As we conclude Women’s History Month, we are proud to share the stories of inspiring female leaders at six Jesuit institutions in this issue of Connections. From deans to provosts to a former Saint Louis University administrator who still volunteers on campus at age 95 (!), these remarkable women have committed their talent, intellect, energy and time to teaching and encouraging thousands of students.

This month has been particularly exciting for the AJCU network: we celebrated the inauguration of Dr. Linda LeMura, the first female lay president of a Jesuit college or university in the United States. Dr. LeMura leads Le Moyne College, the second-youngest of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities and the first to open as a co-educational institution [in 1946]. During her inauguration on March 20th, AJCU President Rev. Michael J. Sheeran, S.J. remarked that she is “absolutely the right person to lead this school.” We welcome Dr. LeMura to the AJCU network and wish her continued success.

Dr. LeMura follows in the footsteps of Sr. Maureen Fay, O.P., the first woman to lead a Jesuit institution as president of the University of Detroit Mercy from 1990 to 2004. Sr. Fay later led the AJCU Seminar on Higher Education Leadership, which is now overseen by Jeanne Fielding Lord, J.D., Ed.D. of Georgetown University. You will read more about Dr. Lord and her leadership of this influential program in this issue of Connections.

We thank all of the women who serve our institutions as leaders in the Ignatian tradition.

On behalf of AJCU, we wish you a blessed, happy Easter.

Deanna I. Howes
Director of Communications, AJCU

By Cynthia A. Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU

Update: The FY16 budgets have passed both chambers of Congress and moved to conference since this article was written. For more information, please write to Cyndy Littlefield, AJCU’s Vice President for Federal Relations:

Republican-Controlled Congress Proposes Devastating Student Aid Cuts

In a carefully orchestrated effort, both the U.S. House and Senate Budget Committees have released their FY16 budgets, passed their bills in Committee, and are going to the Floor the week of March 23rd. The House proposed balancing the federal budget in eight years by cutting $5.5 trillion in spending, while the Senate proposed a balance in ten years by cutting $4.4 trillion to the budget. Higher education would take a huge hit by losing a total of $150 billion in federal student aid over ten years. At stake is the heart and soul of federal student aid: the Federal Pell Grant program.

The House budget calls for the total elimination of all mandatory Pell Grant funding: $89 billion over ten years. The current Pell Grant maximum award is $5,775, of which $915 is obtained from mandatory funding. Appropriators would be hard pressed to replace Pell Grant mandatory funding from the discretionary budget, thus resulting in substantial cuts. Fewer students would be ineligible for Pell Grants, thus squeezing the program further. 

Student loans would also be hit by the elimination of the in-school interest subsidy program, which would cost students an additional $3,800. The government would get back an additional $38 billion for eliminating these subsidies. Public service loan forgiveness programs, which have provided opportunities for students to pursue such careers as police officers, firefighters, nurses, teachers or service members, would be eliminated because the student loans would no longer be forgiven over a period of time. An additional $26.8 billion would pay down the deficit with this loan forgiveness elimination. Public service loan forgiveness programs benefit the country greatly by helping more public servants afford to pursue their desired career paths.

The Senate bill is similar (though one degree less draconian), but still calls for the elimination of the mandatory Pell Grant and in-school interest subsidies. We are concerned by the call for reconciliation instructions from both bills to at least realize an additional $1 billion from the Senate HELP Committee and House Education and Workforce Committee, which will probably cut higher education mandatory funding again. According to House Ranking Budget Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), reconciliation instructions could go beyond the $1 billion request.

The U.S. Department of Education is currently in the process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The purpose of the budget is to allocate funding levels for consideration in appropriations and to establish goals and priorities. But, when such items (e.g. in-school student loan interest subsidies and public service loan forgiveness programs) require authorization, setting the budget becomes more precarious.

A new budget cost estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, called “fair-value accounting,” will now make student loans more comparable to the risk that the private market might bear if making the same loans. This will make the cost of supplying loans more expensive, thus adding even more burden to students.

