Women Executive Leaders
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Women Executive Leaders in Catholic Higher Education

The history of Catholic higher education is marked by strong women leaders and the congregations of women religious that founded many of our institutions. Today, Catholic colleges and universities continue to boast a higher percentage of women presidents than any other higher education sector. We are now at a pivotal moment in history, as lay and religious women are being called to carry forth the rich legacy of our colleges and universities as senior leaders and presidents. ACCU seeks to support women to meet current leadership demands and thrive in Catholic higher education executive positions.


2023 Women Executive Leaders in Catholic Higher Education Conference

Friday, February 3, 2023Women Executive Leaders Conference Attendees

8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (Eastern)
The Capital Hilton Hotel as a part of the 2023 Annual Meeting


Pharos Resources, LLC

Sponsored by Pharos Resources, LLC



Conference Program (PDF)
7:00 a.m. - 8:30 a.m.

Continental Breakfast Available

8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. Opening Prayer, and Conference Overview
9:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.

Session 1:  Women Leaders: Rising to Our Times in Catholic Higher Education
From her new book "Rising: Learning from Women's Leadership in Catholic Ministries", Dr. Carolyn Woo will lead a discussion about various opportunities and misconceptions for women leaders and the implications she sees for Catholic higher education.

Carolyn Woo, Former CEO, Catholic Relief Services

10:15 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Session 2:  Rising Together
During this session, Sister Carol Keehan, DC, will draw on her vast experience in Catholic healthcare and reflect on how to bring one's convictions into the public sphere. She will also offer some practical suggestions to facilitate difficult conversations in a deeply divided Church and world.

Sister Carol Keehan, DC, Former President and Chief Executive Officer, The Catholic Health Association of the United States

12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Lunch & Fellowship
1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Session 3:  Rising To Our Callings:  The Essential Need for Women (Lay and Religious) Leaders in Catholic Higher Education Today
Dr. Donna Orsuto will offer ways participants can see their essential roles as leaders in Catholic higher education, even if they are not Catholic, not an actively practicing Catholic, or have disagreements with some aspects of Church teachings.

Donna Orsuto, Co-Founder and Director of The Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas in Rome, Italy

2:00 p.m. - 2:15 p.m. Break
2:15 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.

Session 4:  Rising with Spirit, Mind, and Body
Dr. Holly Slay Ferraro will explain how women executive leaders can ensure that Catholic higher education is a safe place for women to lead with their whole selves: spirit, mind, and body.

Holly Slay Ferraro, Associate Professor of Management and the Faculty Director for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Teaching and Research, School of Business,  Villanova University

3:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Closing Remarks & Sending Prayer


“Having attended the inaugural ACCU Women Executive Leaders Conference in 2020, I highly recommend this opportunity to women who are in, or aspire to, executive leadership roles in Catholic higher education. Last year's speakers were insightful and inspiring, and the opportunity to dialogue with other women who lead important work on their campuses was a great gift.” 

— Julie Massey, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, St. Norbert College

Check out last year's conference!
2022 Conference Details & Resources


We are grateful to our 2023 Women Executive Leaders Conference Planning Committee for their assistance in planning this year's events! 

DeBrenna Agbenyiga, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Stonehill College
Kathryn Jennings, Associate Vice President for Student Engagement, The Catholic University of America
Lauren McCrary, Vice President for Executive Affairs and Chief of Staff, Brescia University
Catherine Punsalan-Manlimos, Vice President for Mission Integration, Seattle University
Anita Thomas, Executive Vice President and Provost, St. Catherine University