Bennington College

President, Bennington, VT


Bennington College (www.bennington.edu) invites applications and nominations for the position of President. The successful candidate will assume office on or about July 1, 2020. Although relatively small in size, Bennington has a rich tradition of innovation and deep reservoirs of talent, creativity, and energy, and has enjoyed an outsized impact on the world.

Situated on 440 scenic acres in Bennington, Vermont, the College currently enrolls 836 students (728 undergraduates and 108 graduate students) and offers an enviable student to faculty ratio of 9:1. Bennington serves a diverse student population inclusive of ethnic/racial minorities, international and global constituents, sexual minorities, and economic diversity, among other identities. Staff and faculty also reflect diverse backgrounds and identities. All members of the College are expected to be respectful and responsive to these differences in the service of building a strong community that promotes student and employee success.

Bennington's endowment recently has grown almost 50 percent and is positioned to double in coming years due to pledges already made as part of an ongoing capital campaign. Although Bennington's active and dedicated alumni body of 14,000 is comparatively small, graduates have had a significant impact on the intellectual and cultural life of this country and beyond since the opening of the College in 1932.

Bennington's unique innovations in curricula continuously sustain yet challenge its students and faculty to graduate small classes of rigorously prepared students, regardless of chosen field, notably confident in their capacity to engage and succeed in the world in a manner advanced and distinct among peers, including the preparation and inclination to tackle society's most complex problems. Among other innovations, the College was the first in the country to include visual and performing arts in a liberal arts education and is the only college to incorporate a required winter work term for all students every year as part of its educational plan.

Since its founding, Bennington has viewed students as protagonists in their own college experience. With the support and encouragement of a committee of faculty, each student is required to develop, revise, implement, and evaluate an individual academic plan that frames and constitutes their undergraduate trajectory. In support of this educational model, Bennington has assembled a faculty that believes liberal learning can be taught effectively by teacher-practitioners with an unusual degree of freedom in pedagogical approach and content. The result is a continuously evolving and intentionally elastic institution that puts a premium on the creation of new work, personal responsibility, and the contribution of the individual, while ensuring that students learn how to merge the ideals of personal freedom with those of public responsibility.

Of critical importance, Bennington's next President must be an innovative and dedicated fundraiser who can secure ongoing financial support across a broad spectrum of sources. The President must come with a deep commitment to the College's progressive educational values and philosophy, which equip independent-minded students to create meaningful change in the world. The new President must be an inclusive, accessible, and community-oriented leader of a talented and devoted faculty, a strong management team, and a committed support staff. They must interact with students with wisdom, openness, respect, and genuine interest. As a "practitioner of ideas" the President will be committed to public as well as academic discourse and eager to bring the values and insights of their own profession to the urgent issues of our time.

Above all, Bennington's new President will be expected to embody and champion the core values of independent learning, with the responsibility and freedom of choice in an inclusive community that fully embraces diversity and equity in all aspects of campus life including: curricular and pedagogical innovation; recruitment and retention of diverse students and employees; development and implementation of policies; and coordination and assessment of college-wide initiatives focused on inclusive excellence.


The President of Bennington works closely and collaboratively with the Board of Trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and parents to provide leadership, direction, and inspiration for the College. The new President will be expected to build on the College's existing strengths and help it develop new pathways during their tenure as its 11th President.

The new President will provide strategic leadership along with financial expertise and people-management skills. The President will preserve and capitalize on the College's mission and unique educational model while adhering to its culture of innovation and self-reliance. While strengthening Bennington's reputation for academic and creative excellence, the President will extend the College's impact and raise its profile in the United States and abroad as well as within the local community. In light of the challenges created by tight financial margins and limited resources that loom at Bennington and most other small liberal arts colleges, the President will need to exercise the courage, creativity, entrepreneurship, and foresight to protect and sustain progressive liberal arts education in a small college setting.

These challenges will require a President who will:

  • Lead a highly engaged, diverse, and inclusive College community in the ongoing development and articulation of shared values and mission, reflecting both Bennington's strong liberal arts tradition and its ambitions for the future;
  • Have the vision and insight to be able to model what a 21st-century progressive education at Bennington should look like, the acumen to forecast the headwinds affecting academic trends, and the fortitude to seize the moment; they must be adaptable and able to take positive risks and dream big with an entrepreneurial and optimistic spirit, embracing change as a positive and effective disrupter;
  • Be a proven, strong, and dynamic fundraiser and marketer who understands the need to both support the immediate financial needs and continue to build endowment to ensure sustainability; cultivate a stronger sense of philanthropy from alumni and aggressively attract and secure financial support from major donors, foundations, corporations, and government; continue to develop creative fundraising and revenue-generating streams;
  • Work effectively with a dedicated Board of Trustees that is committed to the values of liberal arts education and to the College's governance philosophy that supports and sustains those values;
  • Prioritize building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive community with strong and demonstrable practices interwoven into every aspect of campus life; proactively invite all members of the community to learn and grow together, recognizing the importance of pluralism to the future of the College;
  • Oversee and guide a non-hierarchical team of faculty-practitioners and administrative officers responsible for the College's teaching and research programs, administration, business and financial affairs, institutional advancement, and student life; oversee the preparation and management of the budget and ensure the resources are secured to meet it;
  • Assure that multiyear strategic planning leads to effective resource allocation and management, while respecting both the need for bold institutional vision and leadership and for the collaborative nature of College decision making;
  • Serve as Bennington's chief spokesperson and ambassador, managing an active set of relationships connecting the College with other leading academic institutions; engage with a notably dynamic and creative alumni body and a supportive group of local community leaders in advancing all aspects of the College;
  • Advocate effectively for the values and importance of a progressive education in the larger world.


Leading candidates for the presidency of Bennington College must have distinguished records of accomplishment in higher education, diplomacy, scholarship, the arts, and/or other professional fields where Bennington excels. They must have demonstrated successful leadership and management skills, an experienced proactive approach to generating financial resources, and a passionate commitment to liberal arts undergraduate teaching and learning. A doctorate degree is preferred but not a requirement for selection.

They must look forward to becoming an integral member of the community accessible and highly engaged, always looking to strengthen morale and build spirit. The President must embrace an inclusive model of leadership and partnership with transparency and integrity. While gravitas is required, the President must also have the grit and scrappiness to handle the more mundane tasks of running a small college. Personal dedication to the values of self-direction, community service, international understanding, and academic excellence is an important prerequisite, as is the ability to inspire students, faculty, and staff to uphold these core values.

The College encourages nominations from diverse areas of interest, backgrounds, experience, and accomplishment. Strong candidates must possess intellectual depth, moral conviction, and personal integrity as well as the emotional intelligence and capacity to communicate and interact effectively with individuals, small groups, and large audiences. They should have the ability to articulate an institutional vision with passion and clarity, focus on strategic priorities, and mobilize support from all College constituencies. Leading candidates must be fair, ethical, and decisive and possess an assured, open personal style that underlines an intense sense of purpose. They should be active, versatile, energetic, and appreciative of the special mission, culture, and unique history of Bennington College.

Please send applications or nominations to Paul Spivey and Jane Donaldson at Bennington@PhillipsOppenheim.com.