For FY16, sequestration cuts remain, reflecting the same cap as FY15. Starting in FY17, a total cut of $759 billion, or 13.8%, cut below sequester caps for non-defense discretionary caps will begin. And of course, both budgets call for totally eliminating the Affordable Care Act. Clearly, this Congress wants more funding for defense and less for students and children, or the elderly and infirmed.

By Molly K. McCarthy, Writer-Editor, Le Moyne College Office of Communications

Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D. (Photo by Le Moyne College)

Linda M. LeMura, Ph.D. (Photo by Le Moyne College)

Le Moyne College President Linda LeMura, Ph.D., used her fall convocation address to invoke the nearly 500-year-old tradition of Jesuit education – one that is resilient, flexible and steeped in innovation. During her remarks, LeMura noted, “While other institutions were building ivory towers, Jesuit colleges and universities were becoming roads, bridges – structures intended to connect our students and to lead them into new ways of knowing, being and believing.” 

“By its very nature, a Jesuit education does not thrive in an atmosphere of detachment or privilege; it demands engagement in the world,” she told the campus community. “At Le Moyne College, we educate students not so they can insulate themselves from struggle or wrap themselves in material comforts. We educate students so they can heal a fragmented world.”

This month, LeMura, who has led the College since July 1st, was formally inaugurated as its fourteenth president. She is the first lay woman ever to serve at the helm of a Jesuit college or university in the United States. Her work at the College is inspired by Pope Francis’ call for Catholic educational institutions to “offer to all an approach to education that has as its aim the full development of the person, which responds to the right of every person to access knowledge.” Her vision of Le Moyne as “a place that develops compassionate, engaged and forward-thinking leaders” is inseparable from the Pontiff’s message and the College’s Catholic, Jesuit identity.  

“The Jesuits set the bar extraordinarily high in administering and establishing schools others would want to emulate,” LeMura said recently. “I have always been particularly impressed by the ways they use art, literature and philosophy to weave the tale of the human experience.”

LeMura is not new to Le Moyne, having served as the dean of arts and sciences for three years and provost and vice president of academic affairs for seven. However, her role as president has provided her with a unique vantage point to reflect on what she sees as one of the most serious issues facing colleges and universities today: the commodification of education. “Students and families are extremely preoccupied with, and not unreasonably so, finding a job after they earn their degrees. Certainly we want them to do well,” she said. “Beyond that, we also want them to be thoughtful citizens who are nimble and interested in the world around them, so that they will be successful in their lives and not just in their jobs.” 

To that end, one of LeMura’s primary aims in her first year as president has been to encourage a dialogue about the value of higher education, particularly Jesuit, liberal arts education. Grounded in rigor and ethics, it is an education that “provides students with expertise in their fields of study as well as the ability to communicate effectively, collaborate with others across disciplines, and continue to learn,” LeMura said. These skills continue to be absolutely critical, a point corroborated by employers. What’s more, they are inculcated in the curriculum across campus, from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Madden School of Business to the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. 

“The value of a liberal arts education at Le Moyne is that we are developing individuals for whom the intellectual life is inseparable from their sensitivity to others and their habit of giving back,” LeMura said. “Beyond that, our graduates are adaptive and able to teach themselves so their learning never expires. They make a habit of critical inquiry, which unlocks disciplines that are not initially their own.”

As she looks to the future, LeMura is developing a new strategic plan that “will allow Le Moyne to meet the challenges ahead while preserving the integrity of what the College does well.” To that end, her priorities include expanding the number of Jesuits who teach at the College through its visiting professor program; boosting the College’s presence outside of Central New York; and increasing financial support to students to ensure that a Le Moyne education remains affordable and accessible. She will measure the College’s success in its ability to attract the most talented students, regardless of their financial circumstances; hire and retain the most sought-after faculty from around the globe; and in the ways that the College’s graduates lead and serve their communities. 

