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September 13, 2017

UNC Asheville chancellor named Edward M. Kennedy Institute President

Massachusetts native, Dr. Mary K. Grant, to take the helm of Boston-based nonprofit in January 2018

BOSTON – Today, the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate announced that Dr. Mary K. Grant, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville, has been named as the new president of the Institute. Grant will begin her role at the Institute in January 2018.

Dr. Grant has served as chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Asheville since January 2015. Prior to her chancellorship, Dr. Grant led the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) for 12 years. Earlier in her career, she also held leadership positions at the University of Massachusetts, both on the Boston campus and in the President’s Office. Grant holds a doctorate in social policy from the Heller School at Brandeis University, a master’s degree in public affairs from the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at UMass Boston, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from MCLA.

“We are thrilled to have an outstanding leader like Mary Grant as the new President of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute,” said Victoria Reggie Kennedy, Co-Founder and President of the Board of the Institute. “Dr. Grant is passionate about the Institute’s mission to use a deeper of understanding of the United States Senate to encourage participatory democracy. She has the experience and vision to inspire the next generation of our nation’s leaders and to lead the Institute into its next phase of growth and development. Now, more than ever, we believe it important to fulfill my husband’s vision of engaging Americans, young and old, in active citizenship,” said Kennedy. “I join my colleagues on the Board in welcoming Dr. Grant and look forward to working with her to fulfill that important mission.”

“We are excited by the selection of Dr. Mary Grant as the new President of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute,” said Jim Karam, Chair of the Institute’s Board of Directors. “After an extensive national search to find the right individual to lead our organization, the choice was clear – Dr. Grant will be an excellent president.”

The Institute opened its doors in March of 2015 and features high-tech exhibits and interactive programs that engage visitors and students from across the world in conversations and activities that demonstrate the important role the United States Senate and active citizen participation play in our democracy. Dr. Jean F. MacCormack, who came out of retirement in November of 2014 to lead the Institute, will actively assist in the transition before stepping down in January 2018.

“Jean MacCormack’s service to the Institute has been invaluable,” said Karam. “Her thoughtful leadership has been instrumental in establishing, operating, and promoting our organization. We are deeply grateful for her contributions to the Institute.”

“Having the opportunity to work with the talented board, staff, volunteers, and interns at the Institute has been a career highlight,” said Jean MacCormack. “I am proud of what we have accomplished since opening our doors, and am inspired by the engaged students and enthusiastic visitors who fill our Senate Chamber. I am confident that Dr. Grant will continue the Institute’s leadership as an innovative, high-tech center of civic engagement and learning.”

Since opening, the Institute has welcomed more than 30,000 students from nearly 400 schools to become Senators for a Day, where they learn about the legislative process through active role play. The Institute’s Senate Immersion Module program was nationally recognized in 2017 with a Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement in the category of connected immersion in education. In 2016, the British Guild of Travel Writers recognized the Institute as one of the top five new tourism destinations in the wider world category.

“The appointment of Dr. Mary K. Grant as the new President of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is welcome news for this remarkable organization whose mission is as important as ever in our nation’s history,” said U.S. Senator Ed Markey. “Dr. Grant’s experience and commitment to education will be valuable assets as the Institute continues to bring to life Teddy Kennedy’s great vision of motivating the next generation to learn, to serve, and to dream.”

At the University of North Carolina at Asheville, Mary Grant is credited for making innovation a guiding value of the university’s new strategic plan. Under her leadership, the university was ranked #1 for “Making an Impact” by the Princeton review in 2016, recognizing schools with the best community service opportunities and student engagement. Grant has lead the University’s efforts to secure support for $67 million in new construction and renovations, has built and deepened partnerships with the Asheville community, and has worked successfully with foundations including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation, resulting in support for innovation, research, and engagement. While leading the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Grant oversaw growth in enrollment, emphasized community engagement, and secured $100 million in new public and private support for the college through its first comprehensive capital campaign.

“I am honored to join the team at the Institute,” said Dr. Grant. “I am impressed by what is taking place there – the vibrant conversations, the civic learning, the exchange of ideas, and the active demonstration of democracy. The Institute is a place where people from all walks of life can experience the power of finding common ground and shifting political dialogue away from polarization and towards bipartisanship. This work is greatly important and I look forward to the opportunity to continue expanding the Institute’s reach.”

A headshot and biography of Dr. Grant can be found here.

A statement from UNC President Margaret Spellings on Dr. Mary Grant can be found here.

About the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate:

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is dedicated to educating the public about the important role of the Senate in our government, encouraging participatory democracy, invigorating civil discourse, and inspiring the next generation of citizens and leaders to engage in the civic life of our communities. For more information, please visit


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