Female leaders are the norm at Georgian Court University (GCU). The private Roman Catholic university boasts a majority of female leadership, with women heading all four of her Academic Her Schools as deans.
Currently, the four Deans of GCU are: dBachelor of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Jennifer Edmonds, Dean of Business & Digital Media. Dr. Terri Wurmser, Dean of the Hackensack Meridian Health School of Nursing and Wellness. Dr. Kelly McNeil, Dean of the School of Education.
McNeal was the last to join (she joined in July 2022). Her appointment cemented her 100% female dean rate at GCU.
GCU in New Jersey has women in leadership positions at other schools, including Director of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiative. Director of Career Services, Director of Financial Aid, Director of Global Education.
This isn’t the first time the GCU has had an all-female dean, said Dr. Janice Warner. President of GCU. Warner, a former dean of the GCU School of Business, said that during his time as dean, all three of GCU’s deans were still women.
Founded in 1908 by the Sisters of Mercy of New Jersey, GCU has been led by women for most of its existence. Increasingly, other colleges and universities are also following this tradition. Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, DC, recently announced that it now has 10 female deans. In 2014, she was the only female dean.
“Georgian Court’s tradition is primarily about consideration for women,” said Dr. Joy Smith, Vice Chancellor of Student Support and Services at GCU. “So this is really nothing out of the ordinary, or different. If you look at the previous president of the institution, [current GCU President Dr. Joe Marbach], they were apparently all female. So women in leadership are nothing new to our institution. And students expect that dynamic because it’s already baked into the culture. …they expect women to be leaders. ”
Although the school became coeducational in 2012, considerations for women remain. And that concern could also play into the fact that so many women are in key roles, said Marbach, the first man to lead the school and the first layman.
“[GCU having all its deans be women is] Some accidents are because we had male candidates when we looked for other positions,” Marbach said. “We are blessed with very capable and capable female managers who have applied for these positions, and they were a natural choice. I think that special interest is what attracts more women to actually volunteer.”
GCU’s overwhelmingly female-led culture and operations provide a role model for the student body, which as of 2022 has been identified to be 73% female, Marbach said.
“I think this will help us provide a really good role model for our student body,” said Marbach.
Chinery and Wurmser echo that sentiment, with Wurmser calling the availability of role models “essential.”
“Historically, we were an all-girls college, so most of our role models at the time were women,” Chinnery says. In our curriculum, I think it’s a role model for students.
Over the last 15 years, more than 50% of GCU’s board and management positions have been held by women. And by 2022, women will make up 67% of her faculty.
There is a camaraderie among this majority of women, said interim student dean Dr. Suzanne Phillips, who took office last August.
“The camaraderie between the women, the dean, and the people I work with every day is a great experience.” phillips said“So for me, it’s been a great experience to be able to talk to other women who understand your problems and challenges and are passionate about offering support and advice.”
Edmonds added that it was “amazing” to work with so many women, especially in the business world.
“The problem is that most senior executives in the business aren’t women. Half aren’t women,” Edmonds said. “So if you go to a conference where there are very few women, especially women of color, you don’t necessarily feel connected to people the moment you’re there.
“But Georgia courts are the exact opposite of that, because I feel like there are people wearing my shoes on campus. I often think there’s only one in a role,” she added.