Alison Byerly is Lafayette College’s 17th and first woman president. Since her inauguration in October 2013, President Byerly has sought to leverage the hallmarks of a Lafayette education to position the College at the forefront of this country’s finest colleges and as a leader of transformational change in higher education.
In November 2014, under President Byerly’s leadership, Lafayette launched the public phase of the $400 million Live Connected, Lead Change campaign. The most ambitious fundraising effort in the College’s history, Live Connected, Lead Change seeks to strengthen the connections between liberal arts and engineering to better educate students to meet society’s increased demand for science and technology while preparing them to think critically and creatively. The campaign also seeks to foster innovation in teaching and learning and to support a campus community that creates lifelong connections among students and gives them the intellectual and social skills they need to succeed.
As one of her first academic initiatives, President Byerly led the creation of Connected Communities in fall 2015. This transformative program provides an immersive student experience that connects residence life to academic programs and student advising with the goal of supporting the diverse academic and developmental needs of students. New students are assigned to one of five Commons, which serve as the foundation for their first-year experience. The program supports the academic and developmental needs of Lafayette’s diverse student body. Enhanced housing and dining services that put multiple living/learning options alongside flexible social spaces are strengthening the sense of community, creating opportunities for intellectual engagement, and broadening students’ social options.
In February 2016, President Byerly announced a new strategic direction for Lafayette that supports a shared conviction of the administration, faculty, and Board of Trustees that investing in the quality of the College’s people and the vibrancy of its educational community is the best way to ensure its future strength and success. As a result of this new direction, Lafayette will strengthen its financial aid resources to improve access and affordability, with a goal of admitting the most qualified students regardless of their family’s financial means. In addition, at this time when a Lafayette education has never been in more demand, the College will grow the size of its student body by 350 to 400 students through a carefully planned and managed process. To maintain or improve Lafayette’s long tradition of close student-faculty interaction, the College will also add 35 to 40 new faculty positions and enhance faculty recruitment and retention through competitive salaries.
President Byerly earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in English at Wellesley College and a master’s degree and doctorate in English at University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of two books—Are We There Yet? Virtual Travel and Victorian Realism, which was published in 2012 by the University of Michigan Press, and Realism, Representation, and the Arts in Nineteenth-Century Literature, which was published by Cambridge University Press in 1997 and reissued in paperback in 2006—and many scholarly articles.
Before becoming Lafayette’s president, she served in leadership positions at Middlebury College for 13 years, most recently as provost and executive vice president. In addition to serving as a member of the Middlebury faculty from 1989 through 2013, she also held an interdisciplinary appointment as college professor and served as a visiting scholar at MIT, Stanford, and Oxford.
President Byerly is married to Stephen Jensen, a medical editor. Their daughter, Laramie, a graduate of Carleton College, is now pursuing her doctorate in oceanography at Texas A&M. Their son, Ryan, a graduate of Moravian Academy, attends Dickinson College.