Impact of Women Leaders in Higher Education


Women leaders in higher education often create positive changes in their institutions and student bodies, evident in the campus’ support of Dr. Mary Van Brunt’s

While women presidents in higher education have increased since 1986, women held only 30% of presidency positions as of 2016, according to the American Council on Education. By 2022, career resource site Zippia reported that number increased to 47.6%, nearly evening out the gender disparity.

In 2022, institutions women leaders saw more subsequent female representation in leadership roles at the institutions and an increase in equitable pay for women working there, according to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.

Higher Education Today reported that college presidency has become a more difficult position over the years due to pressure to create a stronger institution while pushing through barriers such as lack of time, money and a constantly changing culture. The diversification of student bodies also calls for more representation in leadership. After overcoming gender equality barriers in higher education, this gives a new wave of female presidents a daunting task.

Despite these challenges, Dr. Van Brunt expressed only optimism about her role as Spring Hill College’s 39th president. “I love being on the forefront of change. I really do. I think that’s something exciting to me and a lot of responsibility as well. I want to show how this was a great decision and how we are going to do great things at Spring Hill College,” she said.

Dr. Van Brunt said she was most excited to work with her team to move the school forward for the students, faculty and staff. Students have expressed admiration for Dr. Van Brunt and what this new representation means. Sophomore Hammy Hamilton said, “What excites me about the new president is her emphasis on change and renovation. I feel like this is truly what Spring Hill needs, a renewal. A refreshment of the campus and that is what Dr. Van Brunt is pushing. I’m super excited to see the change she is bringing. It is important to have a woman president due to representation. We need more representation
and women bring excellent ideas to the table.” Gavin Johnson, sophomore class president of SGA, added, “She really is focused on college and student issues. I am very excited to see her around campus. The importance of having a woman president, I believe, is to foster change throughout Spring Hill College. Our first woman president is historic and I hope we have more historic presidents throughout Spring Hill’s history. I’m so excited for Dr. Van Brunt.”

Dr. Van Brunt’s colleagues have expressed similar optimism for Spring Hill’s future with her leadership. Provost Rebecca Cantor, Ph.D., said, “She’s not afraid of making tough decisions, which I really appreciate. And she’s a very supportive leader. But above all, she is student focused. Students are why we’re here, and she gets that.”

Dr. Van Brunt stresses her focus on impacting Spring Hill’s students. “It’s all about Spring Hill College. The reason we are here is for the students. I think it is really important. This is the future of the college. We are talking about how we can be innovative and improve and build on everything we do. That’s great. The students are the biggest part of that. They need to be part of it.”

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