By Deanna Howes Spiro, Vice President of Communications, AJCU

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, we dedicate this issue of Connections to all of the women who lead and serve at Jesuit colleges and universities. In 2014, Linda LeMura became the first lay woman to lead one of our schools; today, lay women comprise one quarter of our presidents.

President LeMura is featured in this issue, as well as two of our newest presidents: Julie Sullivan, who will begin her tenure at Santa Clara University this summer, and Cody Teets, who serves as interim president at Regis University. You will also learn about several other women who are “firsts” at their institutions: Dominique Jordan Turner, the first Vice President of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Loyola University Chicago; Kristina Ropella, the first female Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering at Marquette University; and Michelle Wheatley, the first female Vice President of Mission Integration at Gonzaga University.

These are exciting times on our campuses, and we are thankful for all of the women who are transforming our schools and serving as role models for all of our #JesuitEducated students.

By Tracy Seipel, Associate Director of Storytelling, Santa Clara University

Julie Sullivan (photo by Jim Gensheimer for Santa Clara University)


At Santa Clara University, three significant milestones have occurred in March: March 19, 1851, the day of its founding; March 21, 1961, when the decision was made to admit female students; and now, March 1, 2022, the day Santa Clara named Julie Sullivan as the University’s first permanent lay woman president.

That the announcement from SCU’s Board of Trustees came on the first day of Women’s History Month seems only fitting for the seasoned Catholic university leader. But when she arrives on campus on July 1 with Bella, her beloved Labradoodle, one thing is certain: Sullivan won’t be dwelling on being a first. She’s worn that mantle, with great success, since 2013, when she became the first lay and first woman president at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Instead, Santa Clara’s 30th president wants to meet and engage with her new community—students, faculty and staff—to talk about the University’s mission of developing leaders of competence, conscience and compassion.

What they will find in her, she says, is someone who is “accessible, loves people, always listens, is courageous, and not afraid of making a well-informed decision, based on convictions.” After all, at a 171-year-old institution, “You’ve got to understand the values, convictions and traditions that you’re building upon.”

Sullivan will start that day as she always does, before dawn, reflecting on the words to “Here I Am, Lord,” the modern Catholic hymn, inspired by Isaiah 6, and written in 1979 by Dan Schutte, then a theology student at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley (now officially incorporated into Santa Clara): “Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart.”

Santa Clara’s incoming president derives both strength and solace from her deep Catholic faith. Sullivan is always discerning God in her work and leadership, asking, “What is your will for me today? Who am I going to encounter (to whom I can say or do something for) that will reflect your will?”

Sullivan believes her role is to inspire the Santa Clara community to collectively embrace a bold path forward, or vision, then work together to create it through the lens of Jesuit, Catholic and Ignatian spirituality.

“Education is about acquiring knowledge and about acquiring wisdom,” she says. “It’s the development of not just your mind, but your heart, and really understanding what your purpose is in the world. At Catholic institutions, we develop the whole person: their heart, their spirit, their mind.”

Lifting Others Up
At the University of St. Thomas, Sullivan has worked tirelessly to inspire that sense of possibility, by helping to establish the Morrison Family College of Health, a new School of Nursing, and the Dougherty Family College. The latter is a two-year pathway program that progresses toward a Bachelor’s degree for historically under- resourced students. “I’m most proud of how we increased access and opportunity for talented low- and moderate-income students to come to St. Thomas,” she says.

Helping those students graduate with a college degree not only boosts their confidence and employability, she observes, but also sets their future generations on a different trajectory. At Santa Clara, Sullivan has similar goals to build new pipelines for talented low- and middle-income students. She also wants to explore how Jesuit core values can further animate the University’s culture “so that everyone feels heard, valued and included.”

And by growing Santa Clara’s collaborations with its Silicon Valley partners, Sullivan hopes to achieve that same goal. She explains, “Technology is permeating our lives, but how do we integrate our understanding of the human condition with the growth of technology?”

Coming to Santa Clara also brings Sullivan closer to some of her grandchildren who live in the Bay Area. Her family includes five grown children—a blend of stepchildren, adopted children, and biological children who live around the world. Her husband, Robert Sullivan, is the former dean of the Rady School of Management at the University of California San Diego.

Sullivan’s leadership style is certainly informed by her experiences as a woman, mother, and wife, along with faith, belief in education, and optimism. And though her appointment may be groundbreaking at Santa Clara, Sullivan is part of a growing trend of women taking the helm at U.S. Jesuit and Catholic universities.

Today, for example, most of the 28-member institutions of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities are led by lay presidents. Seven of them—at Le Moyne College, Loyola University Chicago, Loyola University New Orleans, St. John’s College in Belize, Xavier University, Regis University and Santa Clara [the latter two with interim leaders]—are women.”

Sullivan, who is now board chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, notes that 35 percent of its approximately 200 member institutions are led by women as well.

For Sullivan, the increase in women leaders of Catholic ministries is just one tenet of the gradual opening of the Church to a diversity of thought—something she believes will make the Church and its institutions stronger.

