Arlington, Virginia – The Marymount University board of trustees is pleased to announce today that Dr. Irma Becerra will become the seventh president of the University on July 1, 2018.
Currently provost and chief academic officer at St. Thomas University, Dr. Becerra is known for expanding educational access for students and keenly targeting programming to meet societal needs and changing demographics. Her academic career, both as student and professional, has blended mathematics, engineering and systems thinking and processes in her studies, teaching and administrative leadership.
“In all measures, Dr. Becerra rose to the top in our national search for the next president to lead Marymount,” said Dr. Edward H. Bersoff, board of trustees chairperson and head of the search committee. “She is an engaged academic and an energetic administrator with a proven record of success. She understands the need for Catholic higher education, she is committed to it and will ensure that the mission of our founding order, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, advances from Arlington across the world.”
Dr. Becerra was selected by unanimous vote of Marymount’s board.
In the four years she has led the academic program at St. Thomas, Dr. Becerra has transformed the organizational structure and reinvigorated an institutional commitment to scholarship. The University saw a dramatic uptick in enrollment, which included significantly improved retention and graduation rates. Driven to create a culture of remarkable service to students, she also led the expansion of academic offerings, launching 19 new market-driven degrees, including nursing and cybersecurity. Other initiatives included the development of fully online programs, the establishment of the school’s Student Success Center, and implementation of structural changes and new technology, which with other measures improved the business side of providing higher education.
“I am deeply honored to have this opportunity to lead Marymount University. I find the faculty, staff, students and trustees at Marymount to be highly aspirational, and those hopes and desires are aligned with my own,” said Dr. Becerra. “I will be a dedicated and tireless advocate for Marymount University and the ways in which it transforms the lives of its students, much like education changed my life.”
She knows that a paradigm shift has moved higher education institutions from a “what have you done lately?” mentality to “what will you do next?”
“There is so much pressure on universities today, and we really have to think about where we want to be 10 years from now and what we need to do now to make that happen,” she said.
A Cuban-born American whose parents immigrated to the United States when she was an infant, Dr. Becerra also lived in Puerto Rico through high school. Those experiences, including her family’s understanding that no one can take away your education, shaped both her and her passion for education. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Miami and went on to become the first female to earn a Ph.D. in engineering from Florida International University (FIU).
As the product of Catholic instruction throughout her primary and secondary years, Dr. Becerra has long been concerned that the path from parochial schooling to college-level Catholic institutions has become blurred. “Lots who went to Catholic schools aren’t going to Catholic colleges during their formative, young adult years. The cost is making parents pause.”
She took that issue on at St. Thomas with both her head and heart, pledging to families that programs would actively assist students to graduate in four years. The idea of having an institutional partner in that effort has helped families consider the possibility of continued Catholic education. Called the “Catholic Education Continuum,” the program weaves scholarship opportunities and dual enrollment initiatives with offerings to help solidify the idea of continuing faith-based education through a student’s university experience.
Prior to her current position, she worked at FIU for almost three decades, as a tenured full professor in Management Information Systems and later as Entrepreneurship Center director, vice-provost and vice-president. In addition to being an accomplished administrator, Dr. Becerra is also a scholar. She authored four books and numerous refereed journal articles in the areas of knowledge management and business intelligence, and she holds four patents and copyrights. She has delivered keynote speeches and invited presentations across the U.S. and around the globe. Her original research in the area of knowledge management, knowledge management systems, business intelligence, enterprise systems, disaster management and IT entrepreneurship has generated interest from academics as well as business leaders. She has served as an adviser to several organizations, including NASA, on the subject of knowledge management practices. She founded FIU’s Knowledge Management Lab and has led major projects as principal investigator at the National Science Foundation, NASA (Headquarters, Kennedy, Ames, and Goddard Space Flight Centers) and the Air Force Research Lab. She was also a Sloan Scholar at MIT’s Center for Information Systems Research.
She will succeed Dr. Matthew D. Shank
, who has served as president for seven years and led MU to greater strength with the development of a shared vision, implementation of a strategic plan, the redevelopment of the University’s Ballston Center, expansion of academic and athletic programs, and the launch of a $40 million capital campaign.
Dr. Shank in November announced his intention to step down as of June 30, 2018, and requested that the board of trustees begin a search process.
“The University warmly welcomes Dr. Irma Becerra,” Dr. Shank said. “Marymount has such a historically important role in higher education, particularly as the first Catholic college established in Virginia. The University will be in good hands.”
Dr. Becerra is mother of two adult children, Anthony, an Emory University alumnus and current J.D. and MBA student at St. Thomas University, and Nicole, a Boston College alumna and current director at Macy’s Corporation.
Marymount University is an independent, coeducational Catholic university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines. For more information, go to www.marymount.edu