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130 Years & Counting! Highlights from Alverno's History


Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM
“At Alverno, we believe that women’s voices and women’s ways are essential to good life for people everywhere. That belief absolutely defines us…” 
-Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM


Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and began her career in education in 1971 as an elementary school teacher at the United States Embassy School in Bonn, Germany. Later she taught in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Illinois.

She eventually accepted the request of her religious Congregation to move into higher education at Marygrove College in Detroit, Michigan. Service during her 19-year tenure included: grants officer, dean of continuing education, CFO, executive vice president and interim president. Under her leadership, Marygrove became a pioneer in developing allied health programs and innovative adult continuing education and employment training certifications.

Lee next worked at St. Catherine’s in the Twin Cities, where as president she led a 30 percent increase in enrollment, brought the women’s college to university status, and helped attract $250 million in private investments to fund growth of academic programs, student scholarships and facilities.

As announced in a February 23, 2016 press release, Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM, was unanimously elected the eighth president of Alverno College by the College’s Board of Trustees.  She succeeded President Mary J. Meehan, Ph.D., taking office in July 2016.

She has begun her leadership of Alverno at a time when women's colleges continue to decline in number, despite the research showing that graduates are more likely to assume leadership roles, excel in traditionally male-dominated fields and earn an advanced degree. To her, success means offering curricular and co-curricular experiences that students need and want, especially ones that prepare them for their lives and lead to higher retention and completion rates. It means looking at new and repackaged degree programs at every level and considering stackable courses and learning experiences. It means a robust career development and internship program tied closely to the workforce needs of Milwaukee, the region and beyond. It means laser focus on mission.


Excerpts above taken from Alverno College Newsroom, Press Release, February 23, 2016, "Alverno College Names Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM President" and an article that appeared in  lverno Magazine Online, January 18, 2017.


Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM
Dr. Andrea Lee, IHM

On July 5, 2016 Dr. Andrea Lee became the eighth president of Alverno College.



Andrea Lee’s continued work to advance awareness of the legacy and contributions of Catholic women religious prompted the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to award Alverno College a $2.7 million grant in October 2016. The grant will be used to expand upon work Lee began in 2013 while president of St. Catherine University. The Hilton Sisters’ Project will extend its geographic reach, placing new emphasis on young women in Latino communities.


OB Students

Alverno's first doctorate offering, a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) was announced in October 2016. It  launched in January 2017.


As announced in a March 17, 2017 press release, a $1 million gift from Marianne and Sheldon Lubar will allow Alverno College to prepare more future teachers and help them reach graduation. The scholarship is for juniors and seniors majoring in elementary or secondary education, and is awarded to students who not only have financial need, but who are also recognized by the Alverno College School of Education as very strong students with a high aptitude for a career in education. 

Faculty member Justin La Manna with Girls in Science
Faculty member Justin La Manna with girls participating in Alverno's Girls Academy of Science & Mathematics

On April 6, 2017  the Wisconsin Campus Compact (WiCC) recognized Alverno College’s Girls’ Academy of Science & Mathematics with the Esther Letvin Community-Campus Partnership Award at their Annual Civic Engagement Institute Awards Banquet. The award recognizes outstanding partnerships between colleges and universities and the communities they serve that produce measurable community impact as well as student growth and learning.


A new teacher licensure program for paraprofessionals was announced in May and launched in August 2017.


This is a black and white photo of Sister Joel Read from 1984

Sister Joel Read (1925-2017)

On May 25, 2017 President Emerita, Sister Joel Read passed away at the age of 91.
Learn more about her life...



This is a color photo of Carole Chabries

Carole Chabries

Carole Chabries was appointed dean of Alverno's newly formed School of Adult Learning and New Initiatives in August 2017.


This is a color photo of Jodi Eastberg

Jodi Eastberg

Also in August, Jodi Eastberg was named executive director of the Center for Academic Excellence.



This is a color photo of Scott Zeman

Scott Zeman

Scott Zeman began his appointment as Vice President for Academic Affairs on November 1, 2017.


