Congratulations to Dr. Cheryl McConnell on today’s inauguration as the 29th President of Saint Joseph’s University. We’re honored to have Dr. McConnell serve as a City Ave District board member, to help further connect campus life to the District. Ahead of her inauguration, Dr. McConnell was gracious enough to participate in our “3 Quick Things” series to share her perspectives on her new role, key accomplishments and the importance of the Saint Joseph’s and City Ave District relationship.

How do you approach being a “first” leader — in your case, the first woman president in the 172 history of Saint Joseph’s University? Does being the first make it more exciting, pressure-driven?

I feel extremely proud to be leading Saint Joseph’s and I believe I have the right leadership experience to meet this moment in our history, regardless of my gender. The fact that I am the first female president doesn’t necessarily make me feel added pressure. I do, however, recognize how important this is to women in our community and I feel a sense of responsibility to successfully represent a group of people who for a long time were underrepresented. It’s been so humbling to know that my selection as president represents a milestone in the great history of Saint Joseph’s University.

Since joining Saint Joseph’s University in 2019, what project, initiative, or development makes you the proudest?

Saint Joseph’s was a frontrunner for our COVID-19 response, switching education to fully-online at rapid speed. We were also among the first universities regionally to return to on-ground operations. But even more remarkable is that during the very same summer we were preparing for an on-ground semester in a COVID-19 environment, we were granted a once-in-a-generation opportunity. University of the Sciences was searching for a partner and approached Saint Joseph’s as one of the universities under consideration. From the start, it was clear that this was a singular match because of the mission alignment in our approach to a student-focused, hands-on teacher-scholar model; highly complementary in academic portfolio, with little overlap; and the commitment to develop an academic portfolio at the intersection of student interest and societal need.

So, in summary, I am extremely proud of our University’s ability to adapt quickly and effectively to serve our students and to respond to and harness new opportunities.

What do you think is the greatest value Saint Joseph’s University brings to supporting the overall growth and vitality of City Ave District and the surrounding area? Does being newly appointed to the City Ave District Board further enable this?

Saint Joseph’s has been on City Ave for nearly 100 years and we plan on being here for at least another century. We are an anchor institution. As such, we take the long view, which not only serves us well, but also the community. We also exist on both sides of City Avenue, giving us a unique perspective. Accordingly, we see first hand that our strength as a district lies in the diversity of the people, as well as the topography. At the same time, we see the commonalities too. We all want a vibrant corridor that is clean, safe, easy to navigate and offers those of us who live and work here access to great culture, dining, shopping and schools.

Serving on the City Ave District Board enables St. Joe’s to bring that long term perspective to the table. At the same time, it’s important for our University to not only hear from the other stakeholders on the Avenue, but to get to know them so we can work better together.