Board of Trustees Announces New President, Dr. Laura Trombley
On April 2, the Southwestern University Board of Trustees announced Laura E. Skandera Trombley, Ph.D. as the sixteenth president for the school. She will also be the first woman president in Southwestern’s 180 year history.
Dr. Trombley will start on July 1 and take over interim president, Dale Knobel. This comes after the previous president, Dr. Edward Burger, announced he was leaving after the fall semester to be the president and CEO of St. David’s Foundation.
According to the official email announcement from the Board of Trustees, Southwestern University has been an institution that Dr. Trombley has “long admired.” She currently serves as the University of Bridgeport’s president and was president of Pitzer college from 2002 to 2015. She also was the first woman to be vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty at Coe College and the first female president of the Huntington Library.
Dr. Trombley’s history shows a focus on the humanities discipline, with her Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD all being in English. This is a different approach to a liberal arts education than what students were used to with Dr. Burger, who showed more of an interest in the STEM field than the humanities one.
Sophomore Tyler Anderson had a humorous take on this situation. On his Twitter account, @HourGarbage, which is the “#6 most influential Southwestern twitter account,” he called for the rise of humanities majors on campus.
“Your time is over STEM majors Burger has been dethroned Laura E. Skandera Trombley (L.E.S.T) has already begun assembling humanities majors to burn FJS to the ground,” Anderson tweeted. “Nigh is the time of English and Communications! Night is the time of history and philosophy!”
Dr. Trombley’s experiences as president at previous schools also seems to be focused on diversity and sustainability. At Pitzer college, there was a reported increase of female and non-white students, as well as a push towards energy conservation and funding for environmental programs. In the two years as president at University of Bridgeport, she worked towards an initiative for lowered textbook and class materials cost for first-generation students.
Senior Abbey Lloyd seemed excited to have a president who is focused on campus initiatives towards sustainability. Llyod was part of the environmental capstone group to make Southwestern certified by the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
“Her resume seems to be really great. Her environmental history in particular,” Lloyd shared via Twitter messaging. “Compared to [B]urger, who didn’t really see the benefits of sustainability at SU.”
However, there are some students who are concerned about other aspects of Dr. Trombley’s past as university president. Just before leaving Pitzer College to work at Huntington Library, the faculty voted no confidence in her duties.
Then in the two years at University of Bridgeport, several programs, positions, and funding for the athletic department were all cut. According to a report by Forbes, the school’s finances “looks abysmal” with the university ranking almost at the bottom of a financial health list, also calculated by Forbes. Dr. Trombley has gone on record to refute those claims.
One student, who prefers to remain anonymous, finds this information troubling.
“She seems to do nothing good for any University she’s connected to. Additionally, she just left a University today,” the student posted on their Twitter account.
Regardless, Dr. Trombley will begin her role as president in July. With the spread of COVID-19 not slowing down and a possible economic depression on the horizon, the new president will have a big role to play during this pandemic.