Fordham Staff Speaks on President Tania Tetlow’s Transition


Tania Tetlow, Fordham’s 33rd president, has made history as the first female layperson to lead the university. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Alexander Hom, Staff Writer

In the first nine months of her tenure as Fordham’s 33rd president, Tania Tetlow has made history as the first female layperson to lead and serve alongside the university’s faculty and staff as its highest-ranking official.

Staff members have generally remarked that Tetlow’s availability and presence is a considerable improvement from previous years, echoing students’ similarly lauding views.

“The Career Center has had very positive interactions with President Tetlow,” said Director Annette McLaughlin, who helms Fordham’s Career Center in JMCC. She expressed gratitude at Tetlow’s delivery of her welcoming remarks for the Center’s 2022 Global Diversity and Inclusion Banquet last fall, praising the president for her generosity. McLaughlin also pointed to the time that Tetlow has personally devoted time to her department in supporting their operations, events and even a new hire on her first day.

“In her first few months, she would walk around the campus, and students started cheering and surrounding her. It’s great to see this level of enthusiasm that we faculty members have reflected in the students, especially at the numerous events she’s hosted for the entire Fordham community to engage with her. We definitely appreciate her support of the Career Center and look forward to working with her in the future,” said McLaughlin.

“With President Tetlow being new to Fordham and inheriting many of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council (DEI)-related plans that were already set into motion prior to her arrival, I think her current approach is moreso one of collecting information and exploring the best paths forward,” said Juan Carlos Matos, assistant vice president for student affairs for Diversity and Inclusion. “President Tetlow is committed to making Fordham more diverse and inclusive in order to better reflect the city of New York, especially the Bronx.”

According to Matos, Tetlow has frequently sought and listened to the perspectives of students and staff, receiving regular briefings from Matos and DEI Chief Diversity Officer Rafael Zapata. Matos highlights DEI and the Office for Student Involvement’s (OSI) work with the Office of the President to unite student club leaders at events held at both Rose Hill and Lincoln Center for all to voice their perspectives. He added, “President Tetlow also intends to communicate with the University community before the end of the academic year about what she’s learned and her preliminary plans regarding DEI.”

Mary Bly, chair of English at Fordham, cites her approval due to Tetlow’s transparency and interest in the faculty community. “In a first —  in my experience —  she visited a Zoom meeting of the Arts and Sciences chairs to answer questions in an informally straightforward manner. I’m very fond of Father McShane, but I did deplore the privacy surrounding his decisions. President Tetlow seems much more forthright about the exigencies facing the university.”

Bly said she feels Tetlow listens to the faculty, emphasizing how the president distributed a faculty-wide survey through her famed emails inviting suggestions regarding the budget gap, and that Tetlow’s familiarity with their feedback indicated she’d studied each one. “That’s unprecedented. In my 20 years at Fordham, I find it challenging to point to a moment when faculty opinions were not only solicited, but listened to as well.” Though she specifies the English department hasn’t asked for anything specific, Bly states the other department heads have collectively submitted various requests. “I’m hopeful the president will be responsive to them,” said Bly.

“Her letters to the university strike a refreshingly authentic note,” said Bly, speaking to Tetlow’s further accomplishments. “I’d point to her letter about domestic violence. She also recently sent one to faculty acknowledging how hard we work, suggesting a series of meetings that’ll unite different departments for interdisciplinary conversations.” Bly emphasized students’ desires for education that transcends “academic boundaries,” using English and biology as a hypothetical example, and stressing the importance of a system that could combine potential courses to maximize the efficiency of the content covered. She said she commends Tetlow’s handling of the budget: “In order for Fordham University to thrive, we must operate within our budget, growing the endowment rather than leaning so heavily upon it.”

As for improvements regarding Tetlow’s term, “I think it’s the community that needs to improve,” said Bly. “She’s our first female president — and she hasn’t been here long. I’m saddened by the misogynistic, sexist graphics circulating social media, attacking her.”

Julie Gafney, executive director for the Center for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) and assistant vice president  of Strategic Mission Initiative, said she also offers her support for Tetlow. “We’ve been so excited to welcome President Tetlow to campus, and energized to see her commitments to community engagement. She has a deep awareness of the Jesuit mission — not only as a static ideal, but as a living and breathing project. She sees community public service is that mission, and is how we live that mission.”

Gafney said she found delight in Tetlow’s accompaniment of her and scores of students during Urban Plunge for a day of engagement. “She was able to meet First-year students who attended for the first time, and this year President Tetlow has focused on ensuring the university’s structures and strategies are in place to help achieve our visions of social justice through community engagement, as an embedded priority for all.”

“We’re so thrilled to have President Tetlow with us,” said Vanessa Rotondo, associate director of Campus Engagement and senior adviser on Ignatian Leadership with CCEL. She recalls attending Tetlow’s inauguration. “Seeing a woman assume the presidency at Fordham — I’ve been here for a decade as an undergrad/grad student in addition to four years as an administrator — something like her ascendancy wasn’t something I’d expected so soon in my career. It’s really powerful to witness this firsthand.”

Rotondo reaffirms her shared duty to honor Mission/Catholic social teaching. “When President Tetlow brought our academic/extracurricular efforts front and center, it really made our work the university’s responsibility through the Jesuit Mission lens. She embraces these aims wholeheartedly, and it’s great to see her implementing that identity within her strategy moving forward. I’m so excited to see how she’ll advance all that … with our support.”