Jane K. Fernandes is the ninth president of Guilford College and the first deaf woman to lead an American college or university. She began her work at Guilford July 1, 2014, having served as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of North Carolina at Asheville since 2008. At Guilford, she holds the faculty rank of Professor of English.
Recognized as one of the 20 most interesting college presidents by The Best Schools, Jane is leading Guilford College through curricular and administrative innovation to become further distinguished as a “college of excellence known for doing a few things splendidly.” Guilford’s rigorous liberal arts curriculum emphasizes integrative, active learning leading to 84 percent of its students earning career employment or entrance into prestigious graduate schools within a year of graduation. Founded by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in 1837, the College has about 2,000 traditional-aged and adult students, including students in The Early College at Guilford. Guilford is recognized in Loren Pope’s “Colleges that Change Lives” and in Princeton Review’s “Guide to Green Colleges.”
A native of Worcester, Mass., Jane is a graduate of Trinity College in Connecticut, where she earned her B.A. in French and comparative literature, and the University of Iowa, where she earned an M.A. and a Ph.D. in comparative literature. Born deaf to a deaf mother and hearing father, she learned American Sign Language (ASL) as a graduate student.
Jane’s career took her first to Boston as acting director of American Sign Language Programs at Northeastern University and then to Washington, D.C., as chair of the Sign Communication Department at Gallaudet (Gal-luh-det) University. Moving to Hawaii, she became the founding coordinator of the University of Hawaii’s Sign Language/English Interpreter Training Program and later, director of the Hawaii Center for the Deaf and Blind.
She returned to Gallaudet as vice president of the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center in 1995 and served as provost of the university 2000-06. After her leadership roles at Gallaudet, she became a senior fellow at the Johnnetta B. Cole Global Diversity & Inclusion Institute at Bennett College in Greensboro, a post she held 2007-11.
Jane’s husband, Jim, is an emeritus professor at Gallaudet. They have two children: Sean, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and now a law student at the University of Chicago, and Erin, a graduate of Smith College, who is now working at an internship and taking post-baccalaureate classes in German at Guilford College to prepare for graduate school in fall 2016.