Alverno's Hispanic enrollment surpassed 25% in November 2017 and Alverno was designated as the first Hispanic Serving Institution in Wisconsin by the U.S. Department of Education.  Learn more...



In April 2018, Alverno College received the inaugural Latino Spirit award from Marcus Theaters.


This is a color photo of a music therapy session

Because of growing demand, Alverno College launched Wisconsin's first Master in Music Therapy (MMT) program in the fall of 2018. Alverno's undergraduate music therapy program is the nation's third oldest and celebrated its 70th anniversary this year. Learn more...


In July 2018 it was announced that Alverno College had partnered with the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee to create a dual licensure program that integrates a Bachelor of Arts in Education with a Montessori teacher preparation program. Learn more...


To help fill a growing need, Alverno College launched a new School Psychology graduate program in Fall 2018. Learn more...



This is a color photo of faculty member Angela Frey in the lab with a student

In September 2018 it was announced that Alverno College was awarded a $974,698 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund and support the college's New Futures in Science and Mathematics Program, which is designed to help high-achieving, low-income women graduate with a degree in a STEM discipline. The photo above is of faculty member Angela Frey in the lab with a student.


In November 2018, for the first time since its debut on the Alverno stage 50 years ago, Alverno mounted a production of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."


In February 2019 Alverno College and the Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) established a formal partnership that streamlines the transfer process for female students who want to become social workers, allowing them to complete their associate degree in human services at MATC and transfer to Alverno to complete their Bachelor of Social Work.



This is a photo of the cover for the flyer promoting the first annual State of Wisconsin Girls Sunnit held at Alverno on March 23, 2019.

The  first State of Wisconsin Girls Summit was held at Alverno College on March 23, 2019. The summit, created for girls in 5th grade and older, featured a panel of girls discussing their experiences. The event held smaller break-out sessions ranging from identity formation, the power of words, forms of self-expression, healthy relationships, and how to nurture oneself physically, mentally and financially.‚Äč The featured keynote speaker for 2019 was 14-year-old Marley Dias. Dias is the founder of #1000blackgirlbooks and author of Marley Dias Gets it Done and so Can You!


In August 2019 Alverno's partnership with Arizona-based premiere service provider Synergis Education to launch a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) degree and a Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (DEMSN) degree was announced. Both programs began enrolling students in January 2020.



This is a color photo of a new Montessori classroom in the basement of Clare Hall

To strengthen the existing collaboration in the shared goal of educating Montessori-prepared teachers, the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee  relocated to Alverno College effective September 1, 2019. Pictured above is one of the new Montessori classrooms found in the basement of Clare Hall.


On November 12, 2019 Alverno College was honored at the 2019 All In Challenge Awards Ceremony with a platinum seal for achieving a student voting rate above 50%.


This is a color photo of Kente Cloth

Alverno College's Bestowing of the Kente is one of the oldest ceremonies of its kind in Wisconsin, and celebrated its 25th anniversary on December 8.The Bestowing of the Kente is a rite of passage recognizing African American students who are graduating seniors, earning a master's degree, or completing a certification program. Each honoree is presented with a Kente cloth - a hand-woven ceremonial stole featuring bright colors that honor West African heritage. Alverno is one of only a handful of colleges in the U.S. that recognize African American graduates with the Bestowing of the Kente ceremony separate from graduation.


This is a color photo of Joseph Foy, Alverno Vice President for Academic Affairs

On January 9, 2020 it was announced that Joseph Foy, Ph.D. had been appointed vice president for Academic Affairs. Foy, who was Dean of the Faculty at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wis., began his appointment April 15, 2020.


Also in January 2020 it was announced that Alverno College had launched two new Master of Science in Nursing programs — a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner program and a Dual Adult-Gerontology Primary and Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program — both designed to educate nurse practitioners who will serve vulnerable populations.


