President Kim Mooney ’83 Recognized With 2022 Extraordinary Women Award
Oct 14, 2022
Extraordinary Women: Kim Mooney
Story by Rick Green, The Keene Sentinel
Franklin Pierce University President Kim Mooney, who joined students as they climbed to the top of Mount Monadnock recently, has been toiling just as hard on down-to-earth priorities.
Appointed in 2016 as the school’s first female president, Mooney has focused on increasing Franklin Pierce's collaboration with civic leaders, businesses, municipalities, nonprofits, and health care facilities.
The idea is to provide more opportunities for students looking to start careers and for employers focused on recruiting and retaining workers.
Under her tenure, the College of Business was established. It allows students to earn a bachelor’s degree and then go directly into the school’s MBA program.
Kathryn Grosso Gann, communications director at the university, nominated Mooney for the Extraordinary Women award.
She said in her nomination letter that Mooney has demonstrated dynamic leadership that “prepares students to be confident, knowledgeable citizens equipped to work across disciplines and differences in our diverse and increasingly interconnected world.”
Gann noted the university is preparing to celebrate its 60th anniversary this year.
In addition to the College of Business, the university has established two other colleges under Mooney’s leadership: the College of Health and Natural Sciences and the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
The intent is to integrate graduate and undergraduate programs within related disciplines, enable students to succeed academically, and to prepare them for careers across a breadth of fields.
“Promoting the university’s importance as an economic driver and strategic partner, President Mooney’s efforts have increased the university’s visibility, strengthened its reputation, and provided the institution with the resources needed to make ongoing investments in its centers and programs,” Gann said.
Mooney also presided over the launch of the Center for Professional Programs and Partnerships, which provides internship opportunities with companies like Keene-based C&S Wholesale Grocers, while creating a workforce pipeline.
“It has been an opportunity to work directly with businesses and industries and to find out what they need from a higher-education institution and how we can fulfill those needs,” Mooney said.
The university partners with more than 70 companies to identify the skill development they want in their workforce, and then endeavors to foster those skills through tailored learning programs.
“I see Franklin Pierce University as a tremendous resource for the Monadnock Region and beyond,” Mooney said.
Early in her presidency at the university, leaders of C&S, ranked by Forbes as the country's largest wholesale grocery supplier, reached out to her about creating a more formalized internship-to-workforce pipeline.
“It was really one of the best experiences we had as a university working with a business because our Franklin Pierce staff and the C&S staff really collaborated over a period of months to design this arrangement, this pipeline, so that we all benefited,” she said.
“I really give them a lot of credit for that. They weren't just looking to put Franklin Pierce students behind desks at their organization. They really wanted to make it a worthwhile arrangement for students, and that’s of course what we wanted.”
The program that emerged is not just for business majors, but for any student from the university interested in an internship with C&S.
In five years, more than 40 Franklin Pierce graduates have been hired by the company, Mooney said.
There is frequent discussion in academic circles about whether students get a good return on their investment in higher education, especially since universities are more expensive than ever.
Mooney, 61, said she feels there continues to be good value in attending college.
“I think especially at the undergraduate-degree level, it’s always about earning that first bachelor's degree,” she said. “It has almost always represented the opportunity for social mobility. That has typically, historically, been the value proposition.
“When I say 'social mobility,' I mean an opportunity to find a job or enter a career that will be enduring and offer opportunities for growth, and with opportunities for growth come opportunities for salary increases over time.”
In 1983, Mooney earned a bachelor’s degree from Franklin Pierce in psychology and English.
“It was very much in the realm of liberal arts,” she said. “But it was also a different era. We all expected to get jobs. I didn’t know what I’d end up doing, but I wanted to go to graduate school and earn a doctorate.
“I chose psychology and then had to figure out what that really meant. Once I really took the experimental psychology path, that’s when becoming a faculty member became a clearer vision to me.”
Her specific discipline of experimental social psychology involves lab-based research on questions regarding social interactions and theory.
Mooney is the first Franklin Pierce graduate to lead the institution.
“Being the first alum president is really meaningful for me,” she said. “The opportunity for me to become a university president exists outside Franklin Pierce, but the opportunity to lead my alma mater is exclusive to Franklin Pierce.
“It has been compelling for me to provide vision and direction for the university.”
The West Haven, Conn., native earned her doctorate in social psychology from the University of New Hampshire.
She was hired at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., where she received tenure in the psychology department; became the associate dean for faculty affairs; was the founding director of the university’s Center for Teaching and Learning; and also served as special assistant to the president.
She returned to Franklin Pierce and became provost and vice president for academic affairs before being named president.
She and her husband, Greg Walsh, live in Pearly House, the president’s residence on the 1,200-acre residential Rindge campus, which has about 1,100 students. The university also has New Hampshire centers in Manchester and Lebanon as well as one in Goodyear, Ariz.
Mooney said it’s important for the university to see a woman in a leadership position.
“But it’s also important for them to see that this university provided me with an incredible undergraduate education that then allowed me to go into a doctoral program," she said, "that then allowed me to have a really great professional position at another wonderful university and become an academic administrator at that university, which made me a viable candidate to become an administrator here.”
Read all about this year’s Extraordinary Women