During the 2022 fall faculty and staff meetings, President Eric F. Spina highlighted a statistic that might have gone unnoticed by many at the University of Dayton — for the first time in University history, the majority of students have a woman as their dean.
"Think about the significance of that fact," Spina said. "While we may marvel at this milestone, this is the students’ norm, and there’s no reason it shouldn’t become ours."
Gül Kremer (School of Engineering) and Danielle Poe (College of Arts and Sciences) became deans this year, joining Ali Carr-Chellman (School of Education and Health Sciences), Kathy Webb (University Libraries), Trevor Collier (School of Business Administration) and Andrew Strauss (School of Law).
The current makeup of the University’s senior academic leadership didn’t happen by chance. Paul Benson, provost and executive vice president of academic affairs, understood that change at the leadership level required a greater sense of intention and commitment toward developing diverse pools of talented, historically underrepresented candidates.
That included female representation at the co-chair position on search committees, position descriptions that highlight UD’s efforts toward diversity and inclusion, and UD-wide initiatives that improve the climate for women on campus.
"For people in that early to mid-career phase, it signals that there are opportunities for them here," said Lisa Borello, executive director of the Women’s Center and research professor of applied sociology. "They don’t need to look outside the institution to grow."
Benson and Borello also emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for women at the associate dean level and in the provost’s office. In the College, all three associate deans are women; Poe, who’s been at UD since 2001, spent seven years as associate dean for curriculum and academic outcomes. Carolyn Roecker Phelps is the first woman to serve as associate provost for faculty and administrative affairs, and when Benson created an associate provost position for global and intercultural affairs in 2017, he appointed Amy Anderson to that role.
"Having a diversity of opinions around the table makes for more inclusive conversations. It’s a new world and it feels good."
UD’s reputation for going "the extra mile" to engage candidates with a broad group of students, faculty and staff helps create a positive, lasting impression. Kremer said she appreciated that people she met at UD wanted to understand her core values and learn more about her as a person, not just as a potential dean.
University leaders stress there’s still more work to be done to elevate women as leaders across campus. But by developing an infrastructure to hire and promote talented women at all levels, that success builds on itself and puts the University in a much stronger position for the future.
"I think it’s really important for people at the University to see more women in these roles," said Webb, UD’s longest-serving active dean. "When we started to see more women as vice presidents but not as deans, I think it was a real stress point for many on campus. I know the discussion at our dean meetings now is very different — and better. Having a diversity of opinions around the table makes for more inclusive conversations. It’s a new world and it feels good."