LeMura said that she hopes to provide the College with “leadership that is grounded in energy and collaboration” and which “accepts change with gusto and enthusiasm.”

“Now that I am in this role and I have met with hundreds of alumni, I am awestruck by the passion that they have for this institution, and bringing that passion back to campus is powerful,” she said. “It is an affirmation of why we do what we do.”

About Dr. LeMura

A Syracuse, NY native and graduate of Bishop Grimes High School, Dr. LeMura is a summa cum laude graduate of Niagara University.  She received her master’s degree and doctorate, both in applied physiology, from Syracuse University. Prior to arriving at Le Moyne, she served in several roles at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, including professor, graduate program director, and interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Her fields of research and expertise are pediatric obesity, pediatric applied physiology, lipid metabolism and energy metabolism. She has taught applied physiology, anatomy and physiology, bioethics and the biology of aging.

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

By John Schoonejongen, Assistant Director of News and Media Outreach, Gabelli School of Business, Fordham University

Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D. (Photo: Fordham University)

Donna Rapaccioli, Ph.D. (Photo: Fordham University)

One of the first things you might notice about Donna Rapaccioli is that she doesn’t try to be noticed.

The dean of Fordham University’s newly unified graduate and undergraduate business schools – under the common name, the Gabelli School of Business – slides into rooms quietly, preferring to mingle without fanfare.

During a recent breakfast celebration of the unification, Rapaccioli, 52, sat at a table, nibbling on a marble-cake muffin (and marveling that there was such a thing). But she was seldom alone. A steady stream of visitors approached the dean. She greeted each with a familiar air, exchanging small talk and looking everyone carefully in the eyes. Her smile flashed often and broadly. It turns out, in Rapaccioli’s world, you don’t need to seek attention in order to command it. Her presence was undeniable, a leader in full.

When it came time to speak, Rapaccioli made it a point of thanking everyone in the room for their work on the unification. It was a success, she said, because of the intelligence and dedication of those gathered with her. She meant it.

“It’s definitely about us, not I,” Rapaccioli said in a later interview. “I really try to emphasize teamwork, both with my team but also with the students. I think that it’s really important to ensure that the students have a significant experience working in a team.”

It is an entirely Jesuit way of thinking: Serving a purpose greater than yourself, understanding those you serve and leading by example. Those traits were ingrained in her through a Jesuit education at Fordham University in the 1980s and brought to the fore during her tenure as the leader of its business schools.

“One of the things that I always say is that you can find God, which means good, in all things and in all situations. And if you’re not finding it, you’re not looking hard enough,” Rapaccioli said. “I really do try to look at individuals and try to see what are their gifts and talents. In my role as leader, how can I allow them to use their gifts and talents in this setting to advance the university, to advance the business school? I think that comes from the whole Jesuit way of proceeding.”

That Jesuit thinking is filtering down into what students are taught and how the faculty conducts some of its research and community outreach. The goal, Rapaccioli said, is “to reposition business as a force for good rather than the common perception that it’s this dark, evil force.”

As examples, the dean pointed to the Center for Positive Marketing, which explores using marketing to improve people’s lives, and the Center for Digital Transformation, which seeks to find ways to “use digital technology to advance society.” The Fordham Foundry, a business incubator, leans heavily on start-ups that seek to solve a societal problem. “If we can focus on the unique position that business has to create a force for good, it changes the conversation,” Rapaccioli said. “And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make people realize that purpose drives profits, and you can’t just have as your purpose making profits, because that’s not going to be sustainable.”

Rapaccioli has a phrase she uses often about the vision of the Gabelli School of Business: “To educate compassionate global business leaders who are socially and ethically responsible.”

“When I’m invited to address the prospective students, that’s what I say our mission is, and everything flows from that – for me, the word ‘compassionate’ is a real differentiator,” Rapaccioli said.

In other schools, students might hear a lot about “global” and “leadership.”

“You’ll probably even see ‘ethics,’ but for us, this notion of compassion – of being with others, of helping others – is a big deal,” Rapaccioli said.

