Mary Pat McMahon, the dean of student affairs at Tufts University’s Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering since 2014, will be Duke University’s next vice provost/vice president for campus life, school officials announced Friday.
McMahon will succeed Larry Moneta, who is retiring after 18 years as the vice president for student affairs. She will start at Duke July 8.
“I am delighted to welcome Mary Pat McMahon to Duke,” said President Vincent E. Price. “Her leadership in every part of student affairs -- from residential life to wellness to the important work of inclusion, identity and culture -- will contribute to our goal of having the most vibrant and dynamic university community. Mary Pat will be a wise and enthusiastic partner for students and faculty, and I look forward to working with her.”
As the chief student affairs officer at Duke, McMahon will be directly involved in decisions that shape the undergraduate and graduate student experience, including responsibility for residential and dining services, multiple student extracurricular organizations at the undergraduate and graduate level, the career center, student wellness services, parent and family programs, and a variety of other student-directed services.
“Mary Pat is a highly experienced leader who has been involved in all facets of student life,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. “She has boundless enthusiasm and energy, and I am especially impressed by her excellent communication skills and her track record of working directly with students on a range of issues, many of which are similar to those we are grappling with here at Duke.
“I also want to acknowledge Larry Moneta, who has been a transformative leader of student affairs and has built this unit into one that serves our students extremely well,” Kornbluth added. “He established a high standard of excellence in all areas -- from housing and dining to student activities and student wellness. Larry has led a complex organization with great skill.”
McMahon said she is “absolutely thrilled to be joining the Duke community. In speaking with students, faculty, administrators and alumni throughout the interview process, I have been struck by the depth of Duke’s commitment to providing undergraduate, graduate and professional students with a truly interdisciplinary experience, and by the university’s ability to foster dynamic co-curricular learning and growth at every stage of a student’s education.
“I look forward to hearing from student leaders about ways to build upon the outstanding work of the Student Affairs team and deepen partnerships with graduate and undergraduate student leaders, the Durham community and the broader Blue Devil community.”
At Tufts, McMahon was broadly responsible for fostering meaningful growth and connection in students’ co-curricular experiences. This included performing a comprehensive review of the co-curricular structures and resources that support the 5,800 undergraduate and 2,000 graduate students in Tufts’ School of Arts & Sciences and School of Engineering.
In fall 2016, McMahon was tapped to lead a newly created Division of Student Affairs to provide more integrated support for student wellness, inclusion and developmental support. The division includes health services, counseling and mental health and wellness programs, the career center, student accessibility services, student success and advising, campus life, orientation, residential life, Greek life, campus life, the identity-based resource centers and community standards.
She also led a comprehensive review of the undergraduate residential experience at Tufts. In 2017, on-campus residence halls were restructured to create all first-year residence halls and establish a year-by-year residential education curriculum. In this role, she played an integral role in forming long-term strategies to expand and upgrade on-campus housing as well as establishing resources for students living off-campus.
That same year, McMahon supported a Student Life Review Committee that provided Tufts with a strategic plan to comprehensively evaluate and improve undergraduate student life.
She also served on the President’s Mental Health Task Force, chairing the Models of Care Subcommittee to examine the rise in demand for mental-health services among college-age students and provide recommendations for further services and support.
As a member of the Steering Committee for Tufts’ Sexual Misconduct Prevention Task Force, McMahon helped foster student-led, administrative-supported initiatives to promote consent education and foster bystander intervention partnerships across student organizations. She also commissioned working groups to help identify and address gaps in resources for first-generation, low-income and historically underrepresented students at Tufts. These working groups led to the founding of the Office for Student Success and Advising and the FIRST Center, a resource center for first-generation, low-income students founded in October 2018.
“Mary Pat blew us away with her deep and intelligent attention to the needs of students, faculty and staff as separate constituencies with shared goals,” said Emily Bernhardt, Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor of Biology and chair of the Duke search committee. “What really resonated from her interview was her intention to change the world for the better through changing the way we support, educate and empower the next generation. Mary Pat will be an empathic and inspiring leader for Duke as we head into the 2020s.”
Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco thanked McMahon for her “invaluable, lasting contributions to student life at Tufts. Her vision and leadership have transformed the student experience; improved students’ health, wellness and safety; and promoted collaboration and communication between students, faculty and staff. She is a dynamic and tested leader who understands and appreciates higher education’s capacity to change lives for the better.”
Prior to Tufts, McMahon served as associate dean of student affairs at Bowdoin College, where she helped develop a highly regarded residential learning program through Bowdoin’s College House program. She also oversaw the first-year experience at Bowdoin, provided academic and personal advising to students, and offered guidance for the judicial and sexual misconduct board hearing processes.
Originally from Westfield, Massachusetts, McMahon previously was the associate director of doctoral programs at New York University and assistant director of undergraduate admissions at Yale University. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in history from Yale and a master of science degree in history of international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
She and her husband Ken Templeton, a middle school English teacher, have two elementary school-age children. She said one of her family’s goals is to camp in as many national parks as possible in the next five years.