Thanks, Susan: UConn President Susan Herbst to step down in 2019

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Susan Herbst, pictured here in an interview with The Daily Campus in April 2018, will retire in the summer of 2019. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst has announced that she will step down from her position when her current employment agreement ends in summer 2019.

In an email sent out to the UConn community, Herbst said her decision came after a long period of personal reflection.

“Stepping down was not an easy decision by any means. But a university is forever and each of us knows that we are only its temporary caretakers and champions,” Herbst said in the email. “None of us are indispensable and the right time for a change always arrives eventually. With my employment agreement concluding on July 1 of next year, I felt that would be the right time for me.”

Herbst said leading UConn has been one of the greatest honors and privileges of her life and called the school the pride of Connecticut and one of the finest research universities in the United States.

“One of the things I admire most about UConn is the positive energy among the whole community- all of UConn Nation,” Herbst said. “Whether students, faculty and staff, parents, alumni, donors, patients or fans who simply came to see a game, the positive spirit I saw throughout my time here defines this place, which means so much to so many people. That is part of what makes it so special, including to me.”

Upon leaving her role as president, Herbst will begin serving as a political science professor at UConn’s Stamford campus.

“I began my career many years ago as a faculty member at Northwestern University and have always been a scholar-teacher at heart,” Herbst said. “After I step down, I am excited to return to the classroom as a professor of political science at UConn’s Stamford campus, where I can once again devote my energy to teaching, writing and contributing to scholarship in my field.”

Herbst said her greatest hope for UConn’s future is for the state and its donors to continue to invest in it, calling an investment in UConn an investment in Connecticut’s future.

“UConn has come so far since its founding nearly 140 years ago and it has all the right ingredients to go further still,” Herbst said. “Maintaining a hopeful and positive outlook as a state and believing in the vital mission of public higher education is a key to continued success.”

Herbst told The Daily Campus earlier this month that she hadn’t given much thought to whether she would retain her position with the election of a new governor later this year, but said she thinks serving as president is a “great job.”

“I can’t imagine that the people qualified for this job won’t all love it here,” Herbst said. “I think we have a tremendous faculty and staff, a beautiful physical location, not just here, at the health center and the regional campuses, so whoever works here is really lucky, as I have been. It’s a very supportive place to me. I think all the presidents of the past and future, they’d land in a really good spot.”

Herbst is UConn’s 15th president and has served since 2011, according to UConn Today. She is the first woman to hold the position and her appointment was supported by both outgoing Republican Gov. Jodi Rell and then-incoming Democratic Gov. Malloy.

UConn students had mixed reactions to Herbst’s announcement, noting both the things she did for the university that they agree with and those with which they disagree.

“Susan is clearly a controversial figure among students, but I don’t believe (her) reputation is purely her own doing,” seventh-semester political science major Lucas Bladen said. “She’s had to face difficult financial times, all while trying to maintain the perpetual exponential growth that’s expected of modern public universities.”

Fifth-semester political science major Kylee Dostie said Herbst’s decisions made her seem “money-hungry.”

“I’m not going to sugarcoat my feelings for her, she is not my favorite person and I’m not going to miss her as president,” fifth-semester political science major Kylee Dostie said. “However, I really do commend her for not only standing up for undocumented students, but making sure they feel safe and secure on UConn’s campus. I’m excited to see who (her) replacement is and hope they bring the same passion for protecting their students that she did.”

Stevie Della-Giustina, recent UConn graduate and 2017-18 UConn College Democrats president, said his organization enjoyed working with Herbst to create a race and diversity council.

“When we as a group of organizers met with Susan at first we were not sure how it would go,” Della-Giustina said. “But we found out that President Herbst was a very personable and funny person who deeply cared about the students at UConn and even created a council to work on race and diversity at UConn. President Herbst was a great accomplice at making UConn better for all students.”

Fifth-semester urban studies major Kate Seelye said she is happy to hear that UConn will be getting a new president.

“I think UConn has so much potential and I don’t think the programs and policies under Herbst’s presidency allowed UConn to flourish in the way I know it can,” Seelye said. “I’m excited to see what the next president will do for our university.”


Gabriella DeBenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at gabriella.debenedictis@uconn.edu.

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