Good Today, Better Tomorrow — Mercyhurst welcomes Dr. Getz as the 13th President

Gillian Mazur, Editor-in-chief

As of May 11, 2021, Mercyhurst University announced Dr. Kathleen Getz, Ph.D., as the university’s 13th president. Shattering the glass ceiling, Getz will be the first female President of the University since that of Sr. Carolyn Herrmann in the 1960s, but she is also the first laywoman to ever lead the school at such capacity.

Although she is new to Mercyhurst and its community, Getz is not new to Erie, PA. In her past, she studied, lived, and eventually taught at the Erie Business Center for a few years. Wanting to teach at a better institution, she moved away from her husband for a short time to go to Pittsburgh to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh.

Throughout her career, she taught at American University in Washington, D.C. and worked as a dean for Loyola University Chicago and Loyola University Maryland. At Loyola University Maryland, Getz acted as the Dean of the Business school for over ten years where she learned a lot about leadership.

Using her past knowledge and skills, she was able to pass every step of the application process— all of this leading up to the moment when Interim President, Joe NeCastro, called to tell her the position was hers.

With a rich history and legacy, Mercyhurst was founded as an all-girls school by the Sisters of Mercy back in 1926. It is only fitting that the University’s centennial in 2026 is celebrated with a woman at the forefront.

Getz’s inauguration is to be celebrated on Oct. 2 at 1:30 p.m. in the Mary D’Angelo Performing Arts Center. Getz is to be inaugurated with the theme of “Enriching the Circle of Mercy: Good Today, Better Tomorrow.”

Getz looks toward the future of the school with hope and optimism as well as reflecting on the past. A unique aspect of this theme is that it incorporates the direct words from the late Venerable Catherine McAuley, the founder of the Sisters of Mercy. McAuley once said, “Let us take one day only in hands at a time. Resolve to do good today and better tomorrow.”

With the University’s centennial coming up in five years, Getz said that it’s a good point for reflection. “Reflecting on the past is a really good thing to do. We’ve got lots of wonderful traditions and we should reflect on them and be proud of them, but we can’t rest on our laurels. We must understand that the world is constantly changing and it’s changing at an ever-faster pace.”

With strong roots, traditions and values, Getz remains optimistic about the success of the school’s future.

“Finding our place in that future in a way that can build from the past successes and build on the values that we hold dear is an opportunity for us,” Getz said.

One of the aspects of the Mercyhurst community that echoes the spirit of the founding sisters is the willingness of the faculty, staff, and students to do the hard work. “We can be successful because of our foundation,” Getz said, “[Amongst the Mercyhurst community] we have people who are very willing to do the work that needs to be done.”

Mercyhurst has a culture of strong work ethics and a sense of purpose, said Getz. “You hear in some places people say, ‘That’s not my job,’ or ‘You should talk to somebody else.’ Here people say, ‘What needs to be done, we will do.’”

Although Getz does not know in what ways Mercyhurst will be better in the future exactly, she hopes to improve in all areas. From academics to student engagement, Getz recognizes that there is room for improvement throughout campus.

One specific thing Getz wants to focus on for the time being is Mercyhurst’s engagement and collaboration with the Erie community. “Erie is a community that needs to be rebuilt and it’s in the process of being rebuilt, and I think Mercyhurst should be part of that. We have so much to offer. There’s good reason to be hopeful— to build on the good today and plan to be better tomorrow.”

Another area that Getz seeks to improve upon is the school’s diversity. Historically, Mercyhurst has been and remains a predominantly white campus. Starting with inclusion, it is important to Getz that everyone feel and be comfortable on campus.

While there are clear steps that can be taken to diversify newly hired staff and faculty members, she recognizes that it is not so easy to do the same with students.

“I want to learn more… we have work to do on that [diversity]. The good news is that people want to do it [the steps to furthering inclusion and diversity] but the bad news is not all of us know how to do it,” said Getz.

A new board Getz plans on starting is a President’s Advisory Council on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice who will help her develop a strategic plan so that Mercyhurst as a community stops talking and starts doing.

“My goal is to redouble our efforts and come up with a concrete plan, a strategic plan, for making Mercyhurst all that it should be. We’re very welcoming here, we have to not only invite others into the Mercyhurst culture but expand Mercyhurst’s culture to include others and their experiences.”

According to old diversity reports, Mercyhurst has not been welcoming to those of minority status.

“Having the Summer of 2020 made it impossible for people to say this [racial injustice] isn’t really an issue. People are on all different areas of a learning curve and we have to take people where they are… We have to have a general level of impatience and recognize that we know this is a problem and not just sit back and say we’re committed to change- we have to do something.”

“In all aspects of diversity whether racial, ethinic, gender, sex, political opinion, socioeconomic background, religion- all of those areas of diversity- we’ve got to think carefully about how we really do fufill our vision to be welcoming to everyone. I really believe in this and it’s going to be a hallmark of my presidency. That’s part of the hope and optimism- there’s plenty of room to be better and we’re going to figure it out.”

Although Getz has not gotten to interact with the student body too much so far, she hopes students see her as a person, not an authority. Similar to other administrators, many return to the realm of higher education because of their love to teach and the interaction with the students.

“I want people to see me as a human being. I don’t want to be a figurehead. I like to think that Joe [NeCastro] found what he was looking for. I’m saying it to as many students as I can, but I want to be accessible. If you see me on campus, please say hello. If you want to stop and chat, you can walk in my direction and I may not have time, but I really do want students to see me as approachable.”

“As I drive through campus in the early morning, I wave at students. They’re barely awake when I drive in, but if you see a woman in a little red Hyundai that’s waving- that’s the president.”

The Merciad asked Getz a few “lightning round” questions to get to know Getz better as a fellow Laker.

Sport Most Looking Forward to: Men’s and Women’s ice hockey

MU Green or MU Blue: Mercyhurst Green

Anchor or Shamrock: Shamrock

Favorite Food: Strawberry or any fruit-flavored ice cream

Genre of Books: Spy novels

Instrument: Piano

Lastly, Getz shared what students really want to know—Hurst Day 2021 is happening! Getz instantly recognized the energy of Hurst Day and even talked with the now-retired president about the day. “Yes, we are planning Hurst Day, rain dates and all. If COVID gets too bad, we’ll figure out a way to do it in the Spring. We don’t want our students going two years without Hurst Day.”

The Mercyhurst community is excited for the future with President Getz leading them in the right direction.