COLUMBIA — "There's something about a Stephens girl, a quality that we all have, and President Lynch — she has it," said Jaimie Link, a fashion communication major who graduated from Stephens in spring 2010.
Dianne Lynch is going on her second year as the 24th president of Stephens College. Lynch was hired at Stephens in June 2009.
“When I took the job at Stephens I expected to be joining a community, and that’s what happened,” Lynch said. “Stephens is more than a college. The students understand that their dreams and aspirations are important, and they all know what they need to do to succeed. They, in my opinion, are unlike any other community of students.”
Lynch’s main goal when starting at Stephens was to continue the progression and growth of the institution. She has been working on a strategic plan that will shape Stephens' future for the next five years. The plan calls for five committees, made up of staff, faculty and students, to discuss the college's strengths and plan strategies to move the college forward, Lynch said.
In addition to moving the college forward, Lynch has brought Stephens' history back to the campus. Lainey Hughes, a senior at Stephens, said she likes that Lynch brought back Vespers, an old Stephens tradition. Vespers, which began at Stephens in the 1920s, gives students a time to rest during their day. The tradition began to disappear about 30 years ago.
"There's an old tradition where once a month the faculty invite students to the chapel, and someone speaks for about a half-hour," Hughes said. "Cell phones are turned off, and it gives students a time to unwind, relax and have a little reflection time. [Lynch] encourages students to take a break from their otherwise hectic lives."
Lynch also has been working to develop new partnerships with MU. Stephens students now have the opportunity to join the MU Recreation Center at the same cost MU students pay. For the fall 2010 semester, Stephens is also leasing one of its residence halls, Prunty Hall, to MU, Lynch said.
In addition, Lynch said she wants to raise Stephens' national profile.
“Stephens has been featured in national news stories, and I believe the reason is that we at Stephens have a story to tell," she said.
National media covering Stephens include NBC’s "Today"show and The New York Times.
Despite her national focus, Lynch has made a local impression as well. Stephens' students don't think of Lynch as just another administrator.
“Dr. Lynch has such a huge presence on campus, and she is so in touch with all of her students,” Link said. “I could never go anywhere with her on campus without her stopping and talking to every student. She is connected with everyone.”
Lynch said she knew she wanted the job at Stephens and wanted to be part of that community.
“I saw an ad in The Chronicle of Higher Education, and I said, ‘That’s the job for me,' " she said. "There’s a time in your life when you realize what you’re meant to do. When I saw this opportunity — that was my moment of realization.”