Her vision for the Gabelli School of Business is making a difference. The school became an Ashoka Changemaker Campus, one of only a handful of universities in the country that has earned the designation as a center for social innovation. Pursuing the designation was a faculty and student initiative, an indication that people are buying into the idea of the school as an engine for social change. Students are becoming leaders and thinking of their role in seeking a greater good, just as she wanted.

“The leadership piece is key, because we really want to transform the world. And in order to do that, you need students who will become leaders of these companies. And in order to do that, you need a really great program that attracts the right type of student, and then you need to help them develop their thought process,” Rapaccioli said.

How did a child from the Pelham Bay area of the Bronx, a product of Catholic education from grammar school up until she went to New York University for her graduate degree, grow up to lead and reinvigorate a business school on her home turf?

It was nothing she sought out.

“I was asked to serve,” Rapaccioli said of her appointment as interim dean in 2005. “And I served out of a sense of duty.”

At the time, Rapaccioli was teaching accounting at Fordham and enjoying faculty life. She accepted the interim challenge though, and marked June 30, 2006 on her calendar, the end of the term she was asked to serve, and went in with a “do no harm” attitude. She would happily go back to teaching and research then, she thought.

To immerse herself in the interim role, she set out to talk to as many people as possible to understand the school and the concerns of its faculty and students.
Meanwhile, the position grew on her.

“Once I became the dean, I saw that I was able to make positive change and that my ideas were creating excitement in people. And that was what made me decide to pursue the position and actually apply for it permanently,” she said.

The word “interim” was removed from her title in 2007. She added the title of acting dean of Fordham’s graduate business school in 2014; she was appointed dean of the combined schools in March.

Not lost on Rapaccioli is that she is among the highest-ranking women in Fordham’s administration. As a woman, she must remain laser-focused on outcomes to succeed in a male-dominated environment, she said. But it also may be of help when it comes to the business school’s vision.

“I think being a woman has allowed me to embrace this notion of compassion and humanism and care for the individual person in a way that might seem less natural for a man, perhaps,” she said.

But make no mistake about it: What’s happening at the Gabelli School of Business is being driven by Rapaccioli, who is tasked with carving Fordham’s niche in the highly competitive world of business education and encouraging others to go along for the ride.

“I do think you need to show vision, but I think that there’s a way to get people to want to be part of it. And that’s kind of a fine line,” she said. “If you don’t recognize that you’re just one person, you’re never going to get anything done. I don’t see any other way to lead or be.”

By Rita Buettner and Nick Alexopulos, Office of Marketing and Communications, Loyola University Maryland

Amy Wolfson, Ph.D. (Photo by Loyola University Maryland)

Amy Wolfson, Ph.D. (Photo by Loyola University Maryland)

Amy Wolfson, Ph.D. came to Loyola University Maryland in July 2014 as the vice president for academic affairs. Wolfson was most recently associate dean of the faculty, chair of the diversity leadership team, and professor of psychology at the College of the Holy Cross, where she had been a member of the psychology faculty since 1992.

Wolfson earned a B.A. in psychology, cum laude, from Harvard University, and has her M.A. and Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Wolfson has been published in several prestigious peer-reviewed journals and is the author of two books, The Woman’s Book of Sleep: A Complete Resource Guide and The Oxford Handbook of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Sleep and Behavior.

Among the members of Wolfson’s academic leadership team of academic deans and administrators at Loyola are three additional women: Jen Lowry, Ph.D., associate vice president for academic affairs; Marie Kerins, Ed.D., associate vice president for research and graduate affairs; and Lorie Holtgrave, director of budgets and data management. In July of this year, Wolfson’s team will welcome two new women leaders, each with extensive experience in Jesuit higher education, as deans of two of Loyola’s three schools. Amanda Thomas, Ph.D. will be the dean of the Loyola College of Arts and Sciences, and comes to Loyola from Saint Joseph’s University. Kathleen Getz, Ph.D. will be the dean of the Sellinger School of Business and Management, and comes to Loyola from Loyola University Chicago. 

