A Presidential Check-in: Robyn Hannigan

Isabella Villegas (isvillegas@ursinus.edu)

After both former President Brock Blomberg’s and President Jill Marsteller’s departures, Ursinus was on the hunt for the next person to lead the school. President Robyn Hannigan vividly remembers the moment when she was in her kitchen and received the call, “hoping that it was going to be the call she wanted, and not the other call.” When picking up the phone, she was informed that she had been selected to be the 19th President of Ursinus College. She was in disbelief and even asked the individual on the phone if they were being serious. She turned around to her family, and by her facial expressions they knew it was the call she wanted. They celebrated together, ecstatic about the future. “It was the best call I had ever got.” 

 Hannigan recalled several stories about her experience at Ursinus thus far. One of the most notable was when the first-year students were moving in, and “I was walking from my house to my office and I heard ‘Hey Robyn’ and I thought ‘oh my god I am the President.’” Hannigan emphasized how important student relations are to her and her administration. Another highlight was the Resident Advisor Bonfire, where she had the opportunity to connect with students on a personal level. They had a dance competition, and even though her dance moves did not lead her to victory, her positive outlook and strategic plan to improve the campus community will. When asked about her favorite part of the job so far, without hesitation she replied, “hanging out with students.”  

She was surprised that even when she would go to places like Café 2020, she would know students’ names. In addition to the student body, faculty feel comfortable talking to or requesting help from Hannigan with projects, idea development, and feedback. She has an open door policy, and finds that her staff take advantage of that offering. During the interview, Hannigan quoted a Crigler student who said Ursinus “[is] small enough where you feel like you know everybody, but it is big enough that you meet someone new every day.” 

When asked about the future of the college, she responded confidently, “I know that we will be different in five years. I know that we will be stronger. I know that we will be more financially resilient. I know that our name and the academic experience that we offer will be more broadly understood, appreciated, and valued.” Even though the changes that must be made are still unclear, the strategic plan conversations will continue. 

Hannigan is focused on bettering the institution and is curious to see how improvements might change the individuals at the college. Even alumni can benefit from improvements, and when they are made, the Ursinus name will hold more merit. A major concern is miscommunication surrounding major decisions, and Hannigan is working around the clock to close that gap. One way that she is trying to bridge that gap is by holding lunch meetings with her and Missy Bryant, the dean of students. The lunches run bi-weekly until December, and all students are invited to participate. 

Overall, Hannigan, the 19th President of Ursinus, has big plans to improve the Ursinus experience for the current and prospective student body. Even though her vision is mighty, she believes that no one can do anything remotely great alone and wants to utilize the tight-knit community and its talents to implement change.