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Biography

Dr. Jo Ellen Parker became the 10th president of Sweet Briar College in July 2009. Since assuming office, she has led a broadly-based and data-informed strategic planning process resulting in “The Plan For Sustainable Excellence” which emphasizes increased enrollment, a more inclusive community, digital sophistication, an “entrepreneurial” approach to liberal education, and sustainability in both the financial and environmental senses. Under her leadership, Sweet Briar has rapidly expanded its digital presence, launching a YouTube channel and incorporating social media and blogging into its public outreach. Faculty governance has been strengthened, while administrative reorganization and outsourcing have increased operating efficiencies.

Prior to coming to Sweet Briar, Dr. Parker served as Executive Director of the National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE). Under her leadership, NITLE grew from a network of regional collaborative projects into an international organization serving nearly 150 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. and abroad. Dr. Parker also served as President of the Great Lakes Colleges Association (GLCA), a consortium of 12 selective liberal arts colleges. In this role, her work focused on pedagogical innovation, diversity and international education. 

Before undertaking these national leadership positions, Dr. Parker served her alma mater, Bryn Mawr College, as a faculty member and an academic affairs and student life administrator. There, she taught Victorian literature, women's literature and English composition while serving in the dean’s office. Before joining the faculty at Bryn Mawr, she taught in the English department at Swarthmore College.

She earned her A.B. in English from Bryn Mawr, her M.A. in English from the University of Kansas, and her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, writing her dissertation on George Eliot. 

Dr. Parker is married to Richard G. Manasa. They reside at Sweet Briar House with their three cats and two dogs. Her son John, 27, lives in Lynchburg, and her stepdaughter Morgan Manasa, 30, lives in Chicago.