Mary Loeffelholz named School of Continuing Education dean

Mary Loeffelholz, former dean of the College of Professional Studies and a professor of English at Northeastern University, will serve as the next dean of the School of Continuing Education (SCE).

The Cornell Board of Trustees Executive Committee voted on Dec. 8 to approve the five-year appointment, effective March 1, 2023.

Mary Loeffelholz

Loeffelholz succeeds SCE Interim Dean Charles W. Jermy, Jr.

“I’m thrilled to be joining Cornell to help bring to life the university’s expanded vision for the School of Continuing Education,” Loeffelholz said. “I love how deeply embedded the vision is in Cornell’s fundamental mission.”

Her top priorities, Loeffelholz said, will be to develop a new part-time online bachelor’s degree program in collaboration with eCornell, providing pathways for nontraditional students to earn degrees through Cornell. She hopes expanding online options will increase access to education for those who live in rural areas, veterans, Indigenous people and students enrolled in the Cornell Prison Education Program.

“Cornell has a strong commitment to expanding access for those unable to attend a residential degree program,” Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff said. ”The integration of eCornell into the academic fabric of the university provides an opportunity to develop an undergraduate degree program of the highest quality and we are enthusiastic to have someone with Mary's experience to work with faculty across the university to design and implement the program in collaboration with eCornell.”

Founded in 1876, SCE now enrolls up to 7,000 students, including undergraduates and high school students taking credit and non-credit bearing courses. Along with the Prison Education Program, SCE supports other noteworthy programs including the Veterans Summer Bridge Program, part-time study for Cornell employees and retirees, and the Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar Pre-Medical Curriculum, a two-year course of study designed to prepare students to meet the educational requirements and rigors of four- and six-year medical programs.

The new part-time undergraduate degree program could also help tap into the 40 million people who have some college credit, but have not completed their degrees, Loeffelholz said. The program will provide opportunities for students to spend time on campus, which will benefit both the course participants and members of the campus community, who will be able to interact with diverse groups, she said.

“Our continuing education programs provide incredible opportunities to connect with students who could not go to college or might otherwise have to go to a lesser college than their talents deserve,” Loeffelholz said.

Loeffelholz received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and a doctorate in English and American literature from Yale University. Upon graduating in 1986, she became an assistant professor in English, women’s studies and the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. In 1988, she joined the faculty at Northeastern.

Among her academic administration appointments, Loeffelholz has served at Northeastern as dean of the College of Professional Studies (2016-2021); vice provost for academic affairs (2008-16); special adviser to the president (2007-08); associate dean for the graduate school and faculty affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences (2006-07); and chair of the Department of English (2001-06).

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Rebecca Valli