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 guided the deliberations that led to the University’s decision to become fully-coeducational and from the resulting increase in enrollment has overseen the launch of many new graduate and undergraduate programs and the completion of facilities renovations and modernizations across campus.

In 2016, Dr. Free championed the creation of the Women’s Leadership Center (WLC) at the University of Saint Joseph. The WLC offers professional and executive education programs, supports research related to women’s leadership, and promotes mentorship and sponsorship for early and mid-career women in the corporate and non-profit sectors.

Additionally, she oversaw the University’s successful institutional reaccreditation site visit; the transition from five Schools to three; the start of its Physician Assistant Studies program; the creation of an annual Veterans Day observance; the launch of the Catholic Promise Scholarship program; and the implementation of numerous capital projects to enhance student life, campus accessibility, and classroom spaces.

Dr. Free serves as Chair of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges Board of Directors, a member of the Hartford Consortium for Higher Education Board of Directors, and a member of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) Presidents’ Council; she is also a member of the Connecticut Science Center’s Board of Trustees and a Hartford Hospital Corporator.

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.

Her 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, “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.

She 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.

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