Maria Donoghue Velleca Named Dean of Lehigh’s College of Arts & Sciences

An accomplished neurobiologist, Donoghue Velleca will join Lehigh from Georgetown University.

Story by

Tim Hyland

Maria Donoghue Velleca

Maria Donoghue Velleca will assume her new role as the Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh on June 30.

Maria Donoghue Velleca, an accomplished neurobiologist who currently serves on the faculty at Georgetown University, has been named the Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Lehigh.

Donoghue Velleca, who during her time at Georgetown served as senior associate dean for faculty affairs and strategic planning at Georgetown College, will assume her new role at Lehigh on June 30. She will succeed interim dean Cameron Wesson. 

“Maria is a highly respected researcher, an accomplished administrator and a strong believer in the enduring importance of the arts and sciences,” said Lehigh provost Patrick V. Farrell. “In our discussions with her, it quickly became apparent that she has both an appreciation for the legacy of our College and an ambitious vision that will allow us to build on our success going forward. We could not be more pleased to welcome her to Lehigh.”

“During my time at Lehigh I will work to take a great College and make it even better,” Donoghue Velleca said. “Our aim will be to ensure that the College of Arts and Sciences provides a broad space for student learning, with intense scholarship and strong teaching. I relish the diversity of perspectives that you can find in an arts and sciences college and the opportunities for interdisciplinary work, and perhaps most importantly, the kind of faculty and students who are drawn to such an intellectually exciting setting.”

During her time at Georgetown, Donoghue Velleca has built an impressive record as a researcher, teacher and administrator.

Her research, which explores the molecular processes that drive brain development, has garnered support from both the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, and she spearheaded efforts to launch Georgetown’s undergraduate major in neurobiology. Donoghue Velleca directed Georgetown’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute university grant, which supported undergraduate research and partnered with Washington, D.C. public schools and a local community college to support college readiness. She has been the recipient of several awards for undergraduate teaching and graduate student mentorship.

As senior associate dean for faculty affairs and strategic planning, she directed more than 500 faculty members spanning 26 departments and 11 interdisciplinary programs; oversaw faculty hiring, including hiring initiatives for diversity; maintained strong faculty governance within the college and led its Executive Council; and, along with the chief financial officer, managed the college’s operating budget and its dedicated endowment funds.

Before arriving at Georgetown in 2006, Donoghue Velleca spent eight years as an assistant professor of neurobiology at the Yale University School of Medicine. She has a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology from Washington University in St. Louis and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Boston College. She is currently a trustee of St. Albans School, an independent school on the grounds of the National Cathedral, and served as the chair of the governing board from 2015-17.

“Maria understands the crucial role that the College of Arts and Sciences plays here at Lehigh, and has a strong belief in the kind of educational experience that CAS provides,” said Lehigh President John D. Simon ‘19P. “She will bring to Lehigh an outstanding reputation as a scholar, a deep devotion to teaching, and a keen understanding of the fast-changing dynamics in the world of higher education. In Maria, I know we have found a strong and capable steward for CAS.”

The CAS dean search was led by Stephen P. DeWeerth, dean of the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, and Jack Lule, chair of the Department of Journalism and Communication.

“I am delighted that Maria has been selected to be the next dean of the College of Arts and Sciences,” DeWeerth said. “The search drew an outstanding pool of candidates--a testament to the excellence of the CAS faculty and programs. Maria stood out among the candidates based on her vision and accomplishments as a scholar, educator, and university leader. I am very much looking forward to working with her to expand our colleges’ shared efforts to advance interdisciplinary research and learning at Lehigh.”

“Many of us in Arts and Sciences recognized that this search was incredibly important to the College,” Lule added. “It is a time of real opportunity for Lehigh, with the Path to Prominence moving forward and the College of Health readying for launch. But it is also a time of real challenge for the humanities, with cutbacks to government funding and declining enrollments. Maria offers the experience and balance—as well as the outlook and spirit—to not only address the challenges but also move the College forward and take advantage of the opportunities.”

Donoghue Velleca said she was deeply devoted to Georgetown, but was drawn to Lehigh not only because of the strong reputation of College, but also because of the forward momentum of the university and the opportunities she sees to partner with Lehigh’s four other colleges. 

“I am honored to be joining Lehigh at such an exciting time of growth and opportunity,” said Donoghue Velleca. “Every time I met with the Lehigh search committee, I felt as though I was in a master class on what makes a university strong. You pursue a position like this to have the opportunity to work with a strong faculty, bright students and a remarkable leadership team. Lehigh is an institution that knows who it is, and I can see that it holds amazing potential for growth and continued excellence."

Provost Farrell extended his appreciation to Wesson for his service as interim dean over the past ten months, and also thanked the members of the search committee for their time, effort and dedication to the search process.

“I know everyone in the campus community will join me in thanking Cameron, Stephen, Jack and all other members of the committee for their hard work during this important time for CAS and Lehigh,” he said.

The members of the search committee are:

● Stephen DeWeerth, Dean, PC Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science, Committee Chair
● Jack Lule, Department Chair and Professor, Journalism and Communication, Committee Vice Chair
● Sirry Alang, Assistant Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
● Alec Bodzin, Professor, Education and Human Services
● Sherry Buss, Administrative Director, Interdisciplinary Programs
● Anna Chupa, Department Chair and Professor, Art, Architecture and Design
● Kwame Essien, Associate Professor, History
● Jebrell Glover, Associate Professor, Chemistry
● Julie Haas, Associate Professor, Biological Sciences
● Erica Hoelscher, Department Chair and Professor, Theatre
● Wei-Min Huang, Professor, Mathematics
● Dawn Keetley, Department Chair and Professor, English
● Kenneth Kodama, Professor, Earth and Environmental Sciences
● Hartley Lachter, Department Chair and Associate Professor, Religion Studies
● Jessecae Marsh, Associate Professor, Psychology
● Cheryl Matherly, Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs
● Vince Munley, Professor, Economics
● Donald Outing, Vice President for Equity and Community
● Katya Scheinberg, Professor, Industrial and Systems Engineering

Story by

Tim Hyland

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