History in the Making: Women Lead Five of the University’s Six Academic Colleges


Courtesy of The Villanovan

A car passes on Lancaster Avenue, in front of the St. Thomas of Villanova Church.

Jack Birle Staff Writer

On July 31, Dr. Michele Marcolongo began her tenure as Drsodick Endowed Dean of the College of Engineering. With Marcolongo’s appointment, for the first time ever, five of the six academic deans at the University are women.

Marcolongo spent the last 20 years of her career at Drexel University. Most recently, she was the department head of Materials Science and Engineering in Drexel’s College of Engineering.

Along with Marcolongo, Dean Adele Lindenmeyr, Ph.D. of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dean Joyce E. A. Russell, Ph.D. of the School of Business, Dean Donna S. Havens, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, of the College of Nursing and Dean Christine Kelleher Palus, Ph.D of the College of Professional Studies serve as the other female academic Deans at the University. 

The University’s leadership looks to these Deans as a positive change for students and faculty. In a statement, University Provost Patrick G. Maggitti echoed these ideas.

“We are proud that Villanova is among the leaders on this front, with five of the University’s six colleges led by women,” Maggitti said. “In Deans Havens, Lindenmeyr, Marcolongo, Palus and Russell, Villanova has five exceptionally talented leaders, scholars and educators. Their strong, groundbreaking leadership sets an inspiring example for their students and faculty members, and we hope more will follow in their footsteps.”

According to the Deans, the group of women work closely together in a collaborative effort to better their respective colleges.

“Coming from a variety of academic disciplines and various other universities and backgrounds, I think we all bring a unique perspective to the table,” Dean Palus said. “In my own career, I can’t say there has been a lot of moments where most of the people at the table are women, so it is really an interesting dynamic, and it is great to be a part of.”

“[The Deans] are all really good friends,” Dean Russell said. “Other senior leaders have said [the Deans group] is probably the closest it’s ever been at Villanova. We are very collaborative…and we want each other to be successful.” 

Since joining the University faculty in 1987, Dean Lindenmeyr noted how the landscape for women has changed for leadership roles in higher education.

“There are just a lot more women,” Lindenmeyr said. “There are not only women in the deans positions, but also women in the [University] President’s cabinet. Where there are still few women is in the ranks of senior faculty.”

Dean Havens sees the future landscape for women in higher education involving more representation and opportunities in leadership. 

“I think the door has been opened and people are seeing the value of what women bring to the leadership role,” Havens said. “I think [women] bring skills to the leadership side, great negotiation skills, empathy and understanding…It’s up to [women in leadership] to continue to do a good job and reach back and bring others forward.”

Dean Marcolongo found a mentor at Drexel University as a female role model while she pursued her career.

“Dr. Banu Oneral, she was a senior faculty when I started as a faculty member at Drexel,” Marcolongo said. “From my interview and through my entire career, she has really advised me and given me mentorship. She made me see things that were possible for me possible in my career.”

Marcolongo also said she is most excited for the caring and student oriented culture that University has to offer.