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VP Degen to retire after 40 years

9/24/14

Charlotte DegenThe College’s name change, a new mascot, new Division III sports teams and the creation of a multitude of programs that benefit students are but a few of the many changes that Charlotte Degen ’73 has seen throughout her four decades of service to MCLA.

Next month this alumna will retire from her position as MCLA’s vice president of student affairs, ending a 40-year career with the college she loves. Degen leaves behind a legacy of programs and initiatives that have become part of the fabric and culture of the campus.

“Who gets to have the great opportunities that I’ve had? It’s magic,” Degen said. “One year after another, I was always fortunate able to work with fabulous teams of people. The College is really a vibrant center of thought and action.”

Throughout her career, she authored numerous federal, state and foundation grant proposals, and participated in many initiatives – such as MCLA’s educational enrichment program, which evolved into the Center for Student Success and Engagement (CSSE).

“To be able to work on the development of CSSE was really exciting,” Degen said.

Working with various groups of people on campus to accomplish goals to contribute to student success is what Degen said she’ll miss the most.

In partnership with members of the faculty, staff, Board of Trustees and the student body, Degen created and supported numerous campus programs and centers, including the First Year Experience, Student Development Program, the Susan B. Anthony Women’s Center and the Multicultural Resource Center.  

Degen also created the Center for Service and Citizenship, and has worked with that Center’s coordinator, Spencer Moser, on numerous projects that pair student volunteers with organizations that need help – throughout the community, around the country and abroad.

She recalls pitching an idea for a summer program to jump start students’ leadership capacity with Moser to a newly arrived MCLA President Mary K. Grant.

“We called it ‘LEAD.’ It has taken on a life of its own and celebrated its 10th anniversary this past summer,” Degen said.

Starting out at what was then North Adams State College, Degen majored in elementary education. However, during her junior year she participated in a new program that forever changed the trajectory of her career – the Residential Assistant (RA) Program.

“I was one of the first RAs, and I feel in love with student affairs administration,” Degen said. “I didn’t even know the job existed, as it was a growing profession at the time.”

She next headed to graduate school at Springfield College, where she earned her master’s degree in psychological services, and then completed a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) in education research and policy at UMASS-Amherst.

At MCLA, she went on to create the Student Affairs Leadership Program. Under her guidance, our Residential Student Program has become highly respected within the Massachusetts state university system.

Other work includes playing an important role in the evolution and professional development of MCLA’s Campus Police and Public Safety Department. Degen strengthened Division III athletic programs as they and the student-athletes became integrated into campus life and leadership roles.

In addition, Degen brought leadership and direction to the wellness center, and made certain that the bookstore and campus dining teams play an equally important role to support students.

“I’m going to miss the benefit of changing people’s lives and empowering them to make smart choices,” Degen said. “To see things advance pretty much the way I thought it would was really cool.”

What’s next? In addition to looking forward to becoming a grandparent, “I’ll spend more time with my husband, and I’ll have a little more time for my horse, as well.”