They were inspired by the many female leaders who hold positions at St. Joseph’s College — and the very Sisters who made those roles possible.
That’s why Drs. Jo Anne Durovich, Amy Poland and Rachel Schwartz, in collaboration with S. Suzanne Franck, CSJ, Ph.D., decided to write an article about the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph (CSSJ) and their history of academic leadership, which the Journal of Women in Educational Leadership published in September.
“We felt strongly that this story needs to be told,” said Durovich, Ph.D., LMSW, associate professor and chair of Human Services, and director of the Human Services Leadership and Social Work graduate programs.
The article, titled “‘Let Us Roll Up Our Sleeves’: Amplifying Female Academic Leadership Through Collaboration and Mentorship,” honors the many women religious who paved the way for all the female leaders to since follow in their footsteps.
“I have always said there is a different feeling of ‘community’ here at SJC, and I think a lot of that comes from the leadership provided by the Sisters that continues today, especially among female leaders on campus,” said Poland, Ph.D., who serves as associate dean and director of Online Learning, and professor of Criminal Justice.
Sharing Their Story
The CSSJ founded the College 105 years ago, starting originally as a college for women in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. St. Joseph’s has since expanded its reach, eventually welcoming men students and creating an additional campus in Patchogue, as well as one online.
“Part of what drew me to the College is how the Sisters so deeply believe in the power of a liberal arts education — that learning can truly free us from the shackles of ignorance — and that all students should have the opportunity to have this experience,” said Schwartz, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology and coordinator of the human relations program.
Not only has the College encouraged many women to reach their full potential and excel in their careers — graduating more than 43,000 individuals worldwide since its founding — it continues to employ more female leaders than most other colleges.
“We are at a watershed moment with so many of the Sisters now retired. It is now on those of us in leadership positions to continue to honor and further the examples they provided,” Dr. Poland said.
This year, eight Sisters stepped down from their full-time positions at St. Joseph’s College. For more than half of the College’s history, Sisters held the position of president at St. Joseph’s.
“The role of leadership has changed for the female gender in all aspects of life — although not sufficiently in certain cultures, religions and countries,” said S. Suzanne, who stepped down this semester from her role as the director of the Academic Advisement Center at SJC Long Island in order to take on a leadership position within the CSSJ, where she will minster to Sisters in both Suffolk County and Puerto Rico.
“For centuries, women were not permitted in leadership positions in business, politics and religious areas,” S. Suzanne continued. “From our founding in 1650, the Sisters of St. Joseph have demonstrated strength, wisdom, courage and leadership skills. Although often faced with adversity, Sisters continue to stand firm in their beliefs and provide leadership. This has led Sisters into arenas once prohibited, and to be creative in using our leadership skills to foster justice for all.”
Continuing Their Impact
Despite their presence no longer being what it once was, the Sisters of St. Joseph continue to impact leadership at the College. Their mission remains at the forefront of SJC.
“The Sisters are a radical group of social justice advocates, and I was so proud to join them in living this mission,” Dr. Schwartz said. “Working on the article helped me feel an even deeper connection to my community. I hope that readers are able to appreciate the Sisters as an amazing, inclusive, activist group of leaders who literally built a college from the ground.”
Through this recently published article and through the leadership of such women as Drs. Durovich, Poland and Schwartz, the College continues to feel the influence of the CSSJ.
“I am deeply grateful to have had the opportunity to work beside women of the caliber of the Sisters,” Dr. Durovich said. “As a social worker, so much of my own mission aligns with their work, and I am humbled by the depth of their devotion to St. Joseph’s and their community. Their grace, compassion and commitment to ensuring access to education for all is truly inspirational, and I am grateful for the mentoring I have received from many of the Sisters.”