A Passion for Teaching and Leading
As the first permanent lay president at Santa Clara, Sullivan will also bring a unique experience that its previous Jesuit leaders didn’t have—that of being a parent. “I believe that I may be able to empathize more with students and where they are in their life’s journey,” she says. “My role is to help them.”

It’s an impulse that comes naturally to the Florida native, who grew up an insatiable learner. By 7th grade, she was already being asked by teachers to assist other classmates with reading, and later volunteered to be a tutor in a local Head Start program.

The reality of educational disparities haunted Sullivan, even as she went on to become the first in her family to graduate from college, earning not just one but three degrees from the University of Florida: a Bachelor’s in accounting, a Master’s in taxation, and a Ph.D. in business.

Recognizing her passion for teaching, she became a professor of accounting, first at the University of Oklahoma, followed by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, then at UC San Diego. Her talents did not go unnoticed at UNC or UCSD, where Sullivan was also tapped for administrative roles. In 2005, the University of San Diego hired her to be its executive vice president and provost. Eight years later, she became president of the University of St. Thomas.

Decades of on-the-job lessons have helped Sullivan hone her leadership style. So have important insights from mentors, including the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whom she met through a trustee and friend at St. Thomas. “Justice Ginsburg was a leader who knew she could only get things done if other people joined her in the effort,” says Sullivan. “She knew that people don’t follow leaders because they have to: they follow them because they want to.”

Yet Sullivan is the first to acknowledge that a Catholic university lay president’s success depends on a close partnership with the priests on campus. At the University of St. Thomas, Sullivan says it’s been invaluable for her to work with priests “who respect me as an individual and as a leader, and are aligned with me philosophically as partners.”

She recalls an example from last summer, when Rev. Christopher Collins, S.J., Vice President of Mission at St. Thomas, met with groups of faculty and staff—just before students returned to campus—to host reflections and discernment with them as a way of remembering what they had been through, and what they had learned, during the pandemic.

“So often in our busy world, we just push our emotions down, but Fr. Collins helped us articulate and recognize our feelings in a way that built bonds in our community,” says Sullivan of Fr. Collins’ gift of Ignatian spirituality. “I’ll look for opportunities to support and participate in similar things with the Jesuit community at Santa Clara.”

Santa Clara Magazine Managing Editor Leslie Griffy also contributed to this article.

By Tom Miller, Interim Manager, Gonzaga University News Service

Michelle Wheatley stepped into uncharted territory in 2019 when, with a doctorate in ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary in hand, she was named vice president for mission integration at Gonzaga University.

A graduate of both Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, and Gonzaga, Wheatley brought plenty of exposure to the Society of Jesus’ educational tradition and had already been working in ministry at the University. But still, it was a role that had never before been held by a woman.

Today, Wheatley says, “I hope my work and presence invites colleagues and students to imagine being mission leaders, even if they are not Jesuits. I hope my experiences of both blessing and brokenness, as the first woman in this role, help us as a community to discover more about who we are and who we hope to be.

“There are a number of women colleagues at Gonzaga who inspire me every day with how they show up as leaders,” she continues. “Sometimes it’s through prophetic truth-telling, unpacking complex situations, balancing relationships and tasks, or thinking strategically and holistically.”

Several of those colleagues recently shared their experiences in leadership at Gonzaga. Here’s a roundtable, of sorts, that presents their reflections:

Tom Miller: You are often at meetings that include each other. With that in mind, how do you think women are contributing at Gonzaga in a distinctive way?
Shelton: What is exciting is that we have diversity from a race, ethnicity and gender perspective, and incredible diversity of thought. This contributes greatly to key decisions that have been made by our women leaders here.

Hoo: We contribute in how we frame our responses and in how we interpret responses and questions. We are not necessarily invested in being “right,” having “clever” responses, or providing “the” solution. We emphasize inclusivity and team-building. We practice active listening.

Caño: One of the things I love about the Jesuits is that they’ve recognized women’s dignity, talents and gifts from the beginning, starting with St. Ignatius of Loyola. For that reason, I find that women are seen as true partners in the work here.

Sonntag: Many women leaders at Gonzaga are relationship-centered and bring intentionality to their work. I observe my fellow female colleagues consistently putting students first, modeling strong critical thinking skills in their decision-making, and expressing gratitude. They are some of the most collaborative colleagues I have worked with in my tenure here. I observe how they seek to understand the needs of all stakeholders as they make decisions and recommendations. They regularly engage in meaningful conversations about the greater good of the University and our students – focused on “we” over “me.”

McGuire: It’s so important for women to be represented at the table and, since coming to Gonzaga in 2013, I’ve been impressed with the number of women in leadership, and the very significant role they play in every aspect of the University. In a higher education environment, it’s important that our students see themselves reflected in leadership and know they are well-represented and heard. It means something to be able to see and know that their education can culminate in leadership opportunities.

