New Chapter for Beloved Dean and Professor Martha Walker

May 23, 2022

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Martha Walker is beginning an exciting new chapter after more than 25 years at MBU: She has accepted a position as provost of Notre Dame of Maryland University, in her home city of Baltimore. 

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Martha Walker is beginning an exciting new chapter after more than 25 years at MBU: She has accepted a position as provost of Notre Dame of Maryland University, in her home city of Baltimore. 

“Offering leadership in academic affairs to another community of committed students and colleagues is a fantastic opportunity,” said Walker, a French and women’s studies professor who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. “I welcome the chance to foster liberal arts education as a basis for career preparation and social responsibility, and to help others do their best work. I have learned much from Mary Baldwin, and I know those lessons will be valuable to me in what is ahead.”

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Martha Walker is beginning an exciting new chapter after more than 25 years at MBU: She has accepted a position as provost of Notre Dame of Maryland University, in her home city of Baltimore. 

Transitioning to a new role in a new place has evoked reflections about her time at MBU (some of these can be found in an interview, below). Above all, Walker says she will deeply miss students, staff, and faculty.

“This is a wonderful community of people with whom to work, and I know how fortunate I have been,” said Walker. “Many of my closest friends are long-time colleagues. While I know we will stay in touch and continue to see each other as [often as] we can, I will miss their day-to-day presence in my life.”

President Pamela R. Fox celebrated Walker’s tenure at the university with a statement in late May.  

“Dr. Walker has been a devoted faculty member and colleague, … and has served in dedication to our students as her primary love,” said Fox. “She has been a compassionate and creative leader of many initiatives during times of important change, and leaves a lasting mark on our university and our students through her service as dean, instructor, and director of the honors program.”

Fox went on to praise the significance of Walker’s impact on MBU, offering a short-list of achievements:

  • Served as the inaugural dean of the college of arts and sciences since 2016, overseeing planning and administration; providing faculty and curricular leadership; and representing the university externally.
  • Spearheaded the revision of the general education curriculum to provide clarity of structure and flexibility, and better address the needs of today’s learners.
  • Provided collaborative leadership and support for faculty and students throughout the pandemic.
  • Chaired the former school of arts and humanities; directed MBU’s global honors scholars and women’s studies programs; and taught as a French professor. 
  • Served as a member of MBU’s academic leadership council, which contributes to decisions around recruitment, admissions, and retention strategies, academic policy, and more.
  • Published numerous scholarly articles on politics and gender in contemporary French and Francophone theater.
“Dr. Walker has been a devoted faculty member and colleague, and has served in dedication to our students as her primary love.”
President Pamela R. Fox

“For nearly two decades I have relied on Martha for her scholarly expertise and leadership as a tireless student advocate, and as a friend,” said Fox. She often asked Walker to lead important, hard to navigate work within MBU’s academic programs. “Not only did she accept every challenge, she excelled in all areas. … Martha’s work has shaped the university we are today.” 

Fox went on to thank Walker for 25 years of dedication and leadership, and asked the #MBUfamily to join her in sending Walker well-wishes as she moves forward in her prestigious career. 

“One thing is certain,” said Fox, in closing, “we shall all miss Martha greatly.” 

Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Martha Walker addressing students at the 2021 undergraduate commencement ceremony.

We caught up with Dr. Walker to get some parting reflections about her time at MBU. Here’s what she had to say.

What was your favorite thing about working at MBU? What do you hope your legacy will be?

My favorite thing about working at Mary Baldwin has unquestionably been our students. Getting to know who they are, and watching the people they become as their education develops is a lot of fun, and a real privilege that my career in academia affords me. 

Legacy is a portentous word; I don’t tend to use it. What I can say, though, is that I find it gratifying when students start to reflect and to question some of their own assumptions because they are engaging with ideas we have been exploring together. Sometimes that may not happen until well after a class has ended. Whatever the timing, if I have been provocative in the most literal sense of provoking them to think in ways they haven’t before, then I know all over again why I chose to do this with my life.

What will you miss the most about working at MBU?

The friends that I won’t be seeing and talking with all the time. This is a wonderful community of people to work with, and I know how fortunate I have been. Many of my closest friends are long-time colleagues. While I know we will stay in touch and continue to see each other as we can, I will miss their day-to-day presence in my life.

Share a favorite MBU memory?

The Eiffel Tower is probably the ultimate cliché of French culture. Left to my own devices, I wouldn’t choose to visit it again — as I have so many different favorite spots in that well-loved city where I was lucky enough to live for a while. 

Yet, each time I planned a May term theater class in Paris — and I did seven of them over the years — it was one of the things we had to visit very early in our stay. I would roll my eyes as I put it on our first day’s agenda each time, knowing that first-time visitors to Paris couldn’t miss it, despite my reluctance. 

But with each trip, I ended up finding it a real delight to stand at the foot of the tower with a group of students I knew well, and witness some of them seeing it for the first time: A simultaneous look up toward the top; an expression of amazed delight; an almost incredulous “Wow, I’m really here — in Paris!” That was a common response. 

Each time, in the presence of that wonder, I recaptured my own first experience of being there. It was part of my pleasure in my students, and in teaching in Paris. That view of the Eiffel Tower through their eyes stood as a metaphor for what I find rewarding about this work: I have to remember that what is familiar to me is someone else’s first experience of something that matters, and I have to treat the idea as still novel and inspiring, and learn from students’ initial reactions.