By Sarah Marie Gresser, Georgetown University

Dr. Jeanne Lord (Photo by Georgetown Univ.)    

Dr. Jeanne Lord (Photo by Georgetown Univ.)



Engaging Mission and Change

Several years ago, Jeanne Fielding Lord, J.D., Ed.D. was invited by Rev. Ryan Maher, S.J., then Associate Dean of Georgetown College at Georgetown University, to teach a course on the challenges and opportunities of being both a Catholic and a female leader. The course, “Smart, Female, and Catholic,” was an opportunity for another kind of engagement with students as they explored the question of what it means to be a Catholic woman in the 21st century.

So, what does it mean to be a Catholic woman in the 21st century? Lord’s leadership at Georgetown and the AJCU Seminar on Higher Education Leadership is her answer.

A long-time resident of Georgetown in Washington, D.C., Lord came to work at the University in the Office of Student Conduct after graduating from Catholic University Law School. Now Associate Vice President for Student Affairs, Dean of Students, and Deputy Title IX Coordinator for Undergraduate Students, Lord is in her twentieth year at Georgetown. 

On any given morning, you can see Lord walking across campus. The historical backdrop of campus mirrors the long-term vision that Lord brings to her work. A collaborator, listener and relationship builder, Lord approaches her work with a steady, calm and reflective presence. Caring for and educating students in the Jesuit tradition requires such an approach. At a Jesuit institution, care means cura personalis, or care for the whole person: mind, body and spirit. This requires collaboration across a university, and Lord demonstrates her commitment to this every day.

Indeed, Lord’s work at Georgetown led her to an ever-increasing engagement in mission. She says, “Rev. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. famously encourages us to ‘fall in love [and] stay in love.’ I couldn’t have imagined, when I walked through Healy Gate for the first time, that twenty years later, I would be so deeply engaged in the work and mission of Jesuit higher education.” Lord’s mission-inspired leadership is a testament to the way in which she lives out her identity as a Catholic female leader. 

Engagement and Reflection for University Leaders

In 2014, Lord took the next step in her engagement with the Jesuit mission by becoming director of the AJCU Seminar on Higher Education Leadership. The Seminar has several goals: to expose participants to the roots of Jesuit higher education and to the Catholic and Jesuit intellectual traditions; to explore how our universities act as instruments of faith and justice; to familiarize participants with the Ignatian spiritual tradition as a resource for leadership; and to integrate our Catholic and Jesuit mission with the concrete work of faculty and administrators.

The Seminar provides an opportunity to collaborate, listen and learn from others; such conversations are at the heart of the Seminar, deepening the connections that a shared mission creates, while opening the door for further collaboration and innovation. Indeed, the Seminar is an opportunity for faculty and administrators from the twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities to come together for four days of rich conversation about their work and mission, and to forge the relationships that are critical to such success.

Seminar participants are nominated by their respective institutions, having been recognized by their presidents as leaders: women and men who hold significant responsibilities at their home institutions and will benefit from the experience of hearing from accomplished faculty and administrators, and meeting colleagues from across the AJCU network. The Seminar is held every June at Loyola University Chicago.

Lord notes that her participation in the Seminar significantly contributed to her development as a Catholic female leader. She says, “I participated in the Seminar several years ago, and it was a transformative experience for me. I hope participants will leave Chicago at the end of the week feeling the way I did – with a deeper understanding of and engagement with the mission of Jesuit higher education, as well as with new friendships within the Jesuit network.”

Adapting to Change is Embracing Opportunity

Jesuit higher education is at a moment of complexity and change. Constrained resources, an increased need for student services, sustained educational access for all, and fewer Jesuits are a few of Lord’s concerns. Nonetheless, she views these changes as an opportunity. She says, “This is an exciting time to be a woman in Jesuit higher education. This month, Dr. Linda LeMura was inaugurated president of Le Moyne College, twenty-five years after Sr. Maureen Fay, O.P. became the president of the University of Detroit Mercy, so that’s both a hopeful sign and a reminder that challenges remain.” 

Lord believes that Jesuit higher education can adapt to changes by increasing lay-Jesuit collaboration. In 2014, for the first time, the Seminar operated concurrently with a gathering of Jesuit scholastics interested in higher education and the intellectual apostolate. Lord believes collaboration like this is a critical avenue for overcoming the challenges faced by the Jesuit community. It is an opportunity to expand the diversity of our leadership and capitalize on the many talents present within the AJCU network.

Lord says, “A deepening of lay-Jesuit collaboration is one of the most important outcomes of the Seminar. Our own president, Dr. John J. DeGioia, was the first lay president of a U.S. Jesuit institution, and in the years since, we’ve seen lay leadership emerge across the network.” Programs like the Seminar provide a critical grounding in the mission that lay leaders will carry out.  

Lord’s vocation as a Catholic female leader in the 21st century developed at Georgetown and continues as she directs the Seminar. An example of the changing face of leadership in Jesuit higher education, Lord strongly believes that as twenty-eight distinct institutions, we share one mission. Like Lord, the next successful leaders of the AJCU network will possess diverse talents paired with mission-oriented leadership.

Sarah Marie Gresser is the Executive Assistant to Dr. Jeanne Lord, and serves as the Program Coordinator for the AJCU Seminar on Higher Education Leadership. To learn more about the Seminar, please visit