What are your first impressions of Loyola?

I’m blown away by the faculty here. We need to celebrate much more what an accomplished faculty Loyola has in its tenure-track, tenured, and affiliate faculty. We need to come up with more ways that we acknowledge and incentivize and reward and provide the right time and space for faculty to do the work that ultimately brings a richness to the classroom and to our students. I do not think we are telling that story enough as a university, so I see that as a very high priority: how do we provide the right recognition, as well as the time, space, and depth.

What are some ideas you are reflecting on as you begin your new leadership role?

I have questions about breadth vs. depth for our students as well as for our faculty. We have a very elaborate core curriculum. How do we make sure we’re providing as much depth as breadth for our students? With the importance of enriching students’ lives and who we are as a Jesuit, Catholic institution, are we providing enough time for internships and for community-based projects? I think Loyola is at a very pressing time in our history. Universities are under a lot of pressure to be distinctive, and how do we make sure that we distinguish ourselves?

Are there specific academic areas you are interested in exploring?

I’ve thought a lot about how to promote the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) disciplines. There are some natural relationships between STEM and business, STEM and the arts, engineering and business. Are we an institution that should be promoting and creating more opportunities for getting our students to apply to pharmacy, nursing, and medical school?

As a psychologist, how did you choose to do sleep research?

When I was at Washington University in St. Louis, I became close to a professor who was one of the early insomnia researchers. I was not interested in doing work on insomnia, but I was interested in sleep, and I was interested in behavioral medicine.

I had done some reading about the amount of sleep that babies need developmentally and different theories about where babies should sleep. Is co-sleeping best, is a family sleeping arrangement best, is independent sleeping best? My work as a graduate student was developing a program for first-time parents to help get themselves as new parents and their babies on the right track in terms of developing good and healthy sleep patterns. It was a very successful study [and] went on to be published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. That really started my path to becoming a sleep and circadian rhythms researcher.

When you became a mother, did you apply your research to helping your son sleep?

The running joke is that there are just kids that—we don’t know why—settle more easily than others. Admittedly, I lucked out with a child who was always an excellent sleeper. Later, when he was about 10, my son overheard me giving a radio interview about my sleep research. A few days later when it was time for him to go to bed, he put his hands on his hips and said, “Just because you’re a sleep researcher doesn’t mean you can tell me when to go to bed.”

What do you appreciate about working for a Jesuit institution?

When my mother died nearly seventeen years ago, I sat shivah and was out for a week. I came back to a very moving voice mail from Rev. Jim Hayes, S.J., Associate Chaplain for Mission at Holy Cross. It turned out that a dear friend and Holy Cross classmate of his had been to my mother’s funeral. He called him and said, “Jim, you must know Amy Wolfson, and I just want to let you know what a special person her mother was.” He shared this story with me and we have been dear friends ever since that moment.

To me, that’s an example of the richness of being in a place where people care about each other—whether it is students, staff, or faculty. He took the time to reach out to me in a way that I value as a teacher and colleague.

A version of this story was originally published in Loyola Magazine.

By Jeanette Grider, Marketing and Communications, Saint Louis University

Mary Bruemmer with the SLU Billiken (Photo by Saint Louis University)

Mary Bruemmer with the SLU Billiken (Photo by Saint Louis University)

As an institution approaching its 200th birthday, Saint Louis University’s (SLU) roots reach back to 1818, when the Society of Jesus sent the Most Reverend Louis DuBourg, S.J. to establish what would become the first institution of higher learning in a part of the country that most considered the American wilderness: St. Louis, MO. This initial step was the beginning of many “firsts” that formed SLU into the vibrant university that it is today.

In those early days, St. Louis was part of the Missouri territory and still a few years away from even becoming a state. Located on the Mississippi River, the settlement of roughly 3,000 people was an important stop for fur traders and had what we might think of today as a “wild west” atmosphere. Educational opportunities were scarce, but the commitment to knowledge and social justice (key to the Jesuit mission) were present.