Gallardo: We support one another in so many ways, even gathering every once in a while to discuss our lives. If someone needs anything, there is never a hesitation to step up and offer support.

Kelley: Women leaders contribute by bringing diversity of thought, experience and imagination. We bring a collaborative spirit and perspective. We bring our authentic selves in an unabridged way. We challenge all leaders and ourselves while at the same time supporting everyone.

What are the essential elements for a nurturing environment to encourage women’s leadership on our campus?
Shelton: Supportive work environment, mentorship opportunities, leadership development, patience, being a good listener.

Hoo: Non-bossy, non-bullying behavior, especially among senior faculty and staff leadership.

Caño: It’s essential to recognize and celebrate women’s contributions if we want to signal that women belong here, including in leadership. This is especially true for women of color and women from marginalized communities, like the LGBTQ+ community.

Sonntag: I believe we must have an environment that understands the needs of women in the workforce and the barriers that may still exist in career advancement. Women are often the caregivers of their families, which means family time often blends into work time and vice versa. This requires flexible working arrangements, realistic workloads, and a “long-game” approach for growing and retaining female employees.

McGuire: Whether we are talking about women or other underrepresented groups, it’s important that leadership demonstrates support for everyone by including, valuing and respecting the contributions of all groups. I am blessed to be able to witness this every day at Gonzaga. Diversity in gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and other areas brings varying perspectives and promotes more innovation and creativity. Through diversity and inclusion, we create a more fulfilled and successful educational and workplace environment for our students and employees.

Gallardo: I don’t know that we need a nurturing environment. I think that the word “nurturing” in and of itself is always attached to women. The essential elements that make for a supportive environment for women administrators has more to do with clear expectations and respect for our work.

Kelley: A nurturing environment will include seeing, hearing and caring about women leaders. It is an environment free from assumptions about what tasks, responsibilities and workload they can handle. It is an environment that values them as contributing leadership members and respects their expertise.

What are the top challenges facing women leaders today?
Shelton: Being heard and taken seriously, promotability, sexual harassment, misclassifications of our emotions.

Hoo: Advocating on their own behalf; systemic institutional bias against female leadership in top and key roles; and trusting their own voices and ideas in situational crises.

Caño: In higher education, there is still pushback for women leaders, especially if they do not “act like men.” I am only the second woman dean of the College after a long line of Jesuits, followed by a handful of laymen, and I think my leadership style is confusing to some. For instance, I received feedback from one person that they were ready for me to stop being compassionate and start holding people accountable. And I wondered: Why can’t I do both?

Sonntag: Work-life balance, impostor syndrome, pay gap.

McGuire: For women, who are often the primary child care providers and managers of their households, it is often difficult to achieve work/life balance and have the same career opportunities as male counterparts. They often find themselves working harder to prove themselves and balance their responsibilities. It continues to be a challenge for women to balance the many hats they wear and have the same promotional opportunities as their male counterparts.

Gallardo: Being perceived as angry instead of appropriately assertive; not being taken as seriously; being labeled as “cheerleaders” (not in a positive way) when demonstrating enthusiasm or passion in work; always having to go above and beyond to demonstrate competence.

Kelley: Top challenges include being treated equally and equitably. Women leaders are not compensated the same as men. Male leaders are often provided more resources and opportunities. Women leaders must navigate spaces differently—when one makes a direct comment or a firm decision, she is not perceived the same as a male engaging in the same actions. Women must walk a fine line of being assertive while not being perceived as aggressive or unlikable. Internally, women tend to suffer from impostor syndrome, which is to question whether they deserve a leadership role: “Should I be here? Am I enough? Am I qualified?”

Being a woman classifies you as a diverse individual. You may possess other levels of diversity that cover intersectionality. With that in mind, what are the distinctive ways you believe you are contributing at Gonzaga?
Shelton: Being able to provide an “outsider-now-insider” point of view to a university that has many, many years of institutional memory. It is the notion of “thinking outside the box,” as opposed to hearing responses like, “We have always done it that way” or “That’s not the way Gonzaga does certain things.” Providing input that is more progressive in thought, challenging and sometimes uncomfortable to hear.

Hoo: Promoting access for diverse student entry into the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) by growing focused outreach strategies, such as the SEAS summer immersion program for high school women, and the pre-engineering entry path for students who need to demonstrate basic math and science proclivities in their first semester in SEAS. I intentionally participate in state and national networking events to encourage partnerships and collaborations to elevate the impact of Gonzaga’s mission and faculty research.

The other obvious distinction is being a woman (and non-Caucasian) leader in male-dominated professions (engineering and computer science). I see my decanal appointment as providing a visible role model to the female and underrepresented students, faculty and staff. I also bring unique leadership experiences from my previous academic administrative roles at two large public universities.

Caño: In some ways, what I see as distinctive about my leadership is really core to leadership at a Jesuit institution. Cura personalis and Ignatian discernment principles guide so much of how I approach my decision-making, including empowering others to make decisions for the greater good. Because I am a woman, some think this approach is feminine. But for those who see this approach as an embodiment of Ignatian spirituality, I think it’s a refreshing change.

McGuire: As an older woman (I am in the 40+ age group that is protected from age discrimination), I bring a depth of experience that I find beneficial in analyzing and advising in my day-to-day work. Many of the issues and challenges I face have been previously encountered in one way or another, and I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and how best to approach a problem. I can call on that background to guide me in my current work. I’ve also been fortunate to have had excellent mentors and supervisors over the years, whose leadership skills I have been able to observe and learn from.

Gallardo: I am a Latina from the Southwest, who has spent her career thinking about ways we can all wake up to how we engage with and are complicit in systems of oppression. I enjoy digging into difficult concepts and moving through the tough conversations so that we can all be genuine with one another, in our work and our relationships. I believe this should be woven into our curriculum, our policies, and our practices. I try to contribute in this way, every day.

Kelley: I have over 23 years of experience in my discipline. As a Black/African American woman and leader, I am a role model for people who look like me and have a shared culture. I’m aware that I embody the intersectional identities of many of the people I work with to support and create a safe, welcoming, inclusive campus environment.

I earned my doctorate in 2017. Of all doctoral recipients, Black women represent 3.1%. I am bringing the strategy, focus and tactics for sustainable and transformational change. I’m showing students, faculty, staff and alumni of color, or who identify as female, that they are leaders and can persevere while working for the common good. I am working to create organizational and social change that is not necessarily flashy or attention-getting, but structural changes that will transform Gonzaga in a lasting way.

Echoing the thoughts of her colleagues, Wheatley thinks Gonzaga is at its best “when we create spaces in which our women leaders can do the following”:

Above: All photos courtesy of Gonzaga University.

By Joe Della Posta and Molly McCarthy, Office of Communications, Le Moyne College

Linda LeMura (photo courtesy of Le Moyne College)


Not long after being named president of Le Moyne College in Spring 2014, Linda LeMura, Ph.D. was walking through Grewen Hall, likely on her way to one of a half-dozen meetings on her calendar that day, a cellphone pressed against her ear. Dr. LeMura was in midstride when she spotted the College’s newest Fulbright Scholar nearby. She politely paused her phone conversation, approached the student and wrapped her in a warm hug, telling her how proud she was of her achievement.

Moments like this one are why LeMura does what she does. She relishes her students’ success. From the day they arrive on campus to the day they cross the stage at commencement, she is committed to their development not only as scholars, but also as human beings. She champions their achievements and marvels at their capacity to do hard things. In fact, LeMura believes that this generation’s resiliency in the face of hardship is “severely underestimated.”

On the days when leading a complex organization with more that 600 employees and approximately 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students is at its most challenging, testing her own resolve, LeMura remembers her students. She reminds herself that she is leading the team that is nurturing these young people to be a force for good in the world. And that knowledge fills her with a sense of joy that fuels and sustains her.

LeMura arrived at Le Moyne in 2003, from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. After serving as Le Moyne’s dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, she was promoted to the role of provost in 2007. When she was named the College’s 14th president eight years ago, the news made headlines nationally and internationally. She was the first female layperson to lead a Jesuit college or university in the United States. But, as Sharon Kinsman Salmon ’78, then chair of the College’s board of trustees, pointed out, LeMura was also unquestionably the right person for the job. She was someone with “superb leadership skills, a deep understanding of Jesuit ideals, and appreciation for the many challenges facing higher education today.”

Under LeMura’s leadership, Le Moyne has enjoyed extraordinary success. In 2021, the College completed the $100 million Always Forward campaign, the largest in its 75-year history; welcomed its seventh-consecutive historically large, talented class to campus; and saw its endowment grow to a record $255 million. As president, Dr. LeMura has prioritized fully embedding diversity, equity, and inclusion in the College’s Jesuit mission. She has led Le Moyne through the Covid-19 pandemic, during which she temporarily moved to a home just off campus, so that she could be closer to her students. In addition, during LeMura’s tenure, the College received naming gifts for the Purcell School of Professional Studies and the McNeil Risk Management and Insurance Institute. It established its first doctoral program in executive leadership (a second doctoral program in health care is expected to launch in the fall), along with Master’s degree programs for those pursuing careers as occupational therapists and family nurse practitioners.

Linda LeMura (photo courtesy of Le Moyne College)


A Syracuse native, LeMura is the fifth of six children whose parents immigrated to the United States from Sicily. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Niagara University, a Catholic institution in the Vincentian tradition, and her Master’s and doctoral degrees from Syracuse University. It’s clear that she is inspired by the Jesuit charism: to be people for others, to act in the service of faith and the promotion of justice, and to model contemplation in action. She takes seriously the responsibility that she and other lay leaders have to help maintain this nearly 500-year-old tradition, particularly at a time when fewer people are entering vowed religious life. Early in her tenure as president, she joined several members of Le Moyne’s Board of Trustees in traveling to Spain for eight days to follow in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius, which she described as “a deeply emotional and moving experience.”

