Dr. Jane Fernandes, former Guilford College President, selected as the second female president — and first deaf president — in Antioch College’s 170-year history.
The Antioch College Board of Trustees announced today the selection of Dr. Jane Fernandes as the third president. Fernandes — most recently president of Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina — will join Antioch College on August 16. She will be the second female president of the College and the third president since its relaunch as an independent institution in 2010.
The search for a new president began in early 2021 with a Search Committee composed of Antioch College trustees, students, faculty, staff, alumni, and Yellow Springs community members led by Committee Chair Ro Nita Hawes-Saunders and assisted by John Garland, search consultant from Academic Search. Search committee members vetted many highly qualified candidates from more than 60 nominations and submitted applications, culminating in campus visits held in July with the campus community.
“Dr. Jane Fernandes brings broad academic experience, scholarship, and a solid record of active engagement in social justice and diversity,” said Board of Trustees Chair Maureen Lynch. “Her appreciation for shared governance and cooperative education are additional valuable assets. Given the challenges faced by small institutions of higher education across the country, and by Antioch College specifically, we are acutely aware of the need to move boldly and with purpose into this next chapter. We firmly believe that Jane Fernandes is the leader the College needs at this moment.”
Antioch Board vice-chair and incoming chair of the Board, Shelby Chestnut ’05, added, “Dr. Fernandes’ values and demonstrated accomplishments are an excellent match for Antioch College. She is an experienced leader in higher education with clear commitments to social justice. Dr. Fernandes is a proven advocate for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and first-generation college students, and she has increased access to higher education for all families, especially Pell Grant-eligible students. This, matched with her proven track record in management, will undoubtedly serve Antioch well.”
Fernandes follows Dr. Tom Manley, who announced his departure from Antioch College in 2020, after five years at the helm during a period in which Antioch weathered storms and strengthened its commitment to shared governance, social justice, and educational equity. The Board honored Manley with the title of president emeritus in recognition of his achievements.
Renowned educator Johnnetta B. Cole — former president of Spelman College and Bennett College for Women — shared her thoughts on the appointment, “I am beyond thrilled to hear that Dr. Jane Fernandes will serve as the Sister President at Antioch College. She is a proven leader who is committed to efforts to transform higher education so that it is cutting edge and truly accessible. The combination of Antioch’s deep history in social justice and Jane Fernandes’ experience and passion will be a force to be reckoned with.”
“Dr. Fernandes possesses the entrepreneurial savvy as well as the administrative expertise necessary to augment and enhance Antioch’s fiscal and human capital,” said search chair Ro Nita Hawes Saunders. “She understands that leadership is not the prerogative to command and control but an opportunity to enlighten and empower Antiochians with the skill and the will to realize the vision and achieve the mission of the College.”
“I was strongly drawn to Antioch because it has always combined my two great academic passions: liberal arts and social justice,” said Fernandes. She is an active voice and participant in addressing critical social justice issues, receiving national attention for Guilford College’s stand against North Carolina’s HB2 law. She has led campuses in undertaking difficult conversations, examining meaningful ways to address systemic racism, gender inequity, and sexual assault — three of the most pressing social justice issues facing colleges nationwide.
Fernandes attracted the most diverse student body in Guilford’s history: the percentage of diversity among entering student classes rose 12% in five years — from 37% in 2015 to 49% in 2020. She hired and retained a significantly higher percentage of faculty and staff from diverse racial and ethnic groups than liberal arts peers across the country by as much as double. Guilford was selected twice by Campus Pride Best of the Best for institutional support and exemplary commitment to LGBTQ inclusion in policy, program, and practice.
During her tenure at Guilford College, Fernandes completed a successful 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation; presented balanced budgets to the Board annually even during difficult enrollment years; added new, cutting edge, mission-centric academic programs and the College’s first master’s degree. She appointed the College’s first Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and oversaw the development of a diversity strategic plan and addressed gender equity in athletic facilities, teams, funding, and programs. The endowment grew from $62M in 2014 to $89M as of May 2021. Buoyed by the Edge initiatives, Fernandes increased fundraising totals every year since 2014, and by 280% in 2020 compared to 2016, with $8.4 million in outright gifts and commitments, a record for Guilford. This record was surpassed in 2021, indicating the College’s fundraising had developed a positive momentum driven by successive years of fundraising increases and the appeal of the Edge initiatives.
Fernandes’ experience leading the College into creating the Guilford Edge initiatives will be acutely relevant to Antioch’s current focus on enrollment growth. These initiatives were designed — through a thoughtful, research-driven, and collaborative process — to draw more students to explore, examine, and enroll at the school.
Supported with integrated marketing, the Guilford Edge’s first year resulted in a significant gain in new students, in first-year student retention, a 75% decrease in D, F, W grades, and a 10% increase in average GPA and credits earned. A positive enrollment trajectory continued the following year, marking the first time in decades that student enrollment had risen.
Prior to her service at Guilford, Fernandes spent 6 years as provost at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, 13 years as provost at Gallaudet University, and significant time at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa – Kapio’lani Community College, and Northeastern University. She holds both a PhD and MA in comparative literature from The University of Iowa, where she was awarded the Philip G. Hubbard Human Rights award, and a BA in French and comparative literature from Trinity College (CT), where she twice won the John Curtis Underwood Memorial poetry prize and received a comparative literature book prize for her thesis. She has held tenured faculty positions in English (Guilford College), Education (UNC Asheville), and Deaf Studies (Gallaudet University), and has also taught American Sign Language and American Sign Language literature. She is the author of numerous published articles, chapters, and poems on issues including social justice, Deaf culture and education, and language. Her most recent work is a chapter co-authored with Shirley Shultz Myers in the forthcoming book Decolonizing Higher Education through Space, Place, and Culture (edited by Jennifer Stephens and Laura Pipe).
Fernandes recently accepted an invitation to join the Board of Trustees at Emory and Henry College in Virginia. She is a founding member of the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration and serves currently on its steering committee where she advocates for a permanent legislative roadmap to citizenship for Dreamers. Active on the boards of a number of organizations in North Carolina and beyond, she was honored as a Woman of Achievement by the North Carolina Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs, Inc. In 2020, she was named one of the 20 most interesting college presidents.
“I am excited to be joining Antioch College,” she said. “This is an especially important time in the history of the College. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working with the dedicated and talented faculty, staff, trustees, students, and alumni, as well as reaching out to community members and businesses. As we continue to assess what the higher education landscape will look like following the pandemic, this is our opportunity to create together a bright future and build on the creation of a new Antioch College that is already underway.”
About Antioch College
Antioch College is a groundbreaking and progressive undergraduate institution and community, dedicated to winning victories for humanity. Antioch students apply their classroom learning in the world at-large through its flagship Cooperative Education program where extended work placements with national and international organizations are integrated into the curriculum. A college of action, Antioch teaches and lives its commitments to educational innovation, to a collaborative and engaged campus community, to the application of knowledge, and to the pursuit of justice in all its forms. Antioch College is located in Yellow Springs, OH, in the heart of the Miami Valley. Learn more at antiochcollege.edu and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.