President Hurd to focus on rekindling community during first year at Lafayette

Before+coming+to+Lafayette%2C+Hurd+headed+the+College+Advising+Corps+%28CAC%29%2C+the+nation%E2%80%99s+largest+college+access+program+%28Photo+Courtesy+of+Lafayette+Communications%29.

Before coming to Lafayette, Hurd headed the College Advising Corps (CAC), the nation’s largest college access program (Photo Courtesy of Lafayette Communications).

Lucie Lagodich

Lafayette is facing a student body where even the seniors have only had one full year on campus, and has more new students than ever before. Joining them is President Nicole Hurd, who began her term on July 1.

Former President, Alison Byerly, stepped down after eight years last spring and recently began her new position as president of Carleton College on August 1. Now, Hurd is working to rebuild what has been lost over the virtual last year and a half.

“I’ve seen how much we’ve been disrupted, and I’ve seen the loss you’ve had. It makes me even more committed to creating and renewing community, because I’ve seen in a really personal way some of the loss that we’ve all endured over the last year,” Hurd said.

Hurd added that the largest question facing Lafayette right now is how to reset after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the biggest challenge right now is just the community coming together and thinking about where we want to head. There was a plan, and obviously it was disrupted and now we have to figure out where we go from here,” Hurd said.

Hurd pledged to begin her time on campus listening and learning to the community in order to fully understand the campus climate. In an effort to rekindle the lost community at Lafayette, Hurd plans to use the President’s House and create a space more accessible to the campus.

“I think a lot of learning is asking questions and so we’ve spent some time with students, spent some time with faculty, spent some time with the staff. Right now, I’m using the [President’s] House a lot just as a way to bring community. It’s a little less formal than in the president’s office, and a little bit more relational if you will, just kind of having conversations as opposed to having meetings,” Hurd said.

With approval, she welcomes the addition of spoken word and poetry readings, small concerts and other events to be hosted on the house grounds.

“My family and I are living on the second and third floors, and our dogs Sunshine and Sadie are here and they’re running around, but I really think of the first floor is the community’s house. It’s not the President’s House, but the college’s house, and I’ve already tried to make sure it feels that way…We’re trying to make this house incredibly accessible and that’s a way to recreate community.”

Hurd has one phrase she uses to describe what she wants to do at the college: “Bold and brave.”

“I love that phrase, but only if people understand the context to it,” Hurd said. “Bold and brave doesn’t mean I’m going to ask you, the student body, to join me with buckets of paint so we can paint the sidewalks neon pink. It doesn’t mean I’m changing the school colors from maroon to orange. It doesn’t mean that someday will pave the quad. Those things would not be bold and brave, they would be outrageous.”

“Being bold and brave to me is knowing who you are, and then being the best version of yourself,” she continued. And I think the work ahead of us right now after this pandemic is making sure we get clear on who we are, and then making the decisions to become that best version of ourselves.”

Hurd explained that she does not want to follow in the footsteps of other institutions; she intends to build on the foundation that already exists.

“I want the campus to go someplace that’s Lafayette. I really do think this is an incredibly unique, special place. I’m not a big fan of apologizing for who you are when you know who you are. I really would love the campus to really get a sense of who we are and do that really well and not worry about chasing schools or apologizing for who we are,” Hurd said.

Hurd’s inauguration will be held on the Quad on October 1.