The College’s Board recently announced that it has extended LeMura’s contract until 2026, which would make her the longest-serving president in the College’s history. She looks forward to expanding the College’s reach and influence through a variety of new and expanded partnerships: with the City of Syracuse to promote environmental sustainability, with local health care providers to champion medical equity, and with the College’s closest neighbors to continue building a sense of community and cooperation.

LeMura also looks forward to growing the College’s ERIE21 Program, which was created as a bold response to two of the region’s greatest challenges: persistently high poverty and a lack of skilled workers needed to meet the demands of today’s economy. And, of course, the College will continue to promote dynamic new ways of teaching and path-breaking student research.

While much has changed for LeMura since that spring morning early in her presidency, as she reflected during last fall’s Mass of the Holy Spirit, much has remained the same: “Le Moyne College has, indeed, set the world on fire. It is a fire that burns but does not consume. It illuminates, yet it casts no shadows. Its warmth leaves no one in the cold, and its light leaves no one in the dark.”

To learn more about President Linda LeMura, please click here.

By Adam Doster, Staff Writer, Loyola University Chicago

Dominique Jordan Turner (photo courtesy of Loyola University Chicago)


Dominique Jordan Turner thinks of herself as “a builder.” Why follow somebody else’s blueprint when you can design your own from scratch?

Last fall, she took on one of her biggest projects yet: joining Loyola University Chicago as its first vice president of institutional diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Sitting on the University’s cabinet and reporting to the Office of the President, Jordan Turner is leading and coordinating urgent DEI efforts across Loyola’s campuses. Early on, her charge includes an assessment of Loyola’s new Strategic Plan, ensuring that the University’s long-term priorities are as equitable as possible.

Consciously or not, this role is one that Jordan Turner has been preparing for her entire life. She was born on Chicago’s South Side, where her parents grew up in the Ida B. Wells Homes in Bronzeville and had Dominique as teenagers. Their daughter became the first person in their family to graduate high school and college.

Jordan Turner largely credits such achievement to her mother, who relocated with her to Niles, Michigan in search of more stability. For college, Jordan Turner went to Clark Atlanta University, a historically Black research university and one that felt far removed from Niles, a small town with little diversity. “I wanted to go to a place where I felt at home,” she explains.

Jordan Turner arrived at Clark Atlanta with big dreams, thinking perhaps she’d become the next Oprah. Her mother counseled her to try something more practical, like business. Throughout college, Jordan Turner carried 18 credit hours each semester and worked three jobs at a time, maximizing her tuition money and putting off the possibility of distressing calls from the financial aid office.

She’d never seen Black wealth like she encountered in Atlanta, a place where people with power looked just like her. “I went to college, and they reaffirmed my greatness, my excellence, my Blackness. At Clark, they expected me to be a leader. It was an affirming experience.”

Like a lot of high-performing graduates in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Jordan Turner tried her hand at management consulting, working for Deloitte. She was challenged by the work and enjoyed the perks of per diems and travel, but felt unfulfilled. “I was making companies more money. I was doing spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations,” she says. “I’d been blessed to get this opportunity to be the first in my family [to attend college], and I just felt like I was squandering it.”

Dominique Jordan Turner in conversation on campus (photo courtesy of Loyola University Chicago)


Despite protestations from her grandmother, who dubbed her an “educated fool,” Jordan Turner flipped 180 degrees and left Deloitte for the Peace Corps. Her placement was in Panama, where she spent two years living on a monthly stipend of $300. She built trust with her new neighbors by teaching them English, and setting up a neighborhood computer center in coordination with a local group of women after securing computer donations through old consulting connections. (The center was eventually certified by the country’s ministry of education.) Using her business training to empower people in need was invigorating; it gave her life a renewed purpose.

After returning to the States, Jordan Turner spent the next fifteen years taking on new leadership roles. Most recently, her own consultancy, Dare To Be the First, helped clients like General Mills encourage their talented women and people of color to be more bold, confident, and effective leaders in the workplace. Previously, Jordan Turner served as CEO of Chicago Scholars, which helps first-generation and low-income Chicago students get into and through college, and oversaw a five-fold expansion of its staff and budget. (In 2020, LeBron James named Chicago Scholars his nonprofit of choice during the NBA’s All-Star Game festivities in Chicago.)

In her new role at Loyola, Jordan Turner is now on campus and making connections with Loyolans of all stripes. She’s planning a broad listening tour and holding regular office hours in an attempt to grasp what equity problems people want addressed: What has been done, what hasn’t, and how does the University measure success? “My leadership style is to co-create things,” she says. “I want to bring voices into a room that are not already there.”

She was encouraged by what she saw during the interview process and her early orientation. While plenty of organizations talk about DEI, she thinks “Loyola’s commitment has clearly been demonstrated.” It will be her responsibility to bring under one roof disparate initiatives and establish what she calls an “institutional vision” for DEI. Student concerns, no doubt, will be front and center.

