La Salle University introduced Gabrielle St. Léger, Ed.D., as its Vice President of Student Development & Campus Life, effective July 6, bringing more than 20 years of student affairs experience to her post at 20th and Olney.
What can La Salle’s students and her colleagues expect from her?
“Big ears and a small mouth,” St. Léger said recently. “I want to listen to their journeys and their experiences. I learn more when I’m able to just listen to the student voice. My Twitter handle is @DrGabysVoice for a reason.”
The fifth of six children born to Haitian immigrants, St. Léger is a native Long Islander who joins La Salle following two-plus years as Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students at Hofstra University. She’s a first-generation American and first-generation college student whose story, she expects, will resonate with those of La Salle’s students. St. Léger also is a consecrated deaconess and an aunt to 12 nieces and nephews.
Here are other fast facts about La Salle’s new Vice President of Student Development & Campus Life:
Courses of study
St. Léger majored in English as an undergraduate at West Virginia University, where she also completed a master’s degree in secondary education language arts, and earned her doctorate in education, with a focus in higher education administration.
While completing her dissertation, St. Léger moved home to New York to serve as the primary caregiver for her mother, Laetitia, as she completed an 11-year battle with Stage 4 colon cancer in the final 13 months of her life. “To me,” St. Léger said, “that was 13 months of my life well spent. My parents came here in 1965 and it was my opportunity to give back to them for what my mother and father sacrificed for me.”
“One of my career’s greatest surprises was creating and leading a doctoral course on diversity issues in higher education during my time at West Virginia,” she said. “The course was designed to teach future faculty in all disciplines—from physics and chemistry, to history, education, and communication—about the business of higher education and the need to study diversity issues in higher ed. Faculty will become experts in their respective subject areas, but they don’t always understand the classroom as the center for facilitation of a diverse experience. I taught it remotely (in 2013) and it was a great joy to infuse DEI into the classroom.”
“It’s Brené Brown,” St. Léger said. “I used her work as a foundational piece in teaching a master’s level course on leadership development. Her theory of showing up whole-heartedly for yourself and your students and daring to be brave and courageous is the best way, I’ve found, to train future educators.”
New to Philadelphia
One of St. Léger’s elder sisters studied in Philadelphia; otherwise, this represents her first foray in Philly. “I’m a foodie,” she said, “so I’m looking forward to finding go-to places for Thai and Italian here in the city.”
A passion for athletics
A former Division I student-athlete, St. Léger was a high jumper, hurdler, and pentathlete at West Virginia. She still counts track and field as a passion and enjoys basketball, too. “A bucket list item for me, when I get to a certain age, is to become one of the best master’s-level high jumpers—but I definitely have time for that,” St. Léger said with a laugh.
—Christopher A. Vito