This is a color photo of some Sisters wearing Alverno Centennial Cloth masks

In mid March 2020, Alverno pivoted to virtual teaching and closed its doors to all but essential personnel as the COVID-19 Pandemic hit. Reopening began slowly in June 2020. The 2020-2021 school year was offered primarily in virtual or hybrid format  except for classes such as labs and clinicals that had to be offered face-to-face. Above is a photo of some School Sisters of St. Francis sporting masks made of Alverno Centennial fabric.


Responding to a critical need in the Milwaukee area, Alverno College announced on May 12, 2020 the launch of a new substance abuse counseling certificate program which began in the fall. The program would be an area of specialization for social work majors, while non-social work students could opt to take it as a minor. Alumni would also be able to earn a certificate by taking the required courses. Students who successfully complete the program will have the academic requirements to apply for state substance abuse counselor licensure with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.



This is a color photo of the Alverno Accelerate logo

On May 19, 2020 Alverno College announced the launching of Alverno Accelerate, an accelerated, affordable and flexible pathway to earning a bachelor's degree in three or fewer years. Designed for working adults who may be juggling a family and a career, the program is open to women and men and is offered completely online. All previously earned college credits will transfer, regardless of subject matter.
Learn more...


This is a color photo of the Alverno Pivot logo

Also launched in 2020 was Alverno’s Pivot Your Skills Pathways program. The continuing education program is a partnership between higher education and industry experts and provides dynamic, virtual learning so that participants can upskill and earn a professional certificate. Current offerings include, "Leadership," "Leveraging the Power of Data," "Nonprofit Management," and "Operations Management."  Learn more...


In order to help bridge the childcare gap during the coronavirus outbreak, the Early Learning Center at Alverno College announced in May that it would open its doors to care for the children of health care workers and first responders.


The Higher Learning Commission approved the incorporation of the Columbia College of Nursing into Alverno College, and the transaction closed on June 30, 2020.


Students seeking to transfer credits from any of Wisconsin’s 16 technical colleges to Alverno College will have a much easier time in the future thanks to a historic, comprehensive agreement signed in July 2020. Alverno was one of the private, nonprofit colleges and universities participating in the WAICU-WTCS Course Credit Transfer Agreement.


Also in July it was announced that Alverno would be launching the Early Childhood Outdoor Preschool Environmental Education Program (ECOPEEP) in partnership with Milwaukee's Urban Ecology Center in the fall. It would be the first nature-based early childhood education program for urban settings in the United States.



This is an architect's rendering of Alverno's new greenhouse

On September 9, 2020 it was announced that  Alverno College would be partnering with the A. O. Smith Foundation to construct a greenhouse on campus, offering students an exciting new opportunity to engage in hands-on learning and explore new career paths. The 1,400-square-foot facility will feature an aquaponics system and a classroom space. Hundreds of undergraduate students, as well as area high school students, will participate in learning opportunities and research projects in preparation for careers in the food, agricultural, natural resources and human sciences industries. Construction is scheduled to begin in Spring 2021.


Also in September Alverno College announced that it had launched the Thea Bowman Institute for Excellence and Leadership, a program designed to serve Black women through academic and leadership programming.


In October 2020, Alverno College was awarded a prestigious Title III grant from the U.S. Department of Education to integrate and strengthen key advising functions and to develop three new health care programs for in-demand fields.



This is a color graphic of the Spark Series logo

On February 4, 2021 Alverno College announced that it would be offering a series of courses designed to help people embrace change, and learn how to harness the power of creativity to inspire change within themselves and in the greater community. Led by Wisconsin Poet Laureate Dasha Kelly Hamilton, the Spark Series is a new virtual program from Alverno’s School of Adult Learning and New Initiatives, and students who complete the entire program will earn a professional certificate.
Learn more...



This is a color photo of the proposed Mesa, Arizona location for Alverno College

On February 11, 2021 it was announced that Alverno College is planning to expand its nursing program to Arizona and, in August 2022, pending regulatory approvals, will open a second location dedicated to health care there. Initial plans are for Alverno to offer in partnership with Synergis Education, a premier education provider program, its highly successful Direct Entry Master of Science in Nursing (DEMSN) to students