Ten years ago this spring, President Ann McElaney-Johnson gave her inaugural address as the 12th president of Mount St. Mary’s College. “At Mount St. Mary’s, we have the courage to both imagine and then build our future,” she said.
Since she arrived, President McElaney-Johnson has been an unstoppable force that has built upon the Mount’s legacy with a long list of achievements and milestones. Yet, she says enthusiastically, “I feel like we are just warming up!”
Over the last decade, she has led with passion, determination and a collaborative style that has propelled the Mount community to dream big and build a strong foundation as the University embarks on its next century of educating and developing global leaders. And despite the challenges of the past two years, marked by the Getty Fire in the fall of 2019 and the current COVID-19 pandemic, President McElaney-Johnson’s optimistic and forward-thinking attitude has guided the Mount to continue to foster a community of excellence and care during the most unpredictable times of the University’s history.
Originally from Boston, “President Ann” (as students affectionately call her) never thought she would become the president of a university one day. But she always knew that education was her passion. Educating and empowering students to reach their full potential has been her career mission for more than four decades.
As a strong advocate for gender equity and women’s advancement, President McElaney-Johnson led the creation of The Report on the Status of Women and Girls in California™ in her first year as president of the Mount. A groundbreaking report, the annual editions remain the most authoritative collection of research on issues affecting the 20 million women and girls in California. In the last 10 years, the Report has helped inform public policy decisions and nonprofit funding priorities statewide.
Ultimately, the Report’s success led to the creation of the Center for the Advancement of Women in 2017, which has become one of the most dynamic hubs in the nation for intersectional gender equity research, advocacy and leadership development.
President McElaney-Johnson also spearheaded the transition from college to university in 2015 and launched the Mount’s first comprehensive marketing campaign to bring greater visibility and awareness to the University. Under her leadership, Mount Saint Mary’s expanded its Weekend/Evening & Online College and its graduate programs, including a PsyD in clinical psychology, an MFA in creative writing, an MFA in film and television, and an MS in health care policy and administration, among others. In the last decade, the University has also launched four other new centers of research and academic innovation that have elevated the Mount’s presence at the national and international level.
Another hallmark of her presidency has been the focus on wellness and the creation of the Wellness Movement in 2016. “I adamantly believe in personal wellness, and that involves body, mind and spirit,” President McElaney-Johnson says. “In order to help our students develop as strong leaders, we need to pay attention to their wellness and health. I’m very proud of the Wellness Movement, which is still expanding and changing students’ lives. I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve.”
A thought champion for college equity and access, the president is also involved in several organizations that work to advance education policy at the national and state level. She is the current board chair of the Women’s College Coalition, serves on the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and is the first vice chair of the Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities’ executive committee, among other associations. “I believe that Mount Saint Mary’s and institutions like us need to have a seat at these tables, and we need to help drive policy in Washington, DC and Sacramento,” she says.
For the last three years, the University has housed the Women’s College Coalition’s headquarters on campus and President McElaney-Johnson has been championing the efforts to promote federal support for women’s colleges across the nation. She believes in the essentiality of women’s colleges and the important role that they continue to play in higher education.
Most recently, the 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, developed by a collaborative effort from the Mount community, sets the path forward for the next five years. “I’m very proud of how this community came together in the middle of the pandemic and created this forward-thinking, ambitious and bold plan,” says the president. Among other themes and priorities, the plan outlines the University’s commitment to becoming an antiracist institution.
As she looks to the future with optimism, her vision continues to be guided by the mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet — to respond to the needs of the times. “I want us to keep asking how we are going to respond to the different needs of our students and the generations to come,” says President McElaney-Johnson. “During this pandemic, we showed that this community can come together on a moment’s notice to respond to the needs of our students.”
The full feature of the Spring 2022 Mount Magazine can be accessed here.