Dean Galvin’s impact and legacy

Author: Tammi Freehling

Mary E. Galvin, the William K. Warren Foundation Dean of the College of Science at the University of Notre Dame since 2015, recently announced she will step down from the position effective December 31, 2020.

Notably, Galvin is the first woman to serve as dean in the college’s 155-year history. During her five-year term as dean, she guided the College of Science through a period of meaningful growth and program development. She provided the focus needed to make big impacts on research and, perhaps most importantly, students.

“Mary set several aspirational goals for the College of Science, with a significant focus on research and teaching excellence, and in particular, student development,” said Bill Stavropoulos, past chair of the Science Advisory Council and retired CEO and chairman of Dow Chemical Company. “She committed resources to achieving those goals and devoted herself to inspiring continuous improvement. She leaves a meaningful impact on the college and students.”

Impact on Research

Among her many accomplishments as dean, Galvin hired 80 faculty members including significant strategic hires in the areas of drug discovery and development, global health, biological sciences, and most recently, complex quantum matter. Of note, Notre Dame’s first faculty member since 1983 to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences came during Galvin’s tenure earlier this year.

“Mary has shown exceptional leadership and has been critical to the development and expansion of the Warren Center for Drug Discovery, which ultimately led to the hiring of multiple internationally recognized experts with complementary expertise to existing faculty,” said Brian Blagg, Director of the Warren Family Center for Drug Discovery and Development and the Charles Huisking Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Galvin established the College of Science Research Award in 2018, in order to foster a culture of excellence in research. The award is now given annually to recognize a faculty member who has demonstrated sustained excellence in research, and recipients include Norman Dovichi and Kasturi Haldar.

In 2016, building on the partnership the University formed with the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation in 2010, the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Fund (APMRF) at Notre Dame was established and resides within the college. The APMRF continues the Parseghian family’s fight to find a cure or treatment for Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC) disease, a rare, fatal neurodegenerative disease for which there is currently no cure, and raises funds to support rare disease research around the world.

Growth in terms of research funding from external sources grew by 46% for the college while Galvin served as Dean (from $41.5M in fiscal year 2016 to $60.7M in fiscal year 2020). And in fiscal year 2020, research funding in the college represented 35% of all research funding across the University.

Impact on Students and Legacy

Galvin personally mentored five students over the past five years. And perhaps her most meaningful impact has been time spent supporting student academic growth and success. Renita Wilson, a first-generation college student and one of Galvin’s mentees, is grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her. “Dean Galvin’s wisdom and experience proved invaluable during my freshman and sophomore years at Notre Dame. Not only did she offer insightful advice on academics, research, and future career paths, but she emphasized the importance of physical and mental well-being throughout the entire journey,” Wilson shared. I am very much honored that she took time in her schedule to routinely meet with me and make sure I felt welcomed, encouraged, and challenged at Notre Dame. Dean Galvin embodied the spirit of the Notre Dame family, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her.”

Galvin’s legacy will continue to impact students for years to come. A significant focus for Galvin has been ensuring a level playing field for students. Because conducting research is critical to the educational experience, Galvin established a sliding scale for research stipends so that students wouldn’t have to choose between participating in summer research or getting a job. In 2018 after studying retention data, Galvin established the Science and Engineering Scholars Program to help all students succeed in science and engineering courses at Notre Dame. Students, who most often come from schools without advanced science classes, are disproportionately represented in this group and are more likely to transfer out of the College of Science. The program began in 2018 with 45 students and in 2020 expanded  to serve 80 students. In the first two years of the program, the Scholars outperformed a control group in five required classes. Feedback from the Scholars also demonstrates that they gained transferable study skills, learning techniques, and positive mindsets that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

“It has been an honor and a pleasure to work with Mary as she set the course for the future of the College of Science at Notre Dame. She leaves the College of Science poised for sustained excellence in terms of teaching and research,” said Matt Boler, chair of the Science Advisory Council and President and CEO at The Boler Company. “In her own reserved style, Mary helped us all understand the levels of excellence that the College of Science already possesses, but more importantly where it can aspire to do more. Mary undoubtedly leaves a solid foundation for the next dean to build upon.”

“Perhaps her greatest legacy from her tenure as Dean, will be the impact she has on students through their success and engagement in the Science and Engineering Scholars Program. Keeping these bright students engaged in science and engineering disciplines will positively impact the future of science for years to come. I know that the program is deeply personal for her, and I believe it is part of what makes the College of Science a uniquely Notre Dame experience.”