Professor, CEO, mother and historian Nicole Hurd was named the 18th President of Lafayette College last Wednesday after a six-month search by the Presidential Search Committee. Hurd has worked the last 15 years at the College Advising Corps (CAC), a non-profit dedicated to increasing accessibility of higher education to lower-income students.
“I want to thank this entire community and hold for a moment where we are. This has been a tough time. And while I’ve been loving you all from a distance, now that I’m here on campus, I would like to acknowledge what you’ve done. You’ve been extraordinary. I know we’re exhausted. I know this has been hard. I know there’s healing to do,” Hurd said. “This is a resilient amazing community. Thank you for what you’ve done for the last 15 months. It’s one of the reasons why I’m coming here.”
Excited to call College Hill her home, Hurd spoke about the roles Lafayette students play as leaders and how students should use their position to help the Easton community in addition to the one on campus.
“I want Lafayette leaders to be people who invite more people to the table, that it’s more diverse, that it’s more inclusive. And that doesn’t mean just on campus. That means across the whole country, it means wherever you all show up, part of your DNA is to have that inclusive, diverse belief in opportunity and potential,” Hurd said. “And then make sure there’s room for others to join us at the table.”
Hurd referred to an example of a young girl sitting in a classroom five miles down the road from Lafayette at a local Easton elementary school as a model for the work student leaders can and should get involved while on campus.
“[She] might be a low-income first-generation college student herself someday and how she might not believe Lafayette’s for her, she might not believe any college [is] for her,” Hurd said. “And our job is to make sure she hears those four words: I believe in you. And I know you all can be those ambassadors to her. I know, students, faculty, staff, myself can all be those ambassadors.”
Before the announcement of Hurd as the college’s next president, chair of the Board of Trustees Bob Sell spoke to Hurd’s experience at CAC and in higher education.
“She has developed an experience base and a set of insights that as a community Lafayette expects to take advantage of with her as our eighteenth President,” he said.
Jenn Rossman, professor of mechanical engineering and member of the Search Committee that selected the next president, added that Hurd’s experience with the CAC was a major factor in why she stood out as a candidate.
“She wanted to not just open more doors for people but also make sure that, once you’re through that door, what’s waiting for you is a place where you can just flourish. So it really matters what’s on the other side of those doors, it’s not just about getting the doors open,” Rossman said. “We were very impressed by the leadership that it took the amount of initiative and creativity to go from an idea on a cocktail napkin to an enormous organization.”
The sole student on the Search Committee, Mary Zimmerman ’21, agreed that Hurd’s previous experience was an important factor for the committee.
“I am extremely excited for Dr. Hurd to be Lafayette’s next President. She is exceptionally qualified and a charismatic leader who understands empathy and the need to work toward a more inclusive and equitable learning environment,” Zimmerman said. “Additionally, in creating, growing, and managing College Advising Corps it is clear that she is passionate about students and their success.”
Prior to the CAC, Hurd spent five years at the University of Virginia–where she obtained a doctorate in religious studies–as Assistant Dean and Director of the University’s College Guide Program.
“The idea of being back on a campus and having those deep relationships with students and faculty and staff is incredibly attractive to me,” Hurd said. “And this campus in particular, there’s something about Lafayette students, you all are bright and thoughtful and ambitious. And you also want to change the world in ways that get me excited.”
The 13 members of the search committee identified candidates, conducted interviews, reviewed qualifications and recommended the final two candidates to the faculty.
“We heard from over 3000 people through surveys, we interviewed and talked with about 700, 800 folks in our listening sessions–there were 21 of them. We talked to almost every major constituency that you can think of, I don’t think we left anyone out,” Sell said at the announcement. “We even had business leaders, civic leaders…friends, community members…alumni, parents, faculty…students, and it was just a wonderful process and really just a pleasure and an honor to be able to listen and get the feedback that we did.”
Hurd’s tenure begins on July 1 and she plans to move to campus in mid-June. This fall, Hurd is looking forward to going to labs, classrooms, performances and athletic events among others.
“I am very committed to showing up. I’m excited about showing up,” Hurd said. “I’m happy to tell you Lafayette, I’ve fallen in love with you. And so, I’m here to say hands, heart, head. I am now Lafayette’s. I’m honored to be your next president.”