Posted on Monday, January 11, 2021

Dr. Helen Matusow-Ayres to Retire as Vice President for Student Affairs in June 2021

After almost 17 years at Pratt Institute, Dr. Helen Matusow-Ayres will be retiring as vice president for student affairs on June 30, 2021. As a member of the senior administration, Matusow-Ayres has been integral in promoting student needs and improving spaces for learning, wellness, and community on the Brooklyn and Manhattan campuses.

Photo by Ron Hester Photography
Photo by Ron Hester Photography

After almost 17 years at Pratt Institute, Dr. Helen Matusow-Ayres will be retiring as vice president for student affairs on June 30, 2021. As a member of the senior administration, Matusow-Ayres has been integral in promoting student needs and improving spaces for learning, wellness, and community on the Brooklyn and Manhattan campuses.

“Helen has been a key partner for me and our entire leadership team,” said President Frances Bronet. “Her social and intellectual acumen is extraordinary and we have relied time and again on her insightful guidance. As these last months have called on everyone to be their best selves, Helen’s specific expertise in student resilience and well-being has been central to our decision-making.”

Matusow-Ayres arrived at Pratt in 2004 with decades of student affairs experience. Her time at the Institute has included spearheading key campus improvement projects like the renovations of the Student Union on the Brooklyn campus completed in 2018 and the Student Service Center on the Manhattan campus. She also was a crucial leader in the realization of Emerson Place Residence, Pratt’s newest residence hall which opened in 2019

Alongside these campus enhancements, Matusow-Ayres has been at the forefront of advancing the Pratt student experience through diversity, equity, and inclusion. In 2015, she led the development of Pratt’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan with her efforts producing one of the five main pillars of Pratt’s current strategic plan, resulting in the creation of the Center for Equity and Inclusion. She later led the search for Pratt’s first Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Nsombi B. Ricketts.

Throughout her tenure, student well-being has been a core focus. She doubled the size of Pratt’s health and counseling services and established the Learning/Access Center, Community Service Board, the Flourishing Studio Culture project, the First-Year Experience Committee, and the Assessment and Care Team. Athletics and recreation were expanded to include a fully equipped fitness center which hosts regular classes. Additionally, she was pivotal in Pratt’s acceptance into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III provisional membership process.

Before joining Pratt, Matusow-Ayres was the dean of students and the interim vice president for student development and campus life at Montclair State University (MSU) in Montclair, New Jersey. She also taught at MSU as well as New York University. Her educational background includes a Doctor of Education in Higher Education Administration from Teachers College, Columbia University; a Master of Science in Student Personnel Administration from Indiana University; and a Bachelor of Science in Student Personnel Administration from Alfred University. 

Matusow-Ayres has brought her knowledge in higher education leadership to groups such as the 20X30 Learning Network where she is a member of the Governing Board and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) Region II where she was regional vice president from 2007 to 2008. She also chaired the NASPA 2014 Alice Manicur Institute, served on the NASPA Board of Directors as well as the NASPA Center for Women’s Advisory Board, and in 2014 was selected as a NASPA Pillar of the Profession. Additionally, she is the secretary to the Board of Trustees of the Unitarian Society of Ridgewood and has written and presented on topics including social justice training, strategic planning, first-year experience, student conduct, mental health issues, and crisis management.

A full search to replace Matusow-Ayres will soon be announced. Pratt celebrates her immense dedication and service which has left an incredible legacy for countless students.