MCLA Welcomes New Leadership

Print Story | Email Story

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has appointed four new leaders on campus, to fill new and existing positions.

Dr. Christopher MacDonald-Dennis is MCLA's chief diversity officer, and Gina Puc, Class of 2007, will move from her position as director of admission to assume a new role as the college's dean of enrollment management and community relations. In addition, Robert P. Ziomek, Class of 1989, will return to his alma mater to assume the role of vice president of advancement, and Dr. Emily Allen Williams will be the campus's vice president of academic affairs.

MCLA President James F. Birge said he is thrilled that MacDonald-Dennis, Puc, Williams and Ziomek will fill these important leadership positions on campus.

"It's an exciting time at MCLA as we are joined by these new colleagues, two of whom are alumni. Together, along with our faculty and the rest of our administration and staff, we will continue to grow and expand the work of the college," Birge said. "Through their previous work, all have proven to be exceptional leaders, and we anticipate many great things to come as they settle into and move forward in their new roles."

After a nationwide search, MacDonald-Dennis was selected to fill MCLA’s newly created chief diversity officer position. In this role, he interprets and implements best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts at the college as he works with academic and faculty leadership. In collaboration with campus leaders, he also will develop comprehensive diversity and inclusion training and education programs for faculty, staff, and students.

MacDonald-Dennis, who began his new position in late February, comes to the college from Macalester College, a liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minn., where he served as its dean of multicultural life for the past six years. Previously, he was the assistant dean of the college and the director of intercultural affairs at Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa. At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., he was the program director of SERVE, a student movement that addresses societal changes through community service and social action.

A scholar-practitioner, MacDonald-Dennis has authored and co-authored articles and book chapters on numerous topics on diversity, including anti-Semitism, facilitating social justice education, and religion oppression. Most recently, he co-edited a chapter in the fourth edition of "Readings for Diversity and Social Justice," considered the leading textbook on diversity and social justice and used in college classrooms across the country.

He is the recipient of numerous distinctions and awards, including the Diamond Honoree from the American College Personnel Association in 2014, the Racial Justice Champion Award from the YWCA Minneapolis Forum on Race in 2012, and the Alumni Achievement Award from Framingham State University in 2009.

MacDonald-Dennis earned his master of divinity from Lexington Theological Seminary in Lexington, Ky., and his doctor of education degree in social justice education from UMass-Amherst. In addition, he earned a master of science degree in college student development and counseling from Northeastern University in Boston, and a bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Framingham State University.

Puc will take on MCLA's second newly created position when she becomes the college's dean of enrollment management and community relations on July 1. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in history at MCLA in 2007, and returned to campus in 2008 to begin her career as an admission counselor in the Office of Admission.

As an admission counselor for the college, Puc covered the North Shore area and conducted the file review of applicants to make an admissions decision. She went on to become an assistant director of admission, and then an associate director of admission, where she oversaw the file review process and the freshmen admission cycle. This included the communications plan and helping to determine the awarding of academic, merit scholarships.

Puc left MCLA for one year to serve as associate director of admission at Hampshire College in Amherst, after which she returned to MCLA to assume the position of director of admission.

Williams, who will arrive on campus on July 15 from Ramapo College of New Jersey in Mahwah, N.J., where she served as the vice provost of curriculum and assessment, will be MCLA's new vice president of academic affairs.

In addition to her work at Ramapo, another COPLAC (Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges) institution, Williams bring former experience as an interim provost, and an inaugural academic director, a department chair, a Fulbright Scholar, an inaugural Master of Fine Arts program director, a faculty member, a published author, and a grants director.

Williams holds a certificate of training in Management and Leadership in Higher Education (MLE) from Harvard University in Cambridge. She earned her Doctor of Arts in the humanities, with a concentration in Caribbean and British studies, from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Ga.

Williams was the first African American woman to receive the master of arts in linguistics and literature from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., and previously earned tenure at two institutions – Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., and Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in English and history from Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va.

An internationally published scholar, Williams specializes in the work of the renowned Kamau Brathwaite – Caribbean/Barbadian cultural critic, historian, and poet. In addition, she is known for her work on Canadian-Caribbean women writers, and her research and writing on Canadian slavery.

An alumnus of the college, Ziomek is MCLA's vice president of advancement. He brings with him nearly 30 years of experience in the advancement field. Ziomek, who will arrive at the College on June 1, comes from Western New England University (WNEU) in Springfield, where he has been the assistant vice president for development.

Prior to WNEU, he served as the executive director of the Westfield State Foundation, and assistant vice president of advancement and college relations at Westfield State University. Ziomek also held advancement positions at Johnson and Wales University and Brown University of Providence, R.I., Stoneleigh-Burnham School in Greenfield, and Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill.

He volunteers with several community organizations, including the Board of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, where he serves as the chairman of its Legislative Steering Committee. In addition, he is a member of the Kiwanis Club of Westfield, the South Hadley Baseball Association, All Saints’ Church, and the Cancer House of Hope.

Ziomek graduated from Holyoke Community College in 1987 with Associate Degree in liberal arts. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in history/political science in 1989 from North Adams State College, now MCLA.


Tags: MCLA,   

0 Comments welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to

How Can You Prepare for the 'New Retirement'?

Submitted by Edward Jones

A generation or so ago, people didn't just retire from work – many of them also withdrew from a whole range of social and communal activities. But now, it's different: The large Baby Boom cohort, and no doubt future ones, are insisting on an active lifestyle and continued involvement in their communities and world. 

So, what should you know about this "new retirement"? And how can you prepare for it?

For starters, consider what it means to be a retiree today. The 2020 Edward Jones/Age Wave Four Pillars of the New Retirement study has identified these four interrelated, key ingredients, along with the connected statistics, for living well in the new retirement:

Health: While physical health may decline with age, emotional intelligence – the ability to use emotions in positive ways – actually improves, according to a well-known study from the University of California, among others. However, not surprisingly, retirees fear Alzheimer's and other types of dementia more than any physical ailment, including cancer or infectious diseases, according to the "Four Pillars" study.

Family: Retirees get their greatest emotional nourishment from family relationships – and they will do anything it takes to help support those family members, even if it means sacrificing their own financial security. Conversely, retirees lacking close connections with family and friends are at risk for all the negative consequences resulting from physical and social isolation.

Purpose: Nearly 90 percent of Americans feel that there should be more ways for retirees to use their talents and knowledge for the benefit of their communities and society at large. Retirees want to spend their time in useful, rewarding ways – and they are capable of doing so, given their decades of life experience. Retirees with a strong sense of purpose have happier, healthier lives and report a higher quality of life.

Finances: Retirees are less interested in accumulating more wealth than they are in having sufficient resources to achieve the freedom to live their lives as they choose. Yet, retirees frequently find that managing money in retirement can be even more challenging than saving for it. And the "unknowns" can be scary: Almost 70 percent of those who plan to retire in the next 10 years say they have no idea what their healthcare and long-term care costs will be in retirement.

View Full Story

More North Adams Stories