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SXU Celebrates Women's History Month With Strong Female Leaders


A group of empowered female leaders are serving on the Senior Leadership Team at Saint Xavier University (SXU) in Chicago, and their work today perpetuates the mission set in motion by five female Sisters of Mercy who arrived to Chicago 175 years ago.

Much like the women who started Saint Xavier, Chicago's first Catholic university, the women who serve the SXU community today are resilient and determined in their quest to bolster the historic mission of preparing students for meaningful lives and successful careers.

Led by President Laurie M. Joyner, Ph.D., the Senior Leadership Team includes a diverse group of faculty and staff women, including: Gwendolyn George, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, interim provost; Bindhu Alappat, Ph.D., interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Char Bermele, DNP, interim dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences; Kathleen Carlson, Ph.D., executive director of Institutional Research; Jenny DeVivo, Ph.D., executive director for Mission and Heritage; Maggie Eaheart, M.A., chief of staff; Erin Mueller, M.A., AVP for University Advancement; Deb Rapacz, M.A., AVP for Marketing and Communications; and Katy Thompson, M.A., Dean of Students.

Together and under President Joyner's leadership, the team has worked to position the University for a strong future, accomplishing a number of remarkable achievements, including:

  • Enrolling three of the largest and most diverse classes in the University's 175-year history;
  • Launching strategic initiatives to create new academic programs, invest in an equity and inclusion agenda and support high-impact practices; 
  • Elevating the collective voices of faculty, staff and students, many of them also strong women, by establishing University-wide committees that offer robust avenues for community members to engage in critical University work.

Parallel to the leadership of President Joyner is the work of Mother Agatha O'Brien, whose 200th birthday is celebrated in 2022. She was the first Sister of Mercy to be received as a novice in the United States in 1844 and made her final vows in 1846. Just months later, she became Mother Agatha, the first superior of the Sisters of Mercy at the age of 24.

Thought to be "capable of ruling a nation," Mother Agatha was described as a woman of remarkable judgment with a keen business sense. As Saint Xavier's first directress, or president, her work is responsible for the education of thousands of students across the globe, and President Joyner and her powerful team of woman leaders continue to preserve and prolong the mission established in 1846.

As we celebrate Women's History Month in 2022, we look to the Sisters of Mercy who paved the way for today's tenacious female leaders at Saint Xavier to prepare students to, much like the Sisters aspired, change the world for the better.