Sara Jayne Steen, president emerita of Plymouth State University, served nine years as president, from 30 June 2006 to 30 June 2015.
During President Steen’s tenure, the campus created strong academic programs and facilities, reshaping the campus’s living and learning environment; expanded PSU’s academic profile and reputation, with new and focused initiatives; increased PSU’s global presence and expanded innovation in sustainability; and emphasized making central and northern New Hampshire stronger through partnership and community engagement.
Significant recent milestones included having for autumn 2015 the largest entering undergraduate class in institutional history, with an enhanced academic profile; a new strategic plan, Focus 2020, which will advance student success for the future; and the construction of ALLWell North, which will provide wonderful space for teaching, research, recreation and athletics, and community programming.
With the completion of this $32M facility in October 2015, PSU will have invested $112,500,000 in new buildings and renovations over her 9 years, enhancing educational opportunities. A 2015 renovation of the Samuel Read Hall Building expanded the campus’s capacity for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, including nursing and a doctor of physical therapy program (beginning 2017).
President Steen this summer completed PSU’s comprehensive campaign, Imagine A Way, and exceeded the $20 million goal, raising well over $30 million, more than in the institution’s previous 135 years.
There are numerous academic achievements over her tenure. PSU in 2008 received doctoral authority and added a Doctor of Education program, enhancing the work of educators in New England and around the world. Among undergraduate and graduate programs developed are nursing, historic preservation, environmental science, tourism management, sports management, and professional sales leadership.
The National Survey of Student Engagement places PSU above its national peers in academic challenge, active and collaborative learning, student-faculty interaction, and supportive campus environment. During Steen’s presidency, experiential learning was increased. In 2015, with 94% of PSU undergraduates had participated in at least one experiential learning activity before graduation.
PSU has emphasized community engagement and commitment to making central and northern New Hampshire stronger through partnership:
- PSU’s Centers for Active Living and Healthy Communities, for the Environment, and for Rural Partnerships have supported healthy people, healthy places, and healthy communities through increased faculty and student research.
- PSU has been a leader in the Coos County Early Childhood Development Initiative to improve the lives of young children and their families.
- PSU has collaborated closely with host communities of Plymouth and Holderness on projects such as the Pemi-Livermore Falls renewal and Plymouth’s 250th anniversary.
- Award-winning programs in the performing arts have extended PSU’s cultural outreach across the region.
- In February 2013, PSU opened the Museum of the White Mountains to preserve and promote the history, culture, and environmental legacy of the region, attracting thousands of visitors and schoolchildren.
- PSU opened the Enterprise Center at Plymouth, a small business incubator and accelerator, in partnership with the Grafton County Economic Development Council in 2013; since then, hundreds of business leaders have worked with students and faculty, and businesses are creating jobs.
That commitment to the region has been acknowledged under Steen’s leadership.
- PSU has been recognized as one of the nation’s top schools for encouraging community service among students by being named to the President’s Community Service Honor Roll every year since 2008.
- In 2011 PSU earned the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement, indicating that teaching, learning, and research are done in collaboration with the region and genuinely enhance its wellbeing. Of the 4500 higher education institutions across the country, only approximately 350 have achieved this recognition.