Mary L. Churchill

Associate Dean, Strategic Initiatives & Community Engagement
Program Director, Higher Education Administration
Professor of the Practice

Dr. Mary L. Churchill is the associate dean for strategic initiatives & community engagement at BU Wheelock. In this role, she manages strategic partnerships, including the college’s relationship with Boston Public Schools where she represents the college at BPS Community Equity Roundtable convenings. Dr. Churchill also serves as program director for the Higher Education Administration program at BU Wheelock and teaches in the program. She has taught undergraduate and graduate courses focused on social and political theory; quantitative methods; social movements; race, class, and gender; urban sociology; women and politics; and cross-cultural understanding in the departments of Sociology, Political Science, and International Studies.

Dr. Churchill serves as a trustee at Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, a 4-year minority-serving college in Boston, where she chairs the academic affairs committee. In addition, she currently serves on several local advisory boards: Boston Universal Pre-K, BU’s Initiative on Cities, and BU Wheelock’s Center for the Ecology of Early Education (CEED). Nationally, Dr. Churchill leads the college’s participation in the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) Reducing the Shortage of Special Education Teachers Network Improvement Community. She also serves as an advisor for the American Council of Education’s Learner Success Lab.

In 2021, Dr. Churchill took a public service leave to serve as the chief of policy and planning for Mayor Kim Janey in Boston where she managed college and university relationships for the mayor, supported the launch of the mayor’s Children’s and Youth Cabinet, led the development of an alternative response to 911 calls for mental health emergencies, and coordinated the implementation of a city-wide COVID-19 mask mandate. Upon her return to BU Wheelock in the fall of 2021, she co-chaired the Boston Career and College Pathways Partnership working group along with Bob Schwartz at Harvard’s Project on Workforce.

Prior to her time at Boston University, Dr. Churchill served as vice president for academic affairs at Wheelock College, where she helped lead the merger of Wheelock College and Boston University. She has also held leadership roles in universities and colleges in New England for over 30 years. These include positions at Salem State University, Northeastern University, Bentley College, and Emmanuel College.

Dr. Churchill is an international voice for social justice and change management within higher education. She is the creator and editor of University of Venus, an award-winning blog at Inside Higher Ed and has written over 100 op-eds and blog posts published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian (UK), and the Washington Post. She is also the co-creator of three podcasts focused on higher education: Rocking the Academy, View from Venus, and ExperiencED. Recently, Dr. Churchill co-authored When Colleges Close: Leading in a Time of Crisis (Johns Hopkins University Press) with David Chard, telling the story of the Wheelock–Boston University merger.

Dr. Churchill is a strong advocate for justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education, particularly the promotion of women and people of color, which is an emphasis of her board leadership on the Women’s Network Executive Council at the American Council on Education and the Massachusetts A.C.E. Women’s Network as well as her work as a faculty member of HERS Wellesley and Boston. Dr. Churchill has established herself as a strategic change leader in higher education and has consulted for numerous institutions including the Population Council of Cairo, the Boston Public Schools, Harvard Business Publishing, CUNