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Dickinson Names New President

Margee Ensign

Margee Ensign

Dickinson College has chosen an internationally recognized scholar and leader in higher education to be its 29th president.

Margee Ensign, who most recently served as president of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, Nigeria, will become the college’s 29th president July 1. Ensign’s career has featured leadership roles at Columbia University in New York City, Tulane University in New Orleans and the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California.

The announcement follows a 10-month international search during which more than 300 people were contacted about the position, resulting in a diverse pool of more than 35 well-qualified candidates. A search committee made up of alumni, faculty, administrators and students, and chaired by Board of Trustees member Jim Chambers ’78, reviewed the applicants. Board Chair Jennifer Reynolds ’77 made the announcement this morning.

In accepting the Dickinson position, Ensign said, “During my career I have studied, taught and served as an administrator in a wide variety of academic settings, but my heart has always remained with the sort of institution that I chose for my own undergraduate work—an innovative and student-centered liberal-arts college. Dickinson College has been a liberal-arts leader throughout much of America’s history. Its global approach to education, its readiness to innovate, its values and its mission are what the United States and the world desperately need. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this exciting community.”

“Dr. Ensign is a visionary leader with extensive experience as a higher education pioneer and a scholar,” Reynolds said. “The search committee and the board were particularly impressed with her love of students, her passion for the liberal arts and her dedication to an interdisciplinary education that encompasses global perspectives and sustainable values. Dr. Ensign embodies Dickinson’s mission to educate citizen leaders, and she is the right person at the right time to move Dickinson forward.”

During her seven-year tenure at AUN, Ensign worked with students, faculty, alumni and the university’s board to draft a strategic plan focusing on sustainable development that helped transform the institution, even as it faced enormous security challenges from the Boko Haram uprising. She raised $160 million, increased scholarship funding and guided the establishment of new programs, including law and engineering. She also introduced sustainable practices and design and oversaw the construction of five major buildings, including the finest digital library on the continent. Under her leadership, AUN has established study abroad opportunities in 22 countries. Thanks to a generous American donor, AUN also established a school for the women who had escaped their Boko Haram captors.

Ensign founded and chaired the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), a Yola-based group of civic and religious leaders, to combat escalating violence. API has successfully promoted peace in the area through education, empowerment and community development while feeding 300,000 refugees from the Boko Haram violence to the north. All students at AUN spend time working in the impoverished Yola community as an integral part of their educational experience.

Ensign has worked in Africa for 15 years and has served as an advisor to the governments of Uganda and Rwanda. She is a widely published scholar whose work focuses primarily on the challenges of international development as well as on the implications of development assistance.

Prior to AUN, Ensign served as dean of the School of International Studies and associate provost for international initiatives at the University of the Pacific in California.

She earned her B.A. from New College in Florida and her Ph.D. in international political economy from the University of Maryland. She began her academic and administrative career at Columbia University. There, she was both assistant professor of politics and economics and director of the international political economy program.

From Columbia, she became director of USAID’s development studies program at Tulane University and a professor in Tulane’s international development program, offering advanced programs at the master’s and Ph.D. levels in international development.

Ensign is an avid athlete who swims, jogs and plays squash. Her daughter, Katherine Aronson-Ensign, is currently a graduate student in Boston.

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Published February 27, 2017