President Rhona C. Free
Rhona C. Free, Ph.D., became the ninth President of the University of Saint Joseph in July 2015. During her time at USJ, she has championed the creation of the Women’s Leadership Center, which provides educational programs and supports research regarding the skills that are needed for women to advance in organizations, and guided the deliberations that led to the University’s decision to become fully coeducational in fall 2018. Additionally, she oversaw the University’s successful institutional reaccreditation site visit; the start of its Physician Assistant Studies program; the creation of an annual Veterans Day observance; and the launch of the Catholic Promise Scholarship program. Dr. Free serves as Chair of the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education Board of Directors and Vice Chair of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges Board of Directors.
Dr. Free came to USJ from Eastern Connecticut State University, where she served as vice president for academic affairs from 2007-2013 and provost from 2013-2015. She taught Economics at Eastern for 25 years before becoming an administrator. In 2004, she was recognized as the Council for Advancement and Support of Education/Carnegie Foundation National Professor of the Year from Master’s Granting Institutions.
Dr. Free’s research has focused on gender and racial/ethnic earnings differences, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, and innovative teaching methods. Her publications include a chapter, “On Scholarly Teaching: A Personal Account,” in Inspiring Academics: Learning with the World's Great University Teachers. She also edited the two-volume text 21st Century Economics: A Reference Handbook, which received the American Library Association’s RUSA 2011 Outstanding Reference Sources Award, and co-authored a chapter, “Faculty Workload Issues Connected to Undergraduate Research,” in Enhancing and Expanding Undergraduate Research: A Systems Approach: New Directions for Higher Education, Number 169.
Rhona Free holds a bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College, and earned both master’s and doctoral degrees in Economics from the University of Notre Dame. She has been married to Peter Boardman since 1979. They have two children and three grandchildren.