Kathleen J. Byrnes, J.D. has been announced as the Vice President for Student Life and will begin her position April 1, 2021. The position works to oversee the University’s Division of Student Life and assist other departments in any area pertaining to student-related activity on campus. In her new position, Byrnes will work with health and counseling services, residence life, student involvement, intercultural affairs, fraternity and sorority life, international student services and disability services. Rev. John P. Stack, O.S.A. held the position prior to Byrnes and will be retiring after 50 years of service to the University.
Byrnes previously served as the University’s Associate Vice President for Student Life and has been with the University for 30 years. During her tenure, Byrnes has worked to progress campus-wide initiatives, assist departments with student-related work, aid student organizations and excel leadership programs. Byrnes was the co-founder of the University’s learning communities and coordinated the Safe Zone on campus. The training program works to provide support and resources to the LGBTQIA+ community on campus. Byrnes has continued to stay involved within the program to ensure its educational opportunities alongside its support system remain available for students.
“I am humbled by the opportunity to serve Villanova University and our students in this new capacity,” Byrnes said. “Villanova has shaped the person I’ve become—both during my own college years and more recently as a professional. I will do my utmost to serve and meet the evolving needs of our students in ways that will allow each member to flourish.”
The University has been honored to have Byrnes work closely with student life, but her work extends well beyond that. The incoming Vice President has worked closely with parent engagement, sustainability, compliance and ethics initiatives.
Byrnes has also worked closely with the University’s Student Life initiative to prevent sexual violence and maintain a community of mutual respect. She has worked to push these initiatives since the early 1990s. From 1993 to 2000, Byrnes served as the Sexual Harassment Complaint Officer. She was also heavily involved in the creation of the Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator team and many of the University’s Title IX policies. Byrnes has also served as an instructor on campus to teach topics including law, leadership and Title IX.
She has also served as the chair of the presidential inauguration committee for University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D.’s inauguration in 2006.
“While Kathy’s professional experience and contributions to Villanova University speak for themselves, it is her genuine care and concern for students that make her ideally suited to this position,” Donohue said. “While a candid, fierce and tireless advocate for students, it is her unassuming and often unknown acts of support for Villanova students, faculty and staff that truly sets her apart. It is clear she is passionate about helping shape the Villanova experience.”
Byrnes is also an alumna of the University, earning her bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Honors in 1982. She received her master’s degree in Theology in 2006. Byrnes also attended Duke University School of Law and received her juris doctorate. She worked in the field as a corporate litigator with firms in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia. The University welcomed Byrnes back in 1989 as an instructor at the University’s Charles Widger School of Law. She officially joined the Office of Student Life in 1991.
Byrnes also serves as Board Chair of the Association of Student Affairs at Catholic Colleges and Universities (ASACCU). The association works to promote exploration and sharing of knowledge to extend holistic student development founded on Catholic missions, values and identity. ASACCU hosts an annual conference for Student Affairs practitioners and the University hosted in the summer of 2020.