Joan Stevens


Joan was born in Atlanta, GA in 1943. Her parents taught at Atlanta University, an all-Black college in the South. She was raised at a time when integration and segregation were omnipresent social forces in the United States. She describes her upbringing as being “integrated in a segregated town.” While growing up, she often attended the campus theater, area musical concerts, and assisted with community art shows.

She attended the University of Pennsylvania on a full scholarship and received a degree in French literature and obtained her PhD at Bryn Mawr. She planned on being a French teacher but graduated just as language requirements were being phased out of schools. She was hired at Chestnut Hill College where she taught comparative literature. After the birth of her first two children, she got a job teaching comparative literature and French at Moore. In 1990, she was asked to serve as Dean of Students and expected to stay in the job for two years. She still serves as the dean today.

While she did not have formal leadership training as a college student, she worked outside the classroom, running the campus linen services.  This gave Joan her first experience supervising others.  

As a student at Bryn Mawr, she was struck by the experience of being in an all-women’s college – knowing that what she said in the classroom counted and that she was recognized as a “thinker.” She did not realize that the experience of attending an all-women’s college would be so different from attending a co-educational college. She was also impressed by Bryn Mawr’s focus on women having careers, and the message that “women will achieve.” This had a huge impact on her personal development and she brought this thinking to her role at Moore.     

She has chaired the Academic Standards Committee since 1979, which has to do with trying to help students who are not succeeding. As a committee member, she had seen that there were no policies in place to deal with students who were failing, so she worked to become chair of the committee in order to enact change from within. She developed many relationships with students through this committee, and the head of student government recommended to the acting president that Joan become dean of students.  

Joan loves teaching, the exchange of ideas in the classroom, and the growth of students within the classroom. She loves to see students who are at first unsure of themselves grow and become more confident during a course.  

Joan’s parents taught at a school where students who attended the school had never been given a chance to prove themselves prior to attending the university.  She saw the value in supporting people who were smart and capable, and in helping them to achieve. At Moore she works with both the student leaders and the students who need help and direction. She finds it very fulfilling to assist students who are floundering to become successful. Joan has seen students flourish in leadership opportunities at Moore who did not consider themselves to be leaders. “Students have underlying qualities.” It is part of her job to help them realize their leadership potential. Joan feels that Moore is not as diverse as it could be, but she has actively tried to make the leadership program diverse by giving everyone an opportunity.  

Joan says that what’s nice about Moore students is how different they are from one another, which partly has to do with the diversity of majors that Moore offers. They also are very accepting of one another’s differences; it is a very welcoming community. Moore students have a very strong drive to achieve, which Joan attributes partially to being at an all-women’s college.   

Two of Joan’s leadership programs are Emerging Leaders in the Arts (ELA) and 
Culture in the Classroom.  Moore is located in a city with many arts opportunities, which students may not be aware of or know how to take advantage of. The ELA program helps to integrate students into the arts and culture world. What makes this program different from traditional leadership programs is that it focuses on career: learning about careers and forging your own career. Moore is heavily focused on career development, but also on showing students how visual artists can have an impact in the community at large.

Joan was instrumental in getting student leaders to sit as non-voting members of the board of managers, and as members of nearly every college committee.  Students speak and are listened to at these meetings. Their peers are starting to see that these students have an impact on the college and that the student body can have a voice through them. Student groups are really listened to now. Joan is very proud of how the leadership programs have become integral to the college. All of the programs and services at Moore are designed to empower the students.

Joan feels that single gender education is validating and empowering; student exit surveys show that 75-80% of students felt that it was an excellent experience. “One comes to a women’s college to get the extra edge that women need to compete in the future.”