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  • Writer's picturePatricia Salkin

Lawyer Colleen Hanycz is the 1st Woman and 1st Layperson to Lead Two Religiously Affiliated Campuses

When Colleen M. Hanycz assumed the presidency of Xavier University in July 2021(Cinncinati,OH), is was the second time she was experienced being the first woman and first layperson to lead a campus, having previously served as president of La Salle University (Philadelphia, PA). Hanycz also served a seven-year tenure as principal (president) of a third religiously affiliated school, Brescia University College, a Catholic women’s college (in the Ursuline tradition) in Ontario, Canada.

After earning her law degree at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Colleen Hanycz practiced in the areas of securities and employment litigation in Toronto, Canada with the firm of Heenan Blaikie LLP. She decided to pursue her academic interests, completing an LL.M. and a Ph.D. in law at York University . She was an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School where she taught Civil Procedure and Dispute Resolution before assuming the presidency at Brescia University College.

While at Brescia University College, among other things, Hanycz, “focused considerable efforts on the opportunity to enhance women’s representation both on corporate boards and across C-suite appointments, including service on a federal roundtable sponsored by the Canadian government.”

During an interview early in her tenure at LaSalle, she noted that it has been a challenge in the community as the first lay person and first woman at LaSalle – which did not begin accepted woman students until 1970. She noted that women make up 60% of the student body at LaSalle and that they have been welcoming her and indicating she is a role model. When asked about how she could bring the enrollment success she had a Brescia to LaSalle, she observed that at a lot of religiously affiliated schools (e.g., the Christian Brothers) stay quieter and don’t really tell their story. She noted in the higher education landscape of today, it is time to get the word out about religious affiliated schools.

At Xavier, like LaSalle, women were not admitted to the University until 1969 (a year earlier than LaSalle). Hanycz noted that “Catholic higher education is becoming more and more open to diversity.” Hanycz has easily navigated from an Ursuline affiliated school, to a LaSallian Christian Brothers school and now to a Jesuit institution.

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