Moving into a Jesuit environment, Jordan Turner relishes the opportunity to bridge her work and her faith. And while she’s at Loyola, she’ll keep in mind the example of her own mother, who made sacrifices to give Jordan Turner chances that every young person deserves.

“My mother is probably the hardest working person that I know—she always had at least three jobs, and took care of her kids. No matter how hard she worked, she could never do more than just pay the bills,” she says. “It wasn’t because she was lazy. It wasn’t because she was a bad person. It was where she was born, and in what skin she was born. I thought as a kid that was unfair. And as an adult, we know there are some justice and equity issues underneath.”

At Loyola, Jordan Turner will bring issues like those to the surface, allowing the University community to interrogate them collectively. Her blueprint is just waiting to be drawn.

By Sara Knuth, News and Marketing Writer/Editor, Regis University

When Cody Teets became interim president of Regis University in January, she made history as the first woman to lead the institution. Teets, a former McDonald’s executive and current Regis trustee, also became the first lay person to lead Regis in its 145 years.

The change was historic — and, for Regis, it continued a recent shift toward higher levels of female leadership.

Most of the University’s top administrators are women: in addition to Teets, cabinet members include Chief of Staff Terri Campbell; Vice President of Student Affairs Barbara Wilcots; Interim Vice President of Advancement Abby Palsic; Associate Vice President of Human Resources Elizabeth Whitmore; and Chief Legal Officer Janelle Ramsel. Leading academics are Provost Karen Riley; Dean Shari Plantz-Masters of the Anderson College of Business and Computing; Dean Linda Osterlund of the Rueckert-Hartman College for Health Professions; Interim Academic Dean Heidi Barker of Regis College; and Dean Catherine Witt of the Loretto Heights School of Nursing. For each of these women, getting to this point in their academic careers has been years in the making.

Shifting Leadership
When Shari Plantz-Masters interviewed for her first affiliate faculty position at Regis 25 years ago, all of the members of her interview committee — and all of the administrators on campus — were men. For Plantz-Masters, who has spent her career in technology, there was nothing unusual about this: she was used to being the only woman in the room. “It was more unusual to see opportunities for women to move into leadership positions,” she said.

Heidi Barker, who also served in an interim dean capacity five years ago, said that at that time, she and Plantz-Masters were the only female members of the Regis deans’ council. “It was very apparent that our voices were not as loud,” she said.

But, gradually, more women stepped into leadership positions.

“Things felt more welcoming — it didn’t seem so difficult to figure out how I could have a voice at different tables — as there were more women,” Plantz-Masters said. “I could ask questions like, ‘Why do we do it this way?’ and have women explain to me why we did it that way and not feel defensive … it felt like a much more open environment.”

Barker said, “When I first came here, and I had small children, I remember that was very unusual. At the time, I could tell you who else had small children and now, I think people, men and women equally, talk about their families in a different way than they did eighteen years ago.”

Provost Karen Riley, who started in her role at Regis in May 2021, has experienced similar changes during her career. When she began working in education, most of her peers were women. As she worked toward becoming a dean and eventually provost, she noticed that fewer women occupied leadership positions.

At Regis, she said, “I was fortunate to walk into a group of leaders who were women but, more important, were just really strong leaders.”

Making History
When Teets first joined the Regis Board of Trustees in 2013, it was, she said, “glaringly obvious that we did not have enough women on the Board, nor enough diversity.”

So, after her first cabinet meeting as interim president this year, she was thrilled by the number of women who now serve on the University’s executive leadership team. She said, “I’m a big believer that you need a lot of voices to help make a good decision and that includes, of course, women’s voices.”

As the first Catholic lay person to lead the University, Teets believes she is in a unique position to share the importance of Jesuit values. The University’s mission has the opportunity to impact people of all faiths and backgrounds, which starts at the presidential level. “This mission is really important, and it’s important to a large number people,” she said. “I just feel like folks are paying attention now in that they may be hearing it a little differently than they were before.”

Leadership for All
Although progress has been made for women at Regis, campus leaders recognize the need for growth in diversity. They suggest changes in several areas such as board governance and leadership in the sciences, business and technology, to name a few. Moreover, there is a need to develop all leaders, regardless of gender.

“There are areas for which we really need to think about women and there are areas for which we really need to think about men,” Riley said.

Barker added, “We have to get to a place where we’re lifting everybody up … we need to have the boys and men in our lives understand their role, as well as understand our own role in doing that.”

Advice for the Next Generation
As these Regis administrators reflected on their roles in shaping the next generation of leaders, they offered the following advice:

Teets: “It took me way too long in life to hear this, but I think a lot of women tend to be perfectionists. That makes us our own worst enemy, so somebody gave me this advice: ‘You do not need to be perfect. You need to do what is perfect for you.’ That just changed my whole perception of perfectionism and how I showed up and how I delivered my work. People appreciate people who are real. Just show up as how you are perfect and not somebody else’s version of perfect. Your confidence level will rise immensely.”

