At her inauguration as the new president of Antioch University Santa Barbara (AUSB), Dr. Nancy Leffert was praised for her strength of character and leadership skills, but also for her fun-loving personality, which many in the audience caught their first glimpse of as she flashed a pair of brightly striped knee-high socks from underneath her academician’s robes.
As AUSB’s second president, Leffert is taking the reins at a time of great change for the small university. She’s been a part of AUSB for the past 19 months, and her colleagues say she has vim, vigor, and kick. She is putting forward her ideas for Antioch’s future and the role it can play in the Santa Barbara community. In her inaugural speech, she named expanding access, developing new local collaborations with other groups, and facilitating greater civic engagement as some of her top priorities. Leffert said she was focusing her energy especially on growing the SBCC-AUSB bridge program, which lets SBCC students transfer their credits to and finish their education at Antioch. She also announced a new partnership between Antioch and the Hutton Parker Foundation; the foundation purchased a building at the corner of Anacapa and Cota streets that Antioch will soon move into, leaving its current location at 801 Garden Street.
Leffert spent her first year at AUSB acting as provost and interim president; the AUSB Board of Trustees elected her to the presidency last June. Prior to her work at Antioch, Leffert was the associate dean for student services and program evaluation at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara. Her career began, though, with developmental psychology, and she gained her PhD at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development.
Antioch University is a five-campus school with locations in Los Angeles, Ohio, New Hampshire, Seattle, and Santa Barbara serving adult students of higher education. It is beginning its 34th year in Santa Barbara, where it has graduated more than 3,500 students. Up until about four years ago, the Santa Barbara location was only a “satellite” to the Los Angeles campus. Leffert stressed Santa Barbara’s unique draws, though, within the Antioch family.
“Antioch will continue to be one of five campuses of one university, but we will also be uniquely Santa Barbara,” she said in her inaugural speech, “in the ways in which we provide access to educational opportunities, and engage in and collaborate with the Santa Barbara community we all treasure.”
The inauguration proceedings, which took place on February 26 at the Natural History Museum, saw guests like Mayor Helene Schneider and Assemblymember Das Williams take the stage to praise Leffert. “[This is] the springtime for Antioch,” said County Supervisor Janet Wolf. In the week following the inauguration, Antioch hosted celebratory events that included a lecture by Karen Cator, the director of the Office of Educational Technology at the federal Department of Education; and the opening of an exhibit of artifacts from the Mbuti tribe of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (The exhibit is open at Antioch’s Garden Street campus through March 31.)
“Keep an eye on Antioch Santa Barbara,” said Leffert as she finished her speech. “We’re going to knock your socks off.”