About President Fernandes
Dr. Jane K. Fernandes in August 2021 became the second female president — and first deaf president — in Antioch College’s 170-year history.
Dr. Fernandes, most recently president of Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, is the third president since Antioch’s relaunch as an independent institution in 2010, following Dr. Tom Manley (2015-2020) and Mark Roosevelt (2010-2015).
“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.”
Dr. Fernandes led Guilford College through curricular and administrative innovation to become further distinguished as a “college of excellence known for doing a few things splendidly.” Guilford’s rigorous liberal arts curriculum emphasizes integrative, active learning leading to 84 percent of its students earning career employment or entrance into prestigious graduate schools within a year of graduation.
Founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1837, Guilford College’s enrollment stands at 2,000 traditional-aged and adult students, including students in The Early College at Guilford. Like Antioch, Guilford College is recognized in Loren Pope’s “Colleges that Change Lives” and in Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges.”
“I was strongly drawn to Antioch because it has always combined my two great academic passions: liberal arts and social justice,” said Dr. 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.
Dr. Fernandes attracted the most diverse student body in the history of Guilford College: the percentage of diversity among entering student classes rose 12 percent in five years – from 37 percent in 2015 to 49 percent 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 College 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, Dr. 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 Guilford 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 Guilford College endowment grew from $62 million in 2014 to $89 million as of May 2021. Buoyed by the Guildford Edge initiatives, Fernandes increased fundraising totals every year since 2014, and by 280 percent 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 Guilford College’s fundraising had developed a positive momentum driven by successive years of fundraising increases and the appeal of the Edge initiatives.
Dr. Fernandes’ experience leading Guilford 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 percent decrease in D, F, and W (withdraw) grades, and a 10 percent 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.
Born in Worcester, MA, on Aug. 21, 1956, Dr. Fernandes is a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, where she earned her BA in French and comparative literature, and the University of Iowa, where she earned an MA and a PhD in comparative literature. Born deaf to a deaf mother and hearing father, she learned American Sign Language (ASL) as a graduate student. At the University of Iowa, she was awarded the Philip G. Hubbard Human Rights award. At Trinity College, 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 (University of North Carolina 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.
Fernandes’s career took her first to Boston as acting director of American Sign Language Programs at Northeastern University and then to Washington, DC, as chair of the Sign Communication Department at Gallaudet University. Moving to Hawaii, she became the founding coordinator of the University of Hawaii’s Sign Language/English Interpreter Training Program and later, director of the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind.
She returned to Gallaudet as vice president of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in 1995 and served as provost of the university 2000–06. After her leadership roles at Gallaudet, she became a senior fellow at the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute at Bennett College in Greensboro, a post she held 2007–11.
Dr. Fernandes’s husband, Jim, is an emeritus professor at Gallaudet College. They have two children: Sean, a graduate of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a law student at the University of Chicago, and Erin, a graduate of Smith College, who is in graduate school.
Shelby Chestnut ’05, Chair of Antioch’s Board of Trustees, said, “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.’’