When the life of an institution spans three centuries and intersects with technological advances and societal changes, its history becomes rich and extensive. Each event holds its own place on the SLU timeline, including how today’s women are helping to shape the institution. And each woman’s unique vision, commitment and leadership have moved SLU forward in its mission of serving a higher purpose for the greater good.

Like much of American society, the 1900s became a pivotal time for women to have a more significant influence at educational institutions: first as students and then as faculty and administrators.

The first female students were admitted to the University’s Institute of Law in 1908, going on to receive LL.B. degrees. Bertha M. Bruening (LL.B. 1911) would go on to become the first woman to earn a degree from the School of Commerce and Finance in 1920. That year included several degree firsts for women at SLU: Sister Mary Louise Wise, S.L. received a master’s degree in English; Mother Gertrude Caraher, R.S.C.J. received an A.B.; and Sister Eustacia Elder, S.L. received a B.S. In 1929, Mother Marie Kernaghen, R.S.C.J. became the first woman awarded a Ph.D. at SLU.

As the decades passed, students became part of the next generation of leaders with Nancy McNeir Ring (AS ’28; GR ’29) being named the University’s first Dean of Women; the School of Medicine admitting its first female students; and women taking leadership roles as professors and administrators.

It is impossible to mention all of the remarkable women of SLU in just one story, but we have chosen a few women to highlight for their roles in furthering the Jesuit mission at Saint Louis University.

Mary Bruemmer first came to SLU in 1938 as a freshman when only five percent of students were women. She returned in 1956 as a member of the staff, earning her master’s degree in 1960. During her long career, Bruemmer served as the dean of women, dean of student affairs and assistant to the vice president for development. Since retiring in 1990, Bruemmer has remained an abiding presence on campus as a volunteer, and at age 95, is still working out of her office in DuBourg Hall. 

In her more than 40 years at SLU, Ellen Harshman, Ph.D., J.D. has filled many roles. As a professor, she has taught students business, law, ethics and leadership. During her time at SLU, she also took on the role of student, earning her Ph.D. in 1978 and J.D. in 1992. In 2003, Harshman became the first woman to serve as dean of the John Cook School of Business. The recipient of several teaching awards, Harshman has been recognized by the St. Louis Business Journal as one of the area’s “Most Influential Business Women,” as well as one of the “Most Influential Leaders.” At present, she serves as Vice President for Academic Affairs and is responsible for institutional planning at SLU. She provides vision and leadership for academic deans and directors in the University’s colleges, schools and centers, the University’s campus in Madrid, the University Libraries, and the Division of Enrollment and Retention Management. When Harshman retires from SLU on June 30th, she will leave behind a great legacy of leadership, service and excellence.

Patricia Monteleone, M.D. came to SLU as an undergrad in 1953 and remained a part of the University in many different capacities. She earned her medical degree in 1961, followed thirty years later by her master’s degree in health and business administration in 1991. When she was appointed dean of SLU’s School of Medicine in 1994, she was one of the first women to lead a U.S. medical school. Upon her retirement in 2008, Monteleone Hall, which houses the department of neurology and psychiatry, academic offices, patient treatment and clinical research, was dedicated in her honor. When Monteleone received the School of Medicine Pioneer Award in 2011, she was noted as a trailblazer and role model for professional women. 

Like those early Jesuits who came to St. Louis with a commitment to education and service, today’s leaders continue to further that mission. The women who are shaping the modern Jesuit colleges and universities carry the accomplishments of those who came before them and are paving the way for those who will continue to embrace the Jesuit mission far into the future.

By Janice Voltzow, Ph.D., Professor of Biology, The University of Scranton

Dr. Janice Voltzow (Photo by The University of Scranton)

Dr. Janice Voltzow (Photo by The University of Scranton)

Women are underrepresented in almost all fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Across disciplines, female faculty report problems with respect, isolation and balancing the responsibilities of work and family that can limit career success. Compounding the problem at primarily undergraduate institutions (PUIs) is the difficulty of retaining STEM women faculty, who typically carry large teaching and advising loads and are often the only females in their departments.

