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Joanne Berger-Sweeney Makes History in Role

Joanne Berger-Sweeney has been appointed chair of the Hartford HealthCare Board of Directors. Berger-Sweeney, a neuroscientist, is the 22nd president of Trinity College, the first African American and first woman to assume the role in the school’s 200 years. There, she has focused on improving strategic academic initiatives, fostering equity and diversity, and cultivating community and global engagement.

“Joanne is a force in higher education with a passion for helping students make a difference in this world. A scientist, researcher, mentor and visionary, she has blazed a transformational trail,” says system President and CEO Jeffrey Flaks. “I have relied on Joanne’s level-headed approach to critical situations and the way she embraces change with an understanding and appreciation for the evolution of healthcare and science.

“Her view of how the healthcare industry must care for all members of our community meshes with my own, and her work to date demonstrates commitment to dissolving barriers and improving systems for everyone. We are thrilled in our anticipation of the difference she will help us make here at Hartford HealthCare.”

Berger-Sweeney, who chairs the Board’s Governance Committee, succeeds Greg Deavens, whose term as chairman ended. Deavens remains a Board member.

“I am honored to be given the opportunity to lead the Hartford HealthCare Board of Directors and continue the transformative work undertaken by Greg Deavens,” Berger Sweeney says. “The system’s mission to improve the health of all those living in the communities it serves speaks to my heart, and while it is a daunting undertaking, I believe Hartford HealthCare leadership and colleagues are well equipped to make it happen.”

Forging a legacy at Trinity College

In nearly 10 years at Trinity, Berger-Sweeney’s impact has been broad and deep. Currently overseeing the Trinity’s year-long bicentennial celebration, her credits include:
  • Introducing Trinity Plus, an innovative liberal arts curriculum for the 21st century.
  • Overseeing creation of student-centered initiatives like a freshman mentor program and Career and Life Design Center.
  • Strengthening connections with the City of Hartford by expanding the campus footprint downtown, establishing an innovation and liberal arts lab in the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research, and launching a liberal arts partnership with global technology firm Infosys.
  • Recruiting the first vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, who has broadened community programming and increased the recruitment of faculty and staff of color.
  • Increasing undergraduate financial aid by 50%, enriching the student body’s socioeconomic, racial and international diversity.
  • Boosting student retention to 91% and postgraduation success (employment, graduate school, military or public service) to 96%.
  • Doubling the college’s endowment and establishing the groundwork for a $500-million capital campaign.
  • Elevating Trinity’s commitment to sustainability with an action plan and designated coordinator.
  • Leading oversight of construction, renovation and infrastructure improvements like new athletic fields and creation of the Crescent Center for Arts and Neuroscience and Gruss Music Center.

Prior to Trinity, Berger-Sweeney served as dean of the Tufts University School of Arts and Sciences from 2010-2014. Her academic career began in 1991 as an assistant professor in the Wellesley College Department of Biological Sciences. She was named the Allene Lummis Russell Professor in Neuroscience, and served as director of the Neuroscience Program and associate dean.

In 2006, the Society for Neuroscience bestowed its Lifetime Mentoring Award on Berger-Sweeney, who also earned a National Science Young Investigator Award. In 2022, Tufts honored her legacy of Black leadership and she earned the Edward Bouchet Academic Leadership Award from the Institute for Cross-Cultural Awareness and Transformative Education.

A fellow in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the International Behavioral Neuroscience Society, Berger-Sweeney earned an undergraduate degree in psychobiology from Wellesley, a master’s in public health in environmental health sciences from the University of California, Berkeley, and a doctorate in neurotoxicology from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. She completed post-doctoral training at the National Institute of Health in Paris. She has authored more than 60 scientific publications, holds several scientific patents, and earned grant support from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and private foundations.

Berger-Sweeney and her husband, retired neuroscientist and music archivist Urs V. Berger, PhD, have two children.

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