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Incoming President Ready To Lead Xavier Out Of The Pandemic

Keith Klenowski
Xavier University
Colleen Hanycz, Ph.D., makes her first appearance at Xavier University. She takes over as president July 1.

Incoming Xavier University President Colleen Hanycz, Ph.D., doesn't take over until July 1, but she was in Cincinnati Monday to meet with the Xavier community and the media.

Hanycz takes the reins from Fr. Michael Graham, the university's longest serving president, who announced his retirement last March.

"To paraphrase the powerful words of our national youth poet laureate, Amanda Gorman, from last week's inauguration," Hancyz said, "we have witnessed a world that isn't broken but is simply unfinished. So, Xavier nation, let us spend time and creative energy in imagining how we will each contribute to that sacred work of finishing this unfinished world for the good of all."

Hanycz (pronounced "HAN-ish") is the first woman and first lay person to lead Xavier. In introducing her, Graham pointed out while these are firsts for Xavier, they are not for Hanycz.

"She's been there and she's done that, as the saying goes," he said, pointing to her experience as president of both La Salle University in Philadelphia and Brescia University in Canada, a Catholic women's university. "There is nothing that she will hear in the months ahead of her as she transitions and then on-boards that she does not already have the intellectual framework to hang exactly in its proper place and then ask follow up questions."

Hanycz takes the helm as the university - and world - climbs out of the coronavirus pandemic. She says she isn't coming into the position with a plan for the future but rather looks forward to crafting a joint vision with the university's leadership. She expects to do "a lot of listening and learning" once she arrives.

"I have done this for almost 13 years so I know the various ways that communities can move and we will have those conversations, but I am absolutely not coming here saying these are the five things we're going to do. We're going to decide what the five things are that we are going to do," she tells WVXU.

Hanycz also views emerging from the pandemic as a "watershed moment" for higher education. She anticipates the landscape of higher education will look very different and Xavier will need to be prepared.

"Families who were already questioning the value of a college degree will emerge from COVID perhaps with increased financial strain, with a recognition that, perhaps, the traditional residential undergraduate model may not be as necessary to prepare their children for reliable careers. As the demographic shifts anticipated in this country continue to arrive, the value proposition will intensify as the true cost of college degrees - debt compounded by years of interest - is weighed against what some will see as lost opportunities. Xavier will continue to need to position itself here at this very intersection of faith and reason, informing women and men for and with others. And doing that in a way that allows us to lay the foundation for an excellent education, part of the common good, truly, that is accessible to all."

Hanycz, a native of Canada, holds a B.A. in history from St. Michael's College in Toronto; a JD from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia; and an LL.M. and Ph.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.