Most research about what enhances or inhibits career success for STEM women faculty has been gathered from studies at larger, research-intensive universities where faculty operate within distinctly different circumstances. Whether private or public, PUIs are often characterized by faculty governance, high expectations of service, an emphasis on teaching with small classes and low student-faculty ratios, and small departments with few, if any, female colleagues in their STEM departments. Thus, PUIs provide specific career opportunities and challenges for women faculty members. 

These unique challenges have led to a fascinating project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Four women faculty in STEM at The University of Scranton are part of a project, whose principal investigator, Joanne Smieja, Ph.D., is professor of chemistry at Gonzaga University. All four co-investigators are also from Jesuit institutions, including Graciela Lacueva, Ph.D. of John Carroll University; Roberta Sabin, Ph.D. of Loyola University Maryland; Kathy Zhong, Ph.D. of University of Detroit Mercy; and myself from The University of Scranton. The group received a grant for $600,000 over five years from NSF to develop peer networking to promote professional development for STEM women faculty at PUIs. 

The project’s backbone and the subject of its inquiry is peer networking, long believed to be a powerful tool for supporting all kinds of professionals, especially faculty. Peer mentoring and networking offer access to information and resources that encourage career advancement. Moreover, these associations facilitate opportunities to improve the status, effectiveness and visibility of a faculty member through relationships with new colleagues, shared knowledge about institutional cultures, and raised awareness of innovative projects and new challenges. The entire project, called ASAP ADVANCE, is an experiment on the impact of networking on the careers of the participants. Ultimately, the results of the study will be used to help guide future opportunities for networking for STEM women faculty and identify ways of promoting and retaining them.

The project includes 70 tenured or tenure-track women from 28 PUIs across the country. At the heart of the networking project is a system of “alliances.” Each alliance consists of four to six women who are in the same or similar STEM discipline at a similar stage of their career, designated early, mid or senior. The women within an alliance meet with each other via videoconference at least once a month. Alliance members also meet in person once a year over the course of the four-year project. Since launching the study in 2012, investigators have concluded that by far the most popular networking tool is the in-person meeting. 

In addition, networking groups have been set up based on discipline and career level. The networks communicate through email and listservs, which provide ways for members to share opportunities for funding and conferences, as well as articles about women in the sciences. Discussions cover a wide range of topics: What factors have been helpful across the faculty’s career? How did they get to where they are? What opportunities or challenges have they met as they advanced in their careers? Who are their role models? Why choose their selected discipline?

Horizontal networks allow women across disciplines to discuss their successes and challenges as faculty members. Each horizontal network consists of women at similar career levels. A vertical network is composed of women in similar disciplines, but different career levels. There are five vertical networks: biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics/engineering and engineering/computer science. These networks permit the women to focus on aspects of their career specific to their discipline. Networking also provides more junior faculty (usually assistant professors) the opportunity to seek advice about advancement from more senior women (usually associate or full professors).

One encouraging result of ASAP ADVANCE is that students are directly benefiting from the networking. For example, members of the Early-Career Math Alliance are collaborating on an exploratory study to determine whether emulating professional mathematical journal writing (content, mathematics literacy) improves students’ conceptual understanding of mathematics, attitudes toward mathematics, and writing ability in mathematics. This study should lead to publishable results.

In another example, one network chemist recently visited a network colleague at a different institution so that she could learn specific laboratory techniques. She will incorporate these techniques into inquiry-based exercises for her biochemistry laboratory.

The benefits of supportive colleagues to faculty and their students are coming into focus. Networking has long been acknowledged, at least on an informal basis, to play a vital if under-appreciated role in career development. ASAP ADVANCE is finding that it is an even more crucial ingredient for career success and satisfaction for women in STEM.