Dr. Jennifer M. Collins took office today as the 21st president of Rhodes College. Collins joins the national liberal arts college after serving as the Judge James Noel Dean and professor of law at Southern Methodist University in Texas.
She succeeds Carroll Stevens, J.D., who has served as the college’s interim president since July 1, 2021, following the departure of Dr. Marjorie Hass.
“I am truly honored to be joining the incredible community at Rhodes College today,” says President Collins. “I am very much looking forward to partnering with our wonderful faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community partners in the great city of Memphis to enhance the outstanding educational experience we provide and champion our commitments to service and inclusive excellence.”
The Rhodes College president reports to the Board of Trustees and is an ex officio member of the board. The president also regularly convenes a senior leadership team to advance the college’s strategic vision.
“The Board of Trustees is delighted and indeed fortunate to be welcoming President Collins,” says Board of Trustees Chair Deborah Craddock. “We look forward to her leadership and to working with her as we develop and implement our strategic plan preparing Rhodes for the next decade.”
Because of Rhodes’ unique position as one of the few liberal arts colleges in an urban setting, its more than 2,000 students have myriad ways to immerse themselves in a major metropolitan area through service and internship opportunities, while also exploring the world through study abroad. Rhodes attracts students from a wide variety of backgrounds, representing 45 states (plus D.C.) and 63 countries. Rigorous and intimate, the classroom experience integrates high-impact experiences such as faculty-mentored student research and fellowships.
“The Rhodes community is excited to welcome President Collins as she takes up the mantle of the 21st presidency of the college. I look forward to seeing the amazing things she will do in the coming year to move us past the pandemic era and to help us become an even stronger college community,” says Rhodes Student Government President David Caddle ’23.
Since 2014, Collins has served as the dean of Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, working with more than 100 faculty members and supporting more than 800 domestic and international students. Before her tenure there, she served as vice provost and professor of law at Wake Forest University for 10 years.
Collins’ career outside of academia includes working in a private practice in Washington, D.C., and as an attorney-adviser in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. She was Assistant United States Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia from 1994-2002.
Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Yale University and a Juris Doctor degree from Harvard University, where she also served as an editor for the Harvard Law Review.
Founded in 1848, Rhodes College aspires to graduate students with a lifelong passion for learning, a compassion for others, and the ability to translate academic study and personal concern into effective leadership and action in their communities and in the world.
Although a strategic plan for the college was finalized by the Board of Trustees before the pandemic, Collins and the campus community will refine and energize the plan in the post-pandemic era, while demonstrating the unique strengths of Rhodes in the city of Memphis, across the country, and around the world.