Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, Ph.D.
B.A. psychology and sociology, Christian Brothers University; M.S. and Ph.D. experimental psychology, Kansas State University
Read President Bonds-Raacke's messages to the community.
On July 1, 2022, Jennifer Bonds-Raacke, Ph.D. will become Saint Martin’s 11th president. Unanimously supported by the Saint Martin’s University Board of Trustees following a nationwide search, Dr. Bonds-Raacke will become the first woman to serve as president of the 127-year Catholic Benedictine institution. Over the next few months, Dr. Bonds-Raacke will share news and stories about herself, her family, her experiences and her vision for Saint Martin's University. Read the official announcement here.
Q. What drew you to apply for the presidency at Saint Martin’s University?
A. The mission of Saint Martin’s University personally resonates with me. Beginning with kindergarten, I attended Sacred Heart School in Walls, Mississippi. The School Sisters of Saint Francis and the Brothers and Priests of the Sacred Heart Southern Missions taught by word and example, allowing me to see disparities in my own community and instilling a commitment to address educational and social inequities. I continued my Catholic education graduating from Christian Brothers University in the Lasallian tradition (educating minds and touching hearts). My heart immediately stirred upon reading, “At Saint Martin’s, students, faculty, and staff think, pray, act, and live with heart.” This aligns with my own educational experiences and is the philosophy I bring to my current work as the Provost and Vice-President for Academic Affairs at St. Norbert College.
Q. What has been a common thread in your higher education career?
A. As a first-generation college student, I know how a college education can transform your entire life. I have had the privilege to work at both private, faith-based colleges and public colleges. Throughout my career and administrative roles, I’ve worked with many first gen, non-traditional, adult learners, and military students. I’ve been committed to ensuring a college education is achievable for all. Prior to my position at St. Norbert College, I was a tenured, full professor and served as dean of the graduate school and office of scholarship and sponsored projects and chair of psychology at Fort Hays State University. As chair and dean, I was involved with numerous efforts to make higher education affordable and accessible to students across the country. Earlier in my career, I held faculty and administrative positions at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Briar Cliff University. Although these positions were varied in their responsibilities, the commonality of servant leadership remained the same.
Q. Can you share more about your work in equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB)?
A. After the murder of George Floyd, I reached out to our faculty and staff of color at St. Norbert College. I wanted to understand how we were doing at creating and fostering an inclusive environment. From work with the recently formed Faculty and Staff Coalition of Color, we developed: a dean of curriculum and senior diversity officer position, which was innovative and key to equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) work within the curriculum. Based on our institutional retention data, we also created a black student success coordinator position.
We also launched an EDIB cohort hire for Fall 2021 with the goal to hire for Catholic distinctiveness and diversity. We set to recruit and hire 13 new faculty members across various disciplines: people who would reflect diversity in both race and ethnicity, as well as areas of scholarship and research. Our student body was becoming more diverse, and we wanted to make sure our faculty is well-equipped to provide a classroom environment where all students can flourish.
Our Cassandra Voss Center (CVC) developed anti-racism training for faculty, staff, and students of SNC. The training expanded to include a joint session for SNC and Marquette students and is now available for local businesses as the Program for Inclusive Excellence.
You might see DEI at other places in higher education, but at Catholic universities, such as St. Norbert College and Saint Martin’s University, we are positioned to do it in a more meaningful way because it's such a part of who we are at our foundation. It’s part of our social justice teachings, and our Catholic intellectual tradition.
Q. Can you tell us more about your family?
A. My husband, Dr. John Raacke, and I have been married since 1999. We have two daughters, Callie and Brooke. Callie is a first-year student at Providence College, double majoring in biology and political science. Brooke is a sophomore in high school and is a member of a competitive dance team. John and I are extremely proud of our daughters. They are well versed in sarcasm and have our love for family, food, and fun! Callie and Brooke have been blessed with unique talents and gifts. Yet, they share a fierce passion for social justice and a dedication to creating a better world for the future.
Our family is made complete by a 4-year-old chihuahua named Doc (after Doc from the Seven Dwarfs). You can learn all about the daily adventures of our spoiled puppy by following him on Instagram (@doc_the_dog_raacke). We are avid Disney fans! We have been to WDW many times, as well as Disneyland and Disney cruises. We also watch many Disney vloggers to stay current on news and updates. I love the Disney customer service and the way cast members go out of their way to make your trip memorable.
Q. What are your favorite hobbies?
A. I enjoy reading (I highly recommend the My Lady Jane series for a lighthearted, witty read), watching streaming tv (nobody is better at binge watching than me!), and taking time for self-care (I do my own gel nails). This past Christmas we took the plunge and purchased a Peloton. Any other Peloton users? I love the way the instructors support and push you in the classes. #robinswolfpack
My husband and I love to travel with students domestically and internationally (e.g., Italy, England, Greece). We believe travel opens you up to new experiences and changes the way you think about yourself and others. You never know what might happen when you travel - for example, we met Anthony Anderson (from Blackish) at the Colosseum in Rome. John and I also traveled to China where I had the amazing opportunity to guest lecture at partner institutions. I loved discussing psychological concepts with the students, as we learned from one another how culture impacts us.
John and I also enjoy cheering on student-athletes on the court, field, pitch, and course. We know the importance of athletics in building a sense of identity on a campus and in the community. In particular, Division II athletics holds a special place in John’s heart, given his participation at this level. We look forward to supporting the Saints as they continue to build on their history of success.
We have never lived in the Northwest before, and we are excited for this new opportunity! John and I are both aficionados of sparkling wines and champagne, and I love a nice Pinot Noir. We look forward to exploring all the vineyards and natural beauty of the Northwest.
Q. How have your experiences prepared you to work alongside the Benedictine monks?
A. I was drawn to the presidency at Saint Martin's because of the opportunity to collaborate with and continue the legacy of the Benedictine monks. Throughout my educational experiences, individuals who have devoted their lives to God have inspired me, helping me to see how I could use my talents for the greater good.
Sister Margaret Sue, my first-grade teacher at Sacred Heart School, expertly balanced academic excellence with joyful learning. This pedagogy was the model I adopted in my own classroom years later.
Brother Jim Roszak, Assistant Professor at Christian Brothers University, taught John and I about living life educated in the liberal arts tradition. Br. Jim was ever open-minded and demonstrated the importance of learning about diverse perspectives and thoughts.
Most recently, I have been blessed to work with Fr. Jim Nielson (known to friends as Seamus). Seamus reminds everyone of God’s love, how love should be given freely with joy, and the power of reconciliation and forgiveness.
In September 2021, I traveled to the Norbertine Community of Santa Maria De La Vid Abbey. Abbot Joel Garner, O. Praem and Father Gene Gries, O. Praem. embodied the value of hospitality. From welcoming us to daily vespers to ensuring we always had a glass of wine at dinner.
These experiences over the years have taught me how to learn from and collaborate with men and women of the Church. I look forward to developing strong ties with Abbot Marion and all the monks. They have much to teach me about the Benedictine order, charisms, values, and traditions.