Dr. Laura Skandera Trombley is the 16th president of Southwestern University, located in Georgetown, Texas, a short distance from Austin. Dr. Trombley is the first woman president of the University and a tenured full professor in the Department of English. Southwestern University is the oldest higher education institution in Texas, founded in 1840. The state’s first Rhodes scholar was a Southwestern student and 25% of their graduating class is annually accepted into medical school. Within a year post-graduation, 84% of recent alumni are either in graduate school or employed in their first career. Degrees offered include Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Education, Bachelor of Music, and Bachelor of Fine Arts. Southwestern meets all its electrical needs from renewable energy through wind generation and is committed to LEED construction principles. The University has 20 athletic teams and is a member of NCAA Division III. Southwestern University holds over 1,200 acres of land, with a built campus known for its beauty and recognized as a Tree Campus Higher Education Institution.
In her first year, Dr. Trombley instituted a trustee dashboard that included a cohort group of national liberal arts institutions; finalized a campus master plan; built new student amenities including a full-length basketball court and sand volleyball court, and designed a 5-Year Tactical Plan based upon the University’s Strategic Plan, Master Plan, and comprehensive capital campaign. Against a backdrop of the worldwide COVID pandemic, the University had one of the lowest positivity rates in Texas, and in the spring term, there was the largest enrollment in institutional history. 70% of classes took place on campus and the University finished the year with a budget surplus. Out-of-state enrollment dramatically increased and retention strengthened for juniors and seniors. With an enrollment of 29% Hispanic and LatinX students, the University is preparing to apply to become a Hispanic serving institution. Fundraising set new records, exceeding annual goals for restricted, endowment, and capital gifts. Giving Day brought in a record number of donors raising over $300,000, also a record amount.
Dr. Trombley is president emerita of three institutions: Pitzer College, where she served for 13 years, The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, where she was the first woman president, and the University of Bridgeport. Previously, she served as the first woman vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Dr. Trombley is the author of five books and is widely recognized as one of the most distinguished Mark Twain Scholars in the world. She is the recipient of many awards for her scholarship, including The Mark Twain Journal, which recognized her as a Legacy Scholar for her efforts in rehabilitating the intellectual reputations of the women in Mark Twain’s life. She was the recipient of the Huntington Library’s Dixon Wecter Distinguished Professor of American Literature Award, selected by the Mark Twain Circle to receive the Louis J. Budd Award in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions in the Field of Mark Twain Studies, and was named the First Thomas Nast Guest Professor by the University of Koblenz-Landau, Germany.
Dr. Trombley graduated summa cum laude with a Master of Arts in English from Pepperdine University. She received her doctorate in English from the University of Southern California and was awarded the Lester and Irene Finkelstein Fellow for the most Outstanding Humanities Student at USC.