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Dr. Susan R. Burns Named Sixth President of the College of Mount Saint Vincent

By Clarke News  |  December 15, 2020

Dr. Susan R. Burns, Clarke University’s Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA), has been elected to and accepted the position of President of the College of Mount Saint Vincent in Riverdale, the Bronx, New York, effective January 1, 2021. Susan is in the process of wrapping up her work at Clarke, having served in her current role since she arrived in June 2014. During her tenure she has worked tirelessly to advance Clarke’s mission and values and our universal commitment to the success of our students and pursuit of the Common Good. 

Susan’s collaborative and inclusive work at Clarke has shaped several key initiatives, including revisions of the Clarke Compass, expanding international opportunities for students and faculty, seeking grant and donor funding for various academic and University initiatives, establishing partnerships with other colleges, universities, and organizations to provide enhanced access to learning opportunities for students and professional development for faculty; and successfully sponsoring various strategic priorities that have led to, for example, the establishing of the Institute for Professional Excellence and the CareerPLUS program. As VPAA, Susan also provided leadership and oversight for the Admissions Office on two different occasions and served as Interim President during the transition between Sr. Joanne Burrows’ retirement and Thom Chesney’s arrival.  

We wish Susan all the best in undertaking this exciting opportunity in New York and thank her for her years of dedicated service to Clarke.  

In the interim, Paula Schmidt, Ed.D., Dean for the College of Professional and Graduate Studies, will provide continuity of academic affairs leadership as Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. A national search to fill the position will commence in the new year. 

We are pleased to share the following press release from the College of Mount Saint Vincent announcing Susan Burns as it sixth president: 

Riverdale, N.Y. – October 19, 2020 – The Board of Trustees of the College of Mount Saint Vincent has appointed Dr. Susan R. Burns to become the Mount’s sixth president, effective January 1, 2021. Dr. Burns, who is currently Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty at Clarke University in Iowa, will succeed President Charles L. Flynn, Jr., who will officially retire at the end of the year. 

A highly regarded and admired member of the higher education community, Dr. Burns has commanded respect for her skills as an academic leader, educator, and scholar. A natural team builder known for establishing collaborative partnerships across diverse constituencies, it was her dedication to educational access and the development of the whole person that set her apart as a unique and valued asset for the Mount.  

“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. 

From the moment she assumed her role as Clarke’s Chief Academic Officer in 2014, Dr. Burns began working to shape key initiatives of the institution. Leveraging her gift for inspiring cross-disciplinary teams with vision and enthusiasm, she helped reorganize the university’s 19 academic departments and expanded its portfolio of undergraduate and graduate offerings. As chair of Clarke’s strategic planning task force, she helped restructure the university’s budget, reclaiming nearly a quarter million dollars to be reinvested in other academic programs. 

And in 2019, Dr. Burns was appointed interim president of Clarke and led the university through a presidential transition. Among her many accomplishments were the successful strategies to increase enrollment and reduce the institutional budget.  

“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,” said President Flynn. 

In an announcement to the Mount Saint Vincent community, Chair of the Board Steven M. Hayes praised Dr. Burns’ dexterity as a leader—one who displays vast energy, compassion, and integrity.  

“At this key moment in the College’s history, Dr. Burns embodies a deep-seated commitment to the liberal arts and its inherent promise to provide access to an authentic, high-quality education to talented students of every background,” he said. “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 with tenure. 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. She is widely published, authoring numerous articles and research papers for peer reviewed journals as well as several books and book chapters. 

“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,” continued Dr. Burns. “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.” 

Dr. Burns’ appointment follows an intensive search that was launched in November of 2019, shortly after President Flynn announced his retirement after leading the College of Mount Saint Vincent for twenty years. In a letter to the community in the fall of 2019, Mr. Hayes praised Dr. Flynn for leading the College through a period of extraordinary growth in the face of an increasingly challenging environment, securing its financial foundation, increasing enrollment, completing key construction projects, and earning national recognition for the College for its commitment to educational opportunity for talented students, whatever their background.  

The seven-person search committee, carefully selected to represent all facets of the Mount community and comprising trustees and alumni as well as faculty and student representatives, began their work in late November. Search criteria were based in part on thoughtful comments submitted by the College community to the committee through emails, survey responses, letters, and recommendations, and drew a diverse and extremely competitive pool of candidates. Throughout the spring of 2020 the committee sustained its obligations, continuing to meet with and thoroughly vet each candidate despite the extraordinary disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

This talented group of individuals worked exceptionally hard to keep the College of Mount Saint Vincent’s mission, interests, and legacy front and center,” Mr. Hayes said. “I want to also acknowledge the diligence, guidance, and expertise provided by our search firm, RH Perry & Associates. We thank them all.” 

President Flynn offered a summation of his time at Mount Saint Vincent, fondly reflecting on his experience over the last two decades—and how proud he feels of the College, our students, and our faculty, especially in what they accomplish together. 

“The College of Mount Saint Vincent is an impressive place. Our academic programs compare favorably to every other institution I know. Our faculty and staff are exceptional, accomplished, hardworking, and dedicated. Our students are over-the-top fantastic. They give life to the American Dream. I am proud of this College and I’m delighted to be leaving it in good shape and in good hands. Working and serving here has been the privilege of a lifetime. These are hard times for higher education, but Mount Saint Vincent is strong, its work is good, its campus culture is civil, and its people are beautiful in every way. I am confident that Dr. Burns will bring even greater success. And I am confident that her time at the College will be as rewarding as mine has been.” 

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.