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, Birge was recruited to become the fourth president at Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire in 2009. While at Franklin Pierce, Birge and his leadership team achieved much success, including securing the largest single donor gift in University history, the largest planned gift in history, four of the six largest annual fund contributions in history, and completing the comprehensive capital campaign above goal.

They also expanded undergraduate academic majors to include health science, business + (three-year degree), environmental studies, public health (three-year degree), and social media and emergent technologies, and established new graduate degrees including the Masters of Physician Assistant Studies, MBA in Sustainability, as well as an MBA in Health Administration and Nursing.

His team expanded athletic programs to include: sprint football; track and cross country; women’s ice hockey; women’s bowling; and women’s golf. He increased admissions applications by 40 percent, incoming class size by 15 percent, and student retention by 8 percentage points.

Birge also oversaw construction of the Pappas Center for Health Science and Athletic Training, the Bisaccia Memorial Softball Complex, and the Kirsh Baseball Clubhouse; and implemented a faculty governance model, as well as faculty participation on the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees.

Search Committee Chair Susan Gold said, “We are grateful to have had so many qualified candidates from which to choose the next president for MCLA. Ultimately, Dr. Birge stood out as the right person to lead this campus, at the right time, because of his vision and passion for the liberal arts, and his keen sense of MCLA’s path and the opportunities that await us.”

Birge said, “I am delighted to accept the appointment to be the next president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.  I am grateful for the Board of Trustees’ confidence in me and I look forward to working closely with them.

“As one of only 28 members of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges in the United States, MCLA’s unique and important mission is distinguished and exciting. My wife, Lisa, and I are thrilled to become part of the MCLA community.   

“Having grown up in Lee, I have always known about the important presence of public higher education in North Adams.  I am honored to be the next president at MCLA and to become part of that rich history.”

Birge holds a Ph.D. in leadership studies from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., an M.Ed. in guidance and counseling from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and a B.S. in elementary education from Westfield State University in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.