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SXU Celebrates Women's History Month

SXU faculty participate in a women's panel.

With a rich legacy built by some of the world's most tenacious women leaders, Saint Xavier University (SXU) proudly celebrates Women's History Month. Catherine McAuley, Frances Xavier Warde, and Mother Agatha O'Brien played pivotal roles in giving Saint Xavier, the first Mercy institution of higher learning in the world, life. In 1831, Catherine McAuley set the Sisters of Mercy in motion in Ireland, and in 1846, under the guidance of Mother Frances Xavier Warde in Chicago, the Sisters of Mercy chartered the institution, initially founded as an academy for females. Mother Agatha O'Brien served as its first directress, or president.    

Today, SXU's innovative, strong, and inspiring faculty and staff women who are integral to perpetuating Saint Xavier's mission and carrying on the legacy of its founding trailblazers reflected upon Women's History Month and its ties to their lives, careers, relationships, and values.  

"As a young woman studying music at university, I was inspired by my piano professor and mentor, Mary Sauer. Professor Sauer won her principal keyboard position in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at a time when women were still not fully accepted or respected as professional musicians. She inspired me to follow in her footsteps and realize my dream of a career that combines symphonic orchestra performance with university-level teaching. I hope to inspire the young women I teach at Saint Xavier in the same way -- to follow their career dreams in music and to pass that inspiration on to future generations." - Patricia Lee, Director of Keyboard Studies 

"As I walk through our SXU halls where I once was an undergraduate student many years ago, I only wished that I had the same courage, ambition, and drive that my female students own today as they navigate through their educational journeys while maintaining resilience, self-worth, and pride, educating their fellow peers and the SXU community about the importance of service, leadership, and their continued fight for social justice, equality, and change through their organizations such as MSA, SJP, BSU, SASA, Sin Límites, Emerging Scholars, Spectrum Alliance, Start By Believing, Students for H.O.P.E., ALPFA, PFC, Service Club, and many others. Their profound advocacy is unmistakably heard."  - Manal Kanaan, Ed.D., Director of High Impact Practices  

"I am deeply inspired by the women I work with who are on a mission to make Saint Xavier and the world a better place. As a younger staff member, I look up to these women as my role models and mentors, and they all encourage me to pursue my goals. By watching them excel, I am motivated to work harder, break boundaries, and believe in myself." - Nicole Retiz, Content Specialist 

"Witnessing the success of our students is a wonderful thing -- every month and for every occasion! Whether they are receiving an internal award, external recognition, athletic accolades, or academic honors, the young women of SXU are exceptional. They are compassionate, resilient, and dedicated to leaving things better than how they found them. I am proud to be even a small part of their college journeys."  - Katy Thompson, Vice President for Student Life 

"I am inspired by the legacy of Catherine McAuley: She not only founded a religious order focused on uplifting the lives of women and children, but she also committed the Sisters to engage with the broader community at a time when religious sisters were more cloistered. In particular, I am struck by her words that encourage us to 'resolve to do good today, but better tomorrow.' To strive and build a better community is not a one-and-done endeavor; it is a calling that asks us to find a purpose larger than ourselves that connects us to one another and to humanity itself." - Gina Rossetti, Ph.D., Interim Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Education 

"I find daily inspiration in the remarkable women I have the privilege of working alongside at University Relations. Our team comprises of eight extraordinary women, each radiating intelligence and strength. Together, we are fostering a culture of mutual upliftment and unwavering support." - Maggie Warrington, Project Manager  

"I am inspired by the Mercy Mission of service and have been fortunate to be guided by two Sisters of Mercy at Saint Xavier University from when I started, Sr. Susan Sanders and Sr. Frances Crean. Avis Clendenen and Jenny DeVivo are other women at Saint Xavier University who continue to help me stay rooted in serving as an educator at Saint Xavier University." - Sharada Buddha, Ph.D., Chemistry Professor 

"I am filled with gratitude to work alongside the exceptional women across the University. They are brave, resilient, and inspiring. I see each day how their remarkable work positively impacts our students, encouraging them to break barriers, exercise innovation, and better their communities. I have always held Saint Xavier's Mercy mission close to my heart and will ceaselessly continue to perpetuate it. We know that there is still much work to be done in leveling the playing field for women, but with the unyielding grit and determination of the women who surround me, I am certain we will make progress." - Breeanna Villalpando, Director of Marketing and Communication Projects 

"In the realm of academic leadership, it's increasingly common to find women assuming roles such as Vice President of Student Success and Inclusion, particularly as Chief Diversity Officers, with statistics indicating that around 63.35% of CDOs are women (NADOHE, 2023). As a woman in this capacity, my aspiration is to offer representation and serve as a role model, fostering diversity and inclusion within our institution, drawing inspiration from the values upheld by the Sisters of Mercy—compassion, mercy, and justice—closely aligned with the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.   

The Sisters of Mercy's enduring legacy of advocating for marginalized communities resonates deeply with me, as does their commitment to education as a catalyst for empowerment and societal change—a cornerstone of DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging) work. My goal is to champion professional growth opportunities for all women, empowering them to chart their own paths and realize their full potential. 

The Office of Inclusive Excellence's recent book panel discussions (to celebrate National Women's History Month), including the impactful work of authors like Caroline Criado Perez and Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez, delve into critical topics such as gender bias, discrimination, and societal expectations. Through these discussions, our aim is to inspire and empower women students by shedding light on current gender disparities, celebrating triumphs, and providing tangible role models to emulate, thereby reinforcing the message that there are no limits to what they can achieve. 

I firmly believe that there are no limits to what women can achieve, and I am committed to being a champion who encourages them to pursue their aspirations fearlessly. Our SXU community embodies remarkable resilience and empowerment, and I am privileged to be part of a community that fosters such values." - Natalie Page, Ed.D., Vice President of Student Success and Inclusion