Mary A. Papazian, president of Southern Connecticut State University, received the 2014 Athena Leadership Award during an Oct. 9 luncheon at the Toyota presents Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford.
Presented annually by the Greater New Haven and Quinnipiac chambers of commerce, the Athena award recognizes women who “strive toward the highest levels of personal and professional accomplishment, who excel in their chosen field, devote time and energy to their community in a meaningful way, and forge paths of leadership for other women to follow.”
Papazian has enjoyed a notable career as an educator, administrator and scholar of English literature.
Appointed as the university’s 11th president in December, 2011, she oversees an institution of almost 11,000 students, 434 full-time faculty, 1,100 staff and an operating budget of $190 million. Her first day at Southern was Feb. 1, 2012, and since then she has led a period of institutional enhancement.
A major construction program is changing the face of campus. A new School of Business building has been followed by a major renovation and expansion of Buley Library and the construction of a new Academic Laboratory Science Building, scheduled for completion in spring, 2015.
Addressing pressing issues of retention and graduation rates that are currently facing many public institutions of higher education, Papazian instituted a Student Success Taskforce to examine and improve key areas of enrollment management and create a clear path to a college degree.
Curricular changes have also been introduced to meet workforce needs. In the sciences for example, there are new graduate-level offerings in applied physics, nanotechnology and chemistry – the latter featuring a professional science track for students seeking advanced training in both chemistry and business.
Papazian has taken an active role in the community as a member of the New Haven Regional Leadership Council, vice-chair of the Greater New Haven Heart Walk and a director of New Haven Promise, a scholarship and support program created to promote college education as an aspiration for all New Haven Public School students.
At the state level, she is the vice-chair of the Connecticut Campus Compact Board of Directors and was part of a delegation to Complete College America, a national conference that assists states to increase the numbers of students earning college degrees and to close attainment gaps between traditional and under-represented populations.
Nationally, Papazian is a member of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) Committee on Teacher Education and the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) Accreditation Commission.
Prior to Southern, Papazian most recently served as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Lehman College in The Bronx, which is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system. A professor of English, with a focus on the works of John Donne, an English poet who wrote during the Renaissance era, Papazian holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).