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Impact Made and Promise Shown: The Early Days of Dr. Laura Hotchkiss as Head of School at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur

According to her colleagues, Dr. Laura M. Hotchkiss has had “quite an impact” since taking the reins as the fifth head of school at the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova, Pennsylvania, in July. Upon her selection in March to head the college prep school for girls, Dr. Hotchkiss said, “The first time I read the school’s core values, rooted in Catholicism and committed to the lives of young women and their development, I knew that our philosophies were closely aligned.” She pledged to advance the mission of the school—preparing girls, both academically and spiritually, for responsible living in a global society.

Now, several months into the school year at Notre Dame, Dr. Hotchkiss says that she has found a very caring community, with “girls who are committed to strong sisterhood and teachers who are devoted to their work.” She noted that she has spent a large amount of time “getting to know the faculty and students, building trust, and being present for them.” Among her greatest accomplishments to date, she said, was the fostering of more opportunities for sharing within the Notre Dame community.

Dr. Hotchkiss is playing a key role in continuing the academic excellence of Notre Dame, which was named an Apple Distinguished School for the second consecutive time in September. Among the academy’s programs that distinguish it is the Riley Center for STEM Education, one of the only centers in Pennsylvania dedicated to advancing girls in STEM; it provides opportunities to develop core competencies such as critical thinking, analytical and deductive reasoning, computing, and communication skills. (Dr. Hotchkiss herself has a B.S. in Mathematics.)

Dr. Hotchkiss described some of her continuing goals as “recruiting and retaining the best educators and enrolling students who are excited about their education.” She noted the ongoing need to “build diversity, equity, and inclusion.” She spoke of “how we embrace differences . . . and how we bring all those voices to the table to speak and create a sense of belonging, not just for some of us, but for all of us.” On a broader scale, the academy’s Center for Global Leadership, highlighted by partnerships with eight sister schools around the world, increases opportunities for the young women at Notre Dame to participate in diverse and authentic leadership experiences.

Dr. Hotchkiss noted that the school’s “A Future of Promise” strategic plan would help to enhance the mission, vision, facilities, faculty, and student population of the Academy of Notre Dame de Namur.

Dr. Hotchkiss has spent her entire career in education at girls’ schools and is herself a girls’ school graduate. During the 30 years leading up to her appointment at Notre Dame, she served in senior leadership positions at the Marlborough School in Los Angeles.

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