President Rebecca Chopp Honored for Advocacy of Higher Education

By Audree Penner
Rebecca Chopp
Earlier this month, President Rebecca Chopp co-hosted a conference, "The Future of the Liberal Arts in America and its Leadership Role in Education Around the World," to discuss with peers the challenges and opportunities confronting liberal arts colleges.

Today, Swarthmore College President Rebecca Chopp received the 2012 Advocate for Higher Education Award from the Counselors to Higher Education (CHE) section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). The award was given as part of the PRSA's Counselors to Higher Education Senior Summit, "Strategic Investment: Demonstrating the Impact" in Washington, D.C. Chopp also delivered the summit's prestigious Pat Jackson Lecture, where she addressed "Creating a New Narrative for Higher Education."

Chopp was chosen to receive the Advocate for Higher Education award because of her leadership in higher education, a record of extraordinary accomplishment, an understanding of the value of strategic communication, and support for her communicators. Additionally, this award recognizes her contributions of "thought leadership" nationally in higher education, and her service as a role model for others aspiring to lead higher education institutions. Those who work directly with Chopp have described her as a "fantastic mentor." She welcomes new ideas and inspires others to excel.

"Throughout her distinguished career, President Chopp has respected institutional culture, listened to her constituents, communicated prolifically, and made those who worked for or with her feel responsible for success," said CHE chair Charlie Melichar, associate vice-chancellor at Vanderbilt University.

Chopp assumed the presidency at Swarthmore College in 2009. Since joining the College, she has focused on its role in cultivating a global intellectual community that will create leaders in every field. In her first year, she oversaw a financial restructuring that, without layoffs or cuts to core academic programs, resulted in a sustainable five-year budget plan. Most recently she led a strategic direction setting exercise for the College that has laid the foundation for the College's future as a progressive leader in liberal arts education.

As a thought leader, Chopp, and her friend and colleague Lafayette College President Daniel Weiss, hosted the conference, "The Future of the Liberal Arts in America and its Leadership Role in Education Around the World," earlier this month to discuss with peers the challenges and opportunities confronting liberal arts colleges. Held at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa., the conference drew more than 230 presidents, provosts, and foundation and association officers from around the United States and the United Kingdom.

"It was illuminating and bodes very well for the liberal arts broadly as well as Swarthmore more specifically," Chopp said of the conference. "We share a profound commitment to continue offering the kind of education we so deeply value, as well as a commitment to adapt to meet the changing needs of our students, our communities, and the world."

These examples of her leadership at Swarthmore College and her previous leadership position as president of Colgate University, are qualities CHE will recognize and honor with the Advocate Award.

CHE is the premier professional community of senior public relations counselors who serve colleges and universities. The organization established the annual Advocate for Higher Education Award in 2009 to recognize leaders who have effectively used strategic communication and public relations to advance the mission of higher education. The Pat Jackson Lecture was established in 2007 to honor the memory of Jackson, a pioneer and leader in the field of public relations.

About Rebecca Chopp

A well-known scholar of progressive religious movements in American culture, Chopp has recently focused her research on changing structures and cultures of higher education, on the role of liberal arts in a democratic society, and on religion and higher education. A prolific communicator, she has authored or edited five books and has published more than 50 articles.

Chopp has served on the governing boards of the Association of American Colleges and Universities and the National Survey of Student Engagement and has served on the executive committee of the Annapolis Group and the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for Teaching. Chopp has also served as president of the American Academy of Religion.

A native of Kansas, Chopp received a B.A. from Kansas Wesleyan University, an M.Div. from St. Paul School of Theology, and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Prior to coming to Swarthmore, Chopp served as president and professor of philosophy and religion at Colgate University from 2002 to 2009. Each of her alma maters has honored her with distinguished awards, and she has received four honorary doctorates.

About Swarthmore College

Located near Philadelphia, Swarthmore is a highly selective liberal arts college whose mission combines academic rigor with a commitment to the common good. With an enrollment of 1,450 students, Swarthmore is distinguished by its unique honors program and Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.