Meet the Sisters
Promoting Growth and Exploration
by Donata Glassmeyer
Every year S. Joanne Burrows, president of Clarke University, a Catholic liberal arts school in Dubuque, Iowa, invites new students of the university to her home for dinner.
Each of us experiences stress in our lives relating to work, relationships, family, friends and school. We each deal with our stress in different ways. “I go scuba diving,” S. Joanne Burrows said. “It takes the pressure off my job. No one can find me underwater,” she added with a wry smile. “Underwater I must be in the present moment with my breathing. I can’t be thinking of anything else.” S. Joanne is the president of Clarke University, a Catholic liberal arts school in Dubuque, Iowa.
It is not often that scuba diving options are available to Sister, however. In the interim, you will find her hosting taco bar suppers for students in her home, meeting with faculty, planning budgets, serving on boards or facing the perennial issues of the tuition-driven needs of a small, private university.
“This job is the continuum of my life,” S. Joanne said. “I’ve studied higher education. Mine is a continuous process toward leadership.” With a doctorate in higher education from The Ohio State University, a master’s in theology from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., and more than 20 years in the field, S. Joanne’s ministry is well-fortified with considerable expertise.
“When I was at the Mount [the College of Mount St. Joseph, Cincinnati, Ohio], I was impressed and encouraged by Sisters of Charity Jean Patrice Harrington (a former president of the Mount) and Elizabeth Cashman. I was also inspired by another Mount president, S. Francis Marie Thrailkill, OSU,” S. Joanne added.
What inspires S. Joanne today? “At Clarke all dimensions of the student’s experience are encouraged, including the faith dimension. We are an inclusive environment; we value dialogue and connections. We are about relationships that promote growth and exploration. People know each other here. Our faculty members care about their students and staff is ready and available to assist. Our students are self-determined young people searching for deep connections through conversations, relationships, faith and values. They are learning more than just content here,” Sister explained. “Relationships happen in a learning exchange.”
When asked about the satisfactions of her ministry, S. Joanne said, “It comes in bites. It’s not just one giant emotion. I’m gratified when new students tell me about their lives, when alums come back with their children, when older alums tell me of their outreach and volunteer activities in their communities.”
S. Joanne also appreciates the entrepreneurial element of her service to Clarke. “I like to see the institution try something new. For example, our young communications staff worked on ‘branding’ the institution by moving away from the traditional college view book to a more modern promotional piece, a culture book for the prospective student showcasing Clarke University’s opportunities.” (Visit www.clarke.edu for more information.)
After four years at the helm, S. Joanne looks forward to continuing increased enrollment and a deeper alliance with her mission and ministry at Clarke University. A scuba diving vacation once in a while isn’t too bad, either.