Dr. Sara Jayne Steen Named 14th President of Plymouth State University

April 17th, 2006 by Adam

Sara Jayne Steen

APRIL 17, 2006 – Lee, NH – University System of New Hampshire (USNH) Chancellor Stephen J. Reno announced today that Dr. Sara Jayne Steen will be the next president of Plymouth State University, pending a formal vote of the USNH Board of Trustees on April 20. Dr. Steen, the chief academic and fiscal officer of the largest college at Montana State University, will bring nearly 30 years of experience in higher education as a faculty member and senior administrator to Plymouth State University (PSU). She will assume the PSU presidency on July 1, 2006 from Dr. Donald P. Wharton, who is retiring after serving as the University’s president for the past 13 years.

“Dr. Steen is a teacher to the core, an administrator of demonstrated skill, and a much valued citizen of her community. This superb combination of values, talent, and experience will serve well the future development of Plymouth State University and its partnership with the local community, the region, and the State of New Hampshire,” said Chancellor Reno.

Dr. Steen is the dean of College of Letters and Science at Montana State University and has served in that capacity since 2003. She oversees the Departments of Agricultural Economics and Economics, Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Earth Sciences, Ecology, English, History and Philosophy, Mathematical Sciences, Microbiology, Modern Languages and Literatures, Native American Studies, Physics, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology and Anthropology. In addition, the college includes the Center for Bio-Inspired Nanomaterials, Center for Computational Biology, Center for Thermal Biology, Geographic and Informational Analysis Center, Humanities Institute, Local Government Center, Spectrum Lab, Wheeler Center for Public Policy, and the Women’s Studies Program.

“Plymouth State University is a resource of which New Hampshire can be proud. It has evolved from a normal school to, under President Wharton, a state university that combines first-rate undergraduate education with growing research and graduate programs and genuine engagement with New Hampshire’s communities,” Dr. Steen said. “The University’s future is bright. I’m honored to have been recommended by Chancellor Reno for the position and look forward to joining the team of wonderful people who are Plymouth State University and to have the opportunity to share in that future.”

A search committee composed of individuals representing PSU faculty, administrators, and students, the Plymouth community, and the USNH Board of Trustees, reviewed more than 130 applications over the past several months and selected four finalists in March. The finalists visited the campus and participated in several public forums with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members. In late March, the search committee advanced two candidates to Chancellor Reno for his consideration. Following his review, the chancellor brought his recommendation of Dr. Steen to the Executive Committee of the USNH Board of Trustees on April 15th and received its endorsement.

“Dr. Steen’s extensive background in public higher education, both as a teacher and as a senior administrator, positions her to be a very effective leader at Plymouth State University as the institution continues its transition from a college to a regional comprehensive university,” said Eugene Savage, a member of the USNH Board of Trustees and chair of the search committee.

Dr. Steen received a B.S. in Education (English, Speech) at Bowling Green State University in 1970, an M.A. in English at The Ohio State University in 1974, and her Ph.D. in English at Bowling Green State University in 1978. In 2002 she was nominated by Montana State University (MSU) and selected by the American Council on Education for a year-long, in-residence fellowship to study higher education administration at the University of Delaware. From 1996 to 2002 Dr. Steen chaired the Department of English at Montana State and has been a full professor of English since 1989. She has been a professor at the University since 1978 and in 1996, received the President’s Distinguished Teaching Award from MSU. During her career, she has written several books and many journal articles, published numerous papers, and has been a very active member of the Montana State University and Greater Bozeman communities.

“During her visit to Plymouth State University, Dr. Steen was engaging and spoke eloquently and knowledgeably about PSU and the challenges and opportunities we face today. She brought with her messages that resonated with the many different constituent groups she met with and demonstrated a leadership style that will work well at PSU,” said Dr. Peng-Khuan Chong, associate professor of social science and a member of the presidential search committee.

The full Board of Trustees will formally vote on her appointment during a non-public session at their regularly scheduled meeting at PSU on April 20. Following the vote, Dr. Steen will be on campus as the Board introduces her to the Plymouth community as the 14th president of the institution at approximately 10:30 am at the Silver Center for the Arts. The public and media are welcome to attend this event and Dr. Steen will be available to answer questions. A reception for Dr. Steen will follow.


Plymouth State University (PSU) is a regional comprehensive university offering a rich, student-focused learning environment for both undergraduate and graduate students. PSU offers 42 majors and 62 minors in programs that include education, business, humanities, arts, and natural and social sciences. The College of Graduate Studies offers coursework that promotes research, best practices and reflection in locations on- and off-campus as well as online. For non-traditional students, PSU’s Frost School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers working professionals opportunities to pursue an undergraduate degree by attending classes in the evenings, weekends and online. Located in a beautiful New England setting, Plymouth State University has been recognized as one of the “Best in the Northeast” by The Princeton Review.