Celebrating Women in the College of Professional Studies

In 1909 Marquette University admitted female students, becoming the first Catholic undergraduate college in the world to go coed. Today over 50 percent of all students in Marquette University are women, and over 60 percent of the students in Marquette’s College of Professional Studies are women.  In honor of the Centennial Celebration of Women at Marquette, we are proud to present the following profiles of some of our female students and alumnae who are making a difference. 

Carmella Thomas

Carmella Thomas

Criminology and Law '00,
Master's in Public Service '03 Probation/Parole Agent, Wisconsin Department of Corrections

After aging out of the child welfare system, Carmella earned her high school diploma through MATC.  She continued her education by enrolling in the College of Professional Studies so she could get a Marquette education on the weekends and evenings while she worked full-time.  “I knew I needed to go to college to get the skills I needed to survive, because without a degree good jobs are almost impossible to get,” she said. 

Carmella is most proud of earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree through Marquette University.  “With my background and history, no one would think I could accomplish this,” she said.  To continue her Marquette education, Carmella is planning to earn a law degree and become a judge or a prosecutor. 

Looking back, Carmella appreciates the great inspiration she received from her adopted mother, MacCanon Brown, and the ongoing support from her academic advisers and professors.  She also appreciates the value of service that was strengthened by her Marquette experience.  Since 1993, Carmella has been volunteering with her adopted mother, the executive director of Repairers of the Breach, to raise money and help the homeless.  “It’s all about service and giving back,” said Carmella.   

Shirley Sciacca

Shirley Sciacca

Psychology Student
Technical Information Specialist, Federal Bureau of Investigation

At 62 years old, Shirley is working toward her bachelor’s degree in Psychology through the College of Professional Studies and repositioning herself for the next chapter in her career and her personal life.  She enjoys sharing the classroom on a weeknight or Saturday with adult students who bring the wealth of their work experience.  “We are smart to be seeking our degrees. My experience of working for a major airline, who went bankrupt, taught me that even if I have a great deal of experience over many years, without a degree I might not have the qualifications to get the job,” says Shirley.     

 “My current work at the FBI is important as we put our efforts toward protecting the security and integrity of our nation,” says Shirley. “My degree will provide many opportunities for community service and ensure that others will benefit from both my life experience and formal education,” she said.    

Shirley has been recognized for her academic excellence by being selected for the Dean’s List during every term she has been at Marquette.  After earning her bachelor’s degree, Shirley plans to pursue her master’s degree.  “No obstacle, whether financial or academic, need get in the way of mature adults like me who have the will to follow our dream of pursuing higher education,” said Shirley. 

Tracy Johnson

Tracy Johnson

Future Milwaukee Leadership '07 Executive Director, TEMPO Milwaukee

As an undergraduate student at Marquette University, Tracy felt embraced by the Jesuit value system and appreciated the many opportunities for community service that opened her eyes to the world. “From the first day on campus, you realize that you are part of something so much bigger,” said Tracy.  “By being at Marquette, you become a part of what moves our city forward.” 

Tracy has continued her Marquette experience by participating in the Future Milwaukee Leadership program offered through the College of Professional Studies.  The Future Milwaukee program gave Tracy a crash course in the city’s neighborhoods, business challenges and non-profit organizations.  She rubbed elbows with the city’s CEOs and served meals to needy mothers and their children.  “It was eye-opening,” she says.  “I found valuable connections and experiences that will allow me to make a meaningful difference in our city.”  The program also led to a job with TEMPO Milwaukee, an organization for women business leaders.  “Future Milwaukee broadens horizons and literally opens doors,” remarked Tracy. 

Tracy will be graduating with a Marquette MBA in December.  “Marquette gets a hold on you and just does not let go,” she said.  


Marcia Lee

Marcia Lee

Master's in Dispute Resolution Student, Restorative Justice Consultant

After completing volunteer service through CapCorps, a year-long volunteer program through the Capuchin Franciscans, Marcia was accepted to Marquette’s Trinity Fellows Program — a graduate fellowship program dedicated to developing urban non-profit leaders with a commitment to social and economic justice.  Through this program, Marcia is earning a graduate degree through the College of Professional Studies while applying her education through work with a non-profit organization.

“The college offers a mixture of professional development and academic education,” said Marcia.  “The master’s in dispute resolution gave me a greater understanding of conflict and tools for its resolution.  I now approach my work with a greater focus on understanding the underlying issues and challenges that impact people’s ability to work together.  Through connections from Marquette, I have been able to engage in teaching peer mediation skills to elementary students and participate in restorative justice peacemaking circles in the community and with people in prison.”

“My experience at Marquette has reinforced my passion in working to create a more just and equitable world,” said Marcia.  This passion led to her participation in a one-month international scholars program in Caux, Switzerland this past summer.  The program allowed her to learn more about individual transformation for the purpose of social change at an international level.  After Marcia graduates in December, she plans to return to Detroit, MI and apply the lessons and skills she gained from Marquette and Milwaukee to work with Detroiters to make the city a better place to live. 

Joan DonnerJoan Donner

Master's in Leadership Studies '08, Future Milwaukee Leadership '09
HR Manager - Talent Management, Harley-Davidson Motor Company

Joan is the first graduate of the Master’s in Leadership Studies on-site program at Harley-Davidson Motor Company.  “I chose Marquette University’s College of Professional Studies due to my passion for good leadership, and the program curriculum met my expectations,” said Joan.  “I realized that I could immediately apply the knowledge and skills learned from the program to my professional responsibilities, which includes project development and implementation work with a focus on employee leadership development.”

From a personal perspective, Joan’s Marquette education has changed her to the extent that as a leader, she now knows that she can make a difference in the world around her. “From a professional perspective, the value of my degree is highlighted in my skill level to transfer knowledge and provide coaching and guidance to my team in order to help increase overall organizational effectiveness,” she said. 

Joan also participated in the Future Milwaukee Leadership program through the College of Professional Studies.  “Future Milwaukee provided an opportunity for me to learn about the richness of this community,” she said.  “I have learned from my peers within the group about the ways that they give back to the community and the passion in which they do it. As a result, I am also inspired to live up to my capacity in giving back.”


As part of Marquette University's Centennial Celebration of Women, the College of Professional Studies will be hosting a panel discussion with some of our female leaders.

"Women Leaders Touching the Lives of Milwaukee's Underserved"
Moderated by: Professor Eva M. Soeka, Director, Graduate Programs in Dispute Resolution and Center for Dispute Resolution Education
Date: Monday, February 22, 2010
Time: 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. Networking/Refreshments;
6:00 – 7:30 p.m. Program
Place: Marquette Campus, AMU Ballroom E
RSVP ONLINE by February 15, 2009




Contact College of Professional Studies

Email the college

Marquette University College of Professional Studies
707 Building, Room 403
P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee WI 53201-1881
Phone: (414) 288-3153 or (800) 793-6450, extension 2
FAX: (414) 288-3298