Laura Niesen de Abruna Joins SHU as the New Provost

News Story: September 13, 2012

Laura Niesen de Abruna, Ph.D., has been named provost, vice president for Academic Affairs and professor of English at Sacred Heart University. Dr. Niesen de Abruna has 14 years of higher education management experience, most recently in the role of provost, executive vice president for Academic Affairs and professor of English at Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI. Her experience prior to that included vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Heidelberg University; dean of the School of Arts, Humanities & Communication at Susquehanna University; and ACE Fellow and special assistant to the president for Strategic Planning at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego. Prior to taking on management positions, she taught for 24 years at the University of Texas, the University of Puerto Rico and Ithaca College.

Her many awards and achievements include a Fulbright-Hays Award, which led to positions as a research scholar at the Universite de Liege in Belgium and as visiting professor at the Center Universitaire de Luxembourg in 1991 and 1992 and another Fulbright-Hays Award, which led to a term as visiting professor of American Literature at the Universitaire Instelling Antwerpen in Belgium in 1990 and 1991; participation in the Wye Faculty Seminar: “Citizenship in the American Polity” in Queenstown, Maryland, during the summer of 1990 and the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar: “Issues in Feminist Theory,” directed by Professor Jane Gallop, The Center for Twentieth Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in the summer of 1988. She was also a recipient of the American Council of Learned Societies Travel Grant (ACLS), London, in the summer of 1987.

Dr. Niesen de Abruna has proven success at applying for and receiving grants, endowments and funding for projects at the institutions where she has worked. She also has been successful in enrolling and retaining students. At Roger Williams University, she put together a team of vice presidents to look at possibilities for curricular expansion and contraction as part of a strategic planning process to find previously unexplored market opportunities for the university. She also created a new position of dean of Graduate and Online programs to seek new areas of enrollment growth in the online environment.

She was selected by Sacred Heart after a lengthy search that included consideration of a number of highly qualified candidates.

She said she chose SHU because it is a “comprehensive institution that is first and foremost grounded in the liberal arts, but also offers professional programs in such areas as business, education and health sciences.” She values Sacred Heart’s strong Core Curriculum and the way that liberal arts are integrated with the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and personal and social responsibility.  “Sacred Heart is mission-driven with a set of values that relate to the Church, and there is a great deal of innovative thinking going on. The goal is to educate the whole person.”

Her top priority once she comes on board on December 12 will be to support the University’s strategic plan. “My primary responsibility will be the first goal of the plan, which is to increase academic excellence and distinctiveness. We will do that by promoting opportunities for active and engaged learning, strengthening our academic reputation and providing faculty development opportunities,” she said.

Dr. Niesen de Abruna holds a bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in French from Smith College and a doctorate in Modern American and British Literatures with a minor in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American Literatures from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. She also recently earned a M.S. Ed. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania.