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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

DiStanislao: New executive VP has long history at D1, Jesuit schools

Mary Distanislao. Photo courtesy of Penn Athletics.

Mary DiStanislao’s career path didn’t seem tailored toward her new executive vice president job at Marquette. Once a rival Division I women’s basketball coach at Notre Dame, and more recently holding to various senior leadership positions within the University of Pennsylvania’s athletic department, DiStanislao’s transition to Marquette’s administration doesn’t seem the most logical jump.

But this will not be DiStanislao’s first time dealing with Marquette administration issues, or with broad, non-athletic administration issues. She received her doctorate degree in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania while working for its athletic department. Here at Marquette, she has served as a member of the Provost’s Committee for Academic Planning and Budget and part of the peer review of Intercollegiate Athletics at Marquette since being employed here earlier this academic year.

Yet what finally made DiStanislao take the leap to the executive vice presidency wasn’t any of those previous experiences.

“Basically what drew me was, initially, (University President the Rev. Scott) Pilarz’s energy,” she said.  “And then having arrived here, the place is very magnetic and the energy is palpable.”

DiStanislao worked previously with Pilarz on a project at the University of Scranton during his time as president there.

As executive vice president at Marquette, DiStanislao oversees student affairs as well as administrative areas like public safety, information systems, facilities and real estate services, the union, the residences halls and human resources.

Last month, DiStanislao participated in a student forum with the president where strategic planning was the main topic of conversation. DiStanislao said strategic planning is a topic she and Pilarz will continue to discuss further with the Marquette community.

“(The goal) is really to get as broad-based input on people’s impressions, thoughts, feelings about the university,” DiStanislao said. “Basically we are looking for people’s ideas on strengths, where the opportunities are (and) where our limitations might be.”

Arthur Scheuber, the vice president of administration under DiStanislao, complimented her engagement with Marquette’s campus thus far.

“Mary has already begun to actively engage the campus community and leadership team, in particular through our strategic planning process,” Scheuber said. “She has held numerous leadership positions and brings a breadth of experience that will be critical to shaping the future of Marquette University.”

To accomplish her goals in strategic planning,  DiStanislao and Pilarz plan on holding multiple forums with students as well as ones with the faculty of each college at the university.

“The heart and the soul of the university are the students and the faculty. As administrators, we are the skeleton, the skin and bones. We support and we protect,” DiStanislao said. “We do what we have to do to make this a great place.”

DiStanislao also said she and Pilarz have similar personalities, which makes their working relationship and strategic planning a bit smoother as new colleagues.

“I think we are both very direct people,” DiStanislao said. “Part of that is just a function of time and part of that is just a function of the work we have to do. So we are able to speak candidly with one another and I think pretty often pretty substantively.”

In Pilarz’s inaugural statements in September 2011, he made a big push for increased community service at Marquette. DiStanislao sees his call to service as a great learning opportunity at the university level.

“I think it’s a great way to learn about your world,” she said. “It’s one thing to master your particular academic discipline, there are lots of ways one can apply that in the world, so I think a call to service can be extremely broad.”

In previous years, DiStanislao’s position of executive vice president at Marquette had the title of senior vice president. According to her, the only thing that has changed with the title has been the role she plays in taking direct reports.

“I think that my predecessor had many, many more direct reports which Father (Pilarz) has chosen to take himself,” DiStanislao said. “In his own education as a president I think he wants to be more hands-on. And he has been.”

Greg Kliebhan retired from the position as senior vice president in July 2011 after 35 years.

Although DiStanislao is still just beginning her major role in Marquette’s administration, she said she tries to be as participative as she can.

“At this point I am more of a spectator than a participant,” she said. “But as soon as I get my feet under me I plan to get more and more engaged.”

DiStanislao’s first major role in a university setting was as head coach of Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team in 1980. But even as she holds a history with the fellow Catholic rival school, she said that her loyalty is with Marquette. DiStanislao led the Fighting Irish to a record of 115-79 from 1980 to 1987.

Toby Peters, one of DiStanislao’s associate senior vice presidents, he said DiStanislao brings something new to university administration.

“Dr. DiStanislao has impressive credentials and a breadth of experience that will greatly benefit Marquette,” Peters said. “She brings a fresh perspective that will serve us well as we embark on the strategic planning process.”

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