Photo Gallery | MCLA President Mary Grant speaks about her move to UNC Asheville

NORTH ADAMS -- Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant is looking forward to a new challenge.

"I will miss this place. But it will always be part of me," she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Grant, 53, was appointed chancellor-elect for the University of North Carolina at Asheville last week. She will remain at MCLA for the fall semester and take up the new position in January of 2015.

Grant said her departure comes when the college is in a "strong position," with millions having been invested in infrastructure and a more diverse student body.


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"It felt like there was a good window here," Grant said. "I'm so glad I have the chance to open the year and finish well."

Grant said she hadn't been actively looking for other opportunities since being a finalist for chancellor at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in 2012. She said she was nominated at Asheville "by college presidents from different parts of the country."

She acknowledged Asheville's enrollment of 3,700 students was larger than MCLA, which had 1,891 in 2013, according to the college website.

Tyler Fairbank, chair of MCLA’s Board of Trustees, and MCLA President Mary Grant hold a press conference about Grant’s approaching transition
Tyler Fairbank, chair of MCLA’s Board of Trustees, and MCLA President Mary Grant hold a press conference about Grant’s approaching transition to be the new chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville on Tuesday. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff / photos.berkshireeagle.com)
But both are small, liberal arts schools with a student-centered approach, she said, and are members of the Council on Public Liberal Arts College.

"The more I learned and saw the people on campus, the more I thought I could see myself there," she said.

MCLA Board of Trustees Chairman Tyler Fairbank referred to the college as having "tremendous momentum" with "strong financial position with reserves."

"When you think of where we have come in the last 12 years, this is a very different institution," Fairbank said.

The college was renamed from North Adams State College five years before Grant became president.

"Even though that seems like a long time, it wasn't," she said.

The college faced challenges including an enrollment decline, she said, and a need to spread its liberal arts mission through branding and marketing.

Grant, an alum herself, noted a "common thread" at the college has always been small class sizes and a tight-knit community.

She also spoke of such successes as creating stronger ties with North Adams and the county, and advocating for funding in Boston.

Fairbank said a new president would be chosen through a national search, and pledged inclusiveness in the process.

"We want to make sure we listen to the community and get a really good understanding of what people want and need," he said.