Plantz-Masters: “Something that I tell people all the time is to look for their mentors (their role models or their peers) because you don’t always have a formal mentor, somebody who’s going to formally help you navigate through your career. Often, it’s going to be people around you who may help you in a particular situation.

“The second thing is that often, opportunities come to you that you weren’t seeking. Be open to them. Those were usually the pathways I took in my life that opened up doors that I would have never planned [to open].”

Barker: “Say yes to opportunities that come along. Most of the opportunities I’ve had that have made me think, solve problems, and be challenged in really good ways have been things that I haven’t expected to be placed in front of me.”

Riley: “Find joy in what you do and continue to live your passion … I like solving problems and working with people. I like engaging and trying to create more opportunities for other people. If you stick with the things that you love, I think you’ll find success.”

Above: All photos courtesy of Regis University.

By Jill Nuelle, Marquette University

Dr. Kristina Ropella (photo courtesy of Marquette University)


Dr. Kristina Ropella has come a long way from sitting as one of the few women in her engineering classes as an undergraduate student at Marquette University in the 1980s.

After earning Master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering from Northwestern University, Ropella returned to Marquette as a faculty member in the Biomedical Engineering Department. She eventually became the Opus College of Engineering’s first-ever female full professor, served as a department chair from 2004 to 2013, and went on to serve as executive associate dean for the College.

In 2015, she became Marquette’s first female Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering. She has since spearheaded the formation of countless educational initiatives and programs that have enhanced the academic experience at Marquette.

In the following Q&A, Ropella reflects on her career as a leader thus far, as well as her goals for the future:

Jill Nuelle: Throughout your time at Marquette, you have led many initiatives. Are there any that stand out to you in terms of their impact or success?
Kristina Ropella: The one that stands out most for me at the moment is E-Lead, the Excellence in Leadership Program. We started the program for undergraduate engineering Marquette students. Responding to an industry need for engineers who are much better prepared to lead people through change and lead innovation, we raised funds and created a three-year curricular program for undergraduate engineers that fuses leadership with engineering and the Jesuit ethos to develop the innovation leaders of tomorrow. In 2019, as we continued to generate funding, we expanded the program to disciplines beyond engineering.

Did you feel increased pressure or unique expectations stepping into the role of Marquette’s first female engineering dean?
In some ways, I felt the need to do extra to prove myself. In the past, there were comments from other leaders about the engineering dean needing to be a middle-aged male and about alumni preferences for a male dean. However, I stay focused on the people I serve: our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

My role at Marquette is to provide the resources and foundation so that each person in our college can be their best and most successful selves. This drives me and my passion for my work. And, I think I have proven my value many times over in terms of my leadership, fundraising, care for others, helping others to succeed and creating an environment in which people with a leadership mindset, an innovative mindset, and an Ignatian mindset can succeed.

How would you describe your leadership style and what are some traits that you think great leaders possess?
I hope that others see me as a servant leader with great integrity. I view my role at Marquette as serving others and helping them to be successful. I am also open, honest and forthright. I do not shy away from difficult conversations, and I am not afraid to point out the “elephant in the room.” I value the contributions of everyone on my team, and I want to see each person growing as a leader, regardless of position or title.

To me, great leaders also demonstrate emotional intelligence and good relational skills. They are humble and have a vision for which others are willing to work. Great leaders inspire others: they are strategic and can think about ways to get around barriers. They also genuinely enjoy working with people, and give credit to others for their work. In addition, true leaders challenge people to be better and to think creatively and differently. They welcome diversity of thought, experience and talent.

What advice would you give women wanting to break into male-dominated fields?
Be your authentic self. Don’t change yourself or your core values to fit other’s expectations. You are successful because you have embraced your strengths and have the courage to be your true self. If an employer or organization disregards you because you are being authentic, then you probably don’t want to be part of that workplace.

But respect that others are different from you and may experience life differently. As you communicate with others, see differences as an opportunity to learn and deepen relationships and see the world a little differently.

Who are your mentors, and why?
Both of my parents were wonderful mentors, teaching me that nothing is free, life isn’t fair, and anything worth having requires hard work. They instilled in me the importance of integrity, courage, humility, and a love for God.

Dr. Steven Swiryn, one of my graduate school advisers, was also a wonderful mentor. He helped me to network with some of the world’s leading researchers in my field. He taught me the power of the word and how to be an effective technical writer and presenter. He also taught me some valuable insights about not striving for perfection and knowing when good is good enough.

Dr. John Linehan, who was the department chair when I was a new faculty member at Marquette, gave me the opportunity to have a professor position at my alma mater. He also often invited me, as a young professor, to offer new ideas in a conference room full of men much more senior than me. He also nominated me for board positions at an early stage in my career.

What are some of your goals for engineering at Marquette in the years to come?
I want to recruit a much more diverse group of students and faculty to engineering at Marquette, especially with respect to women. I also want to make important changes to the engineering curriculum so that graduates have more business acumen, are better prepared to be leaders, and have the courage to take risks, experiment, embrace failure and be different.

I would like us to have the courage to change the promotion and tenure criteria to embrace different models of faculty achievement and contributions to the university and greater community.

I also want to see us continue to grow in our research and scholarship, bridging more to the engineering industry so that new ideas and discoveries become real solutions in our world — not just ideas in publications. I would like us to greatly strengthen industry partnerships, and create innovative educational and research models that better serve our students and our world.

Jill Nuelle is an intern in the Office of Marketing and Communication at Marquette University.

By Jenny Smulson, Vice President of Government Relations, AJCU

Five months into the fiscal year, Congress passed, and President Biden signed, the FY22 Consolidated Appropriations Act (HR 2471). This legislation funds the federal government through September 30, 2022. A massive bill, it includes funding for all government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education. The legislation increases spending by $1.5 trillion in defense programs (5.6% over FY21) and non-defense programs (6.7% over FY21), with an additional $13.6 billion in emergency aid dedicated to Ukraine.

After facing significant challenges in resolving largely partisan differences, Congress managed to get the bill over the finish line and over to the President’s desk. Getting this package passed was very important and has significant implications for students and so many people who rely on government-funded programs. In the period between the end of the last fiscal year (September 30, 2021) and March 15, 2022 (when President Biden signed HR 2471), the federal government was operating under a continuing resolution (CR). Under the four CRs that had to be passed to keep the government open, funding was capped at the FY21 levels – those developed and agreed upon during the Trump Administration, which were much lower than those proposed by the Biden Administration. What was the impact on education? It froze funding for key investments in postsecondary access programs that, if left unresolved, would have restricted spending levels for the entire fiscal year.

On May 28, 2021, President Biden proposed a budget that included historic increases for federal education programs. That budget requested a significant boost for the Federal Pell Grant maximum ($400 in appropriated funds and $1,475 through the reconciliation process), as well as other programs (e.g., Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), that are important to K-12 education.

Following on the heels of President Biden’s budget, House and Senate Democrats drafted legislation that also increased spending for such higher education programs as Federal Work Study, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), TRIO, and Pell Grants. The President’s budget and the Democratic spending proposals were welcome news to the education community. Embracing those funding goals, AJCU and other associations began advocating to see those levels enacted. The adoption of the CRs poured some cold water on that joy as it froze funding at the FY21 levels, well below the bold increases proposed for FY22. But it energized advocates like AJCU and other associations to lean on Congress to complete their work on the spending bills.

In the end, a compromise was reached on FY22 funding that resulted in an increase in defense spending beyond what the President had proposed (not surprising given that in that period of time, Russia invaded Ukraine). Boosts for education programs were also adopted, but not at the historic levels first proposed by President Biden. Some of the funding increases had been included in the budget reconciliation package (known as Build Back Better) but, when that bill did not advance, those gains became out of reach. New programs like free community college and college completion grants were also removed from the final appropriations package. But the increases for higher education will benefit current and future students, and AJCU’s advocacy will continue as we stress the importance of federal higher education funding to our nation’s economic health and growth, as well as to individuals and their families.

Making a return after a decades-long hiatus, a version of earmarks is back. Now called “Community Funded Projects” or “Congressionally Directed Spending,” this renewed effort allows nonprofit organizations within a district or state to request support for a specific project of benefit to their communities. Under this practice, institutions of higher education (and associated entities like medical centers) will receive just over $700 million for FY22. These projects must be made public and must demonstrate strong community support (click here for a full list of funded projects included for FY22). Moving forward, this will be another way for colleges and universities to affirm their positive impact on their communities and to seek federal funds to advance such meaningful projects.

Looking ahead, the next few months will be very busy. There’s a lot of work to do and a short time to get it all done. With the delay in completing the FY22 funding proposal, Congress finds itself racing to get started on the FY23 budget and appropriations process. The President unveiled his FY23 budget on Monday, March 28. The budget includes a proposal to increase the maximum Pell Grant by $1,775 over the FY22 amount and to double the maximum Pell Grant by 2029 – a consequential request. In addition, it proposes expanding Pell to include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. Current events also influenced the President’s budget: inflation, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine. There will be many competing priorities in the FY23 budget.

To realize those gains for Pell and other student financial aid programs, the higher education community will have to work hard to convince Congress that these investments are of value. By telling the stories of our students, AJCU is confident that we can make Pell a priority for funding in FY23. We take pride in talking about students like Sa’iid Robinson, who is currently in his first year at Marquette University. Growing up in Kenosha, WI, college was merely a dream for Sa’iid. But through perseverance and the help of federal education programs, like SEOG, Sa’iid is getting a great education and will work for a biopharmaceutical company over the summer, setting him on a path toward success. AJCU is excited to highlight our extraordinary #JesuitEducated students and alumni, as we make the case for federal student financial aid.

*The late resolution for the consolidated appropriations bill means that, in some cases, the FY23 Budget includes funding levels below those enacted in FY22 (they are compared to FY21 levels in the Budget Summary). The Administration will not push for funding levels below the enacted levels for FY22.