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Colleen Hanycz Set to Lead Xavier University as 35th President

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By Jessica Rinaudo

Xavier University in Cincinnati has announced the hire of a new president – and with that appointment brings a series of firsts for the 190-year-old institution. Colleen Hanycz, PhD, is the university’s first lay person and first woman president, a role Hanycz is eager to embrace.

“This was an opportunity to continue my commitment to higher education. I’ve been a president for 13 years now at two different institutions. This will be the first time I’ve been at a Jesuit institution, but I’m really excited for that opportunity,” she said.

Hanycz currently serves as President of La Salle University in Philadelphia, a Lasallian, Catholic university. Prior to that, she served for seven years as Principal (President) of Brescia University College in London, Ontario, Canada, a Catholic women’s university in the Ursuline tradition.

Catholic higher education has been a vocational calling for Hanycz, one discerned through prayer alongside her husband and three children.

“My job has been to really identify where God would like to see me next and that has been, certainly for my husband and me, a shared vocation, a shared question, a shared discernment, and for our family, as well,” said Hanycz. “ [It’s been] about where is the place that we can go next, hopefully to make the most positive impact.”

A former associate professor of law, Hanycz possesses an excellent teaching and academic background, with a demonstrated passion for student-centered education and leadership.

“My first presidency I served at Brescia University College in Canada. Brescia is the only women’s university in the country. It happens to be an Ursuline school. And I had the opportunity to really interrogate the notion of women’s leadership: what does that mean and how is that different?,” she said.

Hanycz continued, “The more that we have representation from an entire diversity of thoughts and viewpoints, and lived experience and skill sets – it makes our decisions better, our strategies better. With higher ed in particular, it allows us to serve our students better.”

Her idea of serving sits squarely with her views on the benefits of Catholic higher education.

“Across Catholic higher ed you see a focus on formation, of young men and young women, that often provides a service, [and makes] the world better,” she said. “The Catholic university sits squarely at the intersection of faith and reason and it is an institution that we need to strengthen in the world as we look around and see a dire need of authentic leadership.”

She continued, “With all this going on around us today, [students] need educators, faculty, staff, all around them who are going to help them look at the world and make sense out of it. I really want to be part of that.”

As with any major move, comes change. Hanycz is ready to embrace the Queen City, the local Catholic community, and the lives of Xavier students.

“It will be at the top of my list to connect at a parish level. … We must be grounded in our local Catholic community and that will be an absolute priority when we get there,” she said.

Hanycz continued, “The thing I’m most focused on right now is immersing myself in Xavier community and then in the broader Cincinnati community. To really get to know the people… and assuring them that I am going to be part of them, that I’m going to share their hopes and their dreams and their aspirations and that we are all going to work together towards that.”

Hanycz will serve as the 35th President of Xavier University, succeeding Father Michael J. Graham, S.J. Father Graham will continue his role as president through June 30, 2021. Hanycz will begin her new role effective July 1, 2021.

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