Dr. Katie Conboy was appointed Provost and Senior Vice President of Simmons University in July 2013. She is the chief academic officer (CAO) of the University and has over thirty years of experience in higher education. She serves on the President's Operating Team, leads the Deans Council, and executes overall responsibility for Academic Affairs—including the curriculum, the deans and faculty of the four colleges, and all academic support services, such as Registrar, Library, Advising, Tutoring, Global Education, the Center for Excellence in Teaching, and the Career Education Center.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities you see for higher education?

Higher education is going through a paradigm shift, and we all feel the ground moving under us. I think the biggest issue is actually relevance. Recent reports show that only about 50 percent of Americans now say that going to college is part of the "American Dream." Nationally, the arts and humanities are feeling unprecedented pressure to demonstrate what they are "good for." And students have become highly practical as they wrestle with the cost of a college education. We need to "translate" many traditional disciplines in order to make them relevant for today's students.

How do you think Simmons approaches leadership?

Simmons is clearly intentional in its approach to leadership. The College puts a high premium on hiring and retaining the kinds of leaders who can make a real difference here – trusting them to do the work in their own areas, and to cooperate on institution-wide opportunities. Moreover, the College is strategic in connecting itself to broader leadership development – a topic that's taught and highlighted in many ways, such as the longstanding Simmons Leadership Conference, partnerships with the U.S. Department of State to prepare future women leaders, global projects to build or re-build libraries around the world, and the Japanese Women's Leadership Initiative, to name a few.

What sort of leader are you?

I strive to be a collaborative leader. I am profoundly committed to shared governance, and I bring a spirit of partnership to our efforts at Simmons. While historical memory is very important, our dreams and plans must look ahead. I truly believe that the best is yet to come for Simmons.

What leader do you admire and why?

I could name so many leaders I admire – each for a different reason. But one who stands out for me is Eleanor Roosevelt. Although she didn't have "positional" authority as a first lady, she simply claimed it, emerging as an activist leader in her own right, championing African-American civil rights and women's rights, and ultimately participating in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. She lived 17 years after FDR's death, and continued making a difference in the world. Adlai Stevenson summed her up beautifully in a memorial address to the United Nations General Assembly: "She would rather light candles than curse the darkness."