Salem College, one of the oldest women’s colleges in the country, emphasizes leadership in health.



Salem College, one of the oldest women’s colleges in the country, has hired one of the country’s youngest female presidents to lead its transformation into an institution focused on health leadership.

The Academy and College of Salem trace its history back to 1772, when Moravian missionaries established a school for girls in Salem, North Carolina. Today, the Academy and the College share a campus at the school’s original location in the town of Winston-Salem. It claims to be the 13th oldest college in the country by founding date and its “oldest educational institution for women and girls”. This year, it will celebrate its 250 years.

The institution has evolved into two main structures, under the general direction of a single board of directors and president. Salem Academy is a college preparatory school and boarding school for girls in grades 9-12. She enrolled 62 students this year. Salem College is a private liberal arts school for women, with a total enrollment of approximately 600 students.

While the traditional Salem undergraduate program is for women only, women and men aged 23 and over are accepted for undergraduate programs through the Fleer Center for Adult Education and for masters programs in education and music.

The annual budget of Salem Academy and College is approximately $ 20 million per year and its endowment is valued at $ 67.2 million.

A new president

This summer, Salem hired Summer Johnson McGee to be its 22nd president. Dr McGee, who at 40 is one of the youngest university presidents in the country, received his doctorate in bioethics and health policy from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University after earning a bachelor’s degree. in Indiana Bioethics.

She brings to her new role a strong record of leadership in health education, having recently served as founding dean of the School of Health Sciences at New Haven University. Previously, Dr. McGee was on faculties at Loyola University in Chicago, University of Kansas School of Medicine, and Albany Medical College. A decorated teacher, she has also published extensively on various issues related to healthcare and biomedical sciences, including the importance of education in solving public health problems.

At New Haven University, Dr. McGee has overseen the creation of more than a dozen new in-person and online undergraduate and graduate programs, including one of the only professional science doctorate programs. health of the country.

A focus on health leadership

Her hiring marks a new direction for Salem College, which earlier this year announced it was starting a focus on health leadership to prepare the next generation of women leaders in various fields of health.

According to the college’s website, Salem focuses its mission on “becoming the only liberal arts college in the country dedicated to elevating and expanding the role of women in health leadership.” This new health leadership approach to liberal arts education will prepare the next generation of women to become empowered, ethical and effective health leaders in a wide range of fields from medicine and wellness to law and to public policy, business and non-profit organizations to advocacy and the environment.

In a recent interview, President McGee told me that the transformation, which can be attributed to a strategic plan developed in 2018, is already well underway. Starting this fall, Salem will add four new health-focused specializations – Health Sciences, Health Humanities, Health Advocacy and Humanitarian Systems, and Health Communication and Data Visualization – as well as health development. ” special leadership programming, a renewed liberal arts core curriculum, and increased opportunities for internship and service learning.

Dr McGee has challenged faculty to revise at least 50% of the current course offerings in support of the new curriculum, and so far they have responded by revamping or adding 64 courses. While the college will retain its liberal arts foundation, it will also inject the new focus on health throughout the program, as it aims to prepare graduates for areas such as digital health, telemedicine, and healthcare compliance. health care services which, according to its new president, offer excellent career prospects for women. .

The new focus is partially subscribed with a donation of $ 5 million from an anonymous donor. With these funds, Salem plans to add five faculty members over the next year as well as five additional staff members. Over the next five years, Dr. McGee is considering the possibility of adding 20 to 25 additional faculty and staff with the expertise to drive the transformation. At the same time, the viability of several current majors is being assessed, with the understanding that they may be suspended or even ultimately discontinued.

President McGee sees the new emphasis on health leadership as a wise direction for Salem to take, given that 43% of his undergraduate students were already majoring in STEM or health-related fields before the reset. the mission.

“Colleges cannot be everything for everyone in today’s competitive market. We have identified our niche based on the interests of our students, evolving workforce needs and Salem’s history of preparing women to lead and meet the challenges of their time, ” she told me. “We aspire to equip women with the skills to succeed in the dynamic world of health and health care and to close the critical gender gap in health leadership. “


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