Elizabeth Coleman, President
One of the country’s leading innovators in higher education, Elizabeth Coleman became the ninth president of Bennington College in 1987. Her vision for the liberal arts and their role and reinvigoration in society has been widely recognized—she has spoken internationally on the topic, including concluding the 25th anniversary TED “Ideas Worth Spreading” Conference. Prior to assuming the presidency at Bennington, Coleman was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the New School for Social Research in New York, where she founded and directed the school’s first ventures in undergraduate education.
In 1994, Coleman led Bennington College through an organizational restructuring initiated by the Board of Trustees to reanimate Bennington’s vanguard educational mission. Since then, the College has experienced record fiscal health and launched new pioneering curricular programs—among them a distinguished low-residency graduate program in writing and the ambitious Center for the Advancement of Public Action, which invites students to put the world’s most pressing problems at the center of their education.
CAPA is the latest incarnation of Bennington’s trailblazing spirit. “The College’s genius with regard to whatever is taught—its belief in learning as a task of discovery rather than ‘learning about’ and its readiness to invite students immediately and directly into their education—remains as distinctive, daring, and invaluable as ever.”
Coleman serves on the boards the Neurosciences Institute in California and the National Association of Independent Schools. She has served on the boards of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, the Council for a Community of Democracies, the European College of Liberal Arts in Berlin, and the Committee for Economic Development, and has been consultant to the Annenberg Corporation.
A scholar of Shakespeare and Henry James, Coleman graduated with honors from the University of Chicago and received her PhD with distinction at Columbia University. She has received honorary degrees from the University of Vermont and Hofstra University.
In June 2013, Coleman will retire from the presidency of Bennington College after 25 years of leadership. She will serve as director of the Center for the Advancement of Public Action through June 2015.