University Announcement: New Provost

News Story: October 1, 2011
President Petillo welcomes
Laura Niesen de Abruna, Ph.D., as provost.

I am very pleased to announce that Laura Niesen de Abruna, Ph.D., will be the new provost at Sacred Heart University. Dr. Niesen de Abruna is an exceptional scholar and academic leader with documented success in the areas addressed by SHU’s five-year strategic plan.

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.

Dr. Michael W. Higgins and Dr. June-Ann Greeley chat with new Provost Niesen de Abruna during the reception.

She has 14 years of higher education management experience, most recently in the role of executive vice president, provost and professor of English at Roger Williams University. Prior to taking on management positions, she taught for 24 years. 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 after a lengthy search that included consideration of a number of highly qualified candidates. It was not an easy task, and my grateful thanks go to the members of the search committee:

  • Dr. Andra Gumbus, chair of the Search Committee and associate professor of Management
  • Dr. Jody Bortone, clinical associate professor of Occupational Therapy
  • Dr. Edward Hendricks, clinical assistant professor, Education
  • Dr. Michael W. Higgins, vice president for Mission and Catholic Identity
  • Dr. Stephen Lilley, chair/associate professor, of Sociology
  • Dr. Lucjan Orlowski, professor of Economics and Finance 
  • Dr. Brian Stiltner, Chair/associate professor of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies

I also want to thank all of you who shared your thoughts and provided feedback to the committee during this process. Your input was invaluable.

It is appropriate that Dr. Niesen de Abruna joins us as we celebrate “a time for new beginnings.” Her new role will be critical to the success of our strategic plan, our mission and our goals. I am confident that her passion for academic rigor and excellence, along with her creativity, vision and work ethic, will lead her to great success here at SHU.

She will formally assume her new role on December 12. I hope you will join me in welcoming Dr. Niesen de Abruna as our new provost.

John J. Petillo, Ph.D.