Dickinson College names Margee Ensign new President
Dickinson College has chosen Margee Ensign, an internationally recognized scholar and leader in higher education, to be its 29th president. Ensign most recently served as president of the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola, Nigeria, and held leadership roles at Columbia University, Tulane University and the University of the Pacific. She will become president on July 1. Provost and Dean of the College Neil Weissman has served as interim president since July 2016.
The announcement, made today by Board Chair Jennifer Reynolds, follows a 10-month international search resulting in a diverse pool of well-qualified candidates. “Dr. Ensign is a visionary leader with extensive experience as a higher education pioneer and a scholar,” Reynolds said. “The search committee and the board were particularly impressed with her love of students, passion for the liberal arts and dedication to an interdisciplinary education that encompasses global perspectives and sustainable values. Dr. Ensign embodies Dickinson’s mission to educate citizen leaders, and she is the right person at the right time to move Dickinson forward.”
In accepting the Dickinson position, Ensign said, “During my career, I have studied, taught and served as an administrator in a wide variety of academic settings, but my heart has always remained with the sort of institution that I chose for my own undergraduate work—an innovative and student-centered liberal-arts college. Dickinson has been a liberal-arts leader throughout much of America’s history. Its global approach to education, its readiness to innovate, its values and its mission are what the U.S. and the world desperately need. I am honored to have the opportunity to lead this exciting community.”
During her seven-year tenure at AUN, Ensign worked with students, faculty, alumni and the university’s board to draft a strategic plan focusing on sustainable development that helped transform the institution, even as it faced enormous security challenges from the Boko Haram uprising. She raised $160 million, increased scholarship funding, and guided the establishment of new programs, including law and engineering. She also introduced sustainable practices and design and oversaw the construction of five major buildings, including the finest digital library on the continent.
Under her leadership, AUN established study abroad opportunities in 22 countries and—thanks to a generous American donor—a school for the women who had escaped their Boko Haram captors. Ensign also founded and chaired the Adamawa Peace Initiative (API), a Yola-based group of civic and religious leaders that has successfully promoted peace in the area through education, empowerment and community development while feeding 300,000 refugees from the Boko Haram. Her work was featured in the Smithsonian Magazine story, “Escape From Boko Haram,” which lauded Ensign as a “fearless American educator.”
Ensign worked in Africa for 15 years and served as an advisor to the governments of Uganda and Rwanda. She is a widely published scholar whose work focuses primarily on the challenges of international development as well as on the implications of development assistance. Prior to AUN, Ensign served as dean of the School of International Studies and associate provost for international initiatives at the University of the Pacific in California.
She began her academic and administrative career at Columbia University in New York City where she was both assistant professor of politics and economics and director of the international political economy program. From Columbia, she became director of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s development studies program at Tulane University and a professor at Tulane’s international development program, offering advanced programs at the master’s and Ph.D. levels in international development.
Ensign earned her bachelor’s degree from New College in Florida and her Ph.D. in international political economy from the University of Maryland. She is an avid athlete who swims, jogs and plays squash. Her daughter, Katherine Aronson-Ensign, is currently a graduate student in Boston.