Thiel College names first female president

Dr. Susan Traverso was introduced during a ceremony at the college’s main campus in Greenville, Pa.

Thiel College named Dr. Susan Traverso as their new president.

GREENVILLE, Pennsylvania. (WKBN) – Thiel College made a historic announcement Tuesday, naming its first female president in the college’s 150-year history.

Dr. Susan Traverso was introduced during a ceremony at the college’s main campus in Greenville, Pa. She was chosen from a field of 70 candidates.

“In many ways it’s similar to Elizabethtown; that mission to serve students, to serve community, to give back,” she said.

Traverso previously served nine years as provost and vice president of Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pa. She will serve as Thiel’s 20th president beginning Aug. 1.

“We look forward to deepening our relationship with the college and the Greenville community, honoring your hopes and dreams,” Traverso said.

Dr. Barry Stamm, chair of the Thiel College Board of Trustees, said during Traverso’s introduction he and the board were especially interested in Traverso’s service in the Peace Corps where she served as a volunteer and educational coordinator in Yemen, as well as a project director in Yemen before coming back to the states to continue her educational career in administration.

Traverso said during her remarks that she is “thrilled” to build on the accomplishments of former President Dr. Troy VanAken, who announced his resignation from Thiel in February although he remains in the position at this time.

“I am going to get to work, and I am going to work hard. The college’s strategy already underway will be a wonderful opportunity for me to learn more about Thiel. To listen, to understand and together we can map out new goals and objectives to move the college ahead,” Traverso said.

Traverso admits a key to her job will be fundraising, both from current alumni as well as future ones, a process she refers to as the culture of giving.

“So that students can think, ‘Someday, I need to give back. I need to give back to Thiel, I need to give back to my community,'” she said.

Compared to other colleges and universities in the region, Thiel is one of the smallest, with around 100 full and part time faculty members. Still, trustees recently raised more than $60 million as part of a capitol improvement campaign, and intend to continue looking to alumni and other benefactors to support future improvements.

“We’re turning our attention to new science facilities, new housing programs. We want to do construction of new housing facilities and renovating some old ones,” Stamm said.

In the meantime, students and faculty who attended Tuesday morning’s announcement were pleased their new president comes from a strong background in small-college academics.

“The students here, we need to feel supported and we need to feel like we’re cared for, so that we can go out and put our best foot forward and do the best here,” said Sereen Thomas of Warren.

“You could talk to anyone, anybody on this campus, and I think the new president will offer that opportunity to us,” said Kayla Cyphert of Youngstown.

Thiel is a private college with just over 1,000 undergraduates in attendance, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The average annual cost is $22,402 per year with a 33 percent graduation rate.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said Dr. Troy VanAken resigned from his position as the president of the university in February. VanAken announced his resignation in February, but he remains in the position until Traverso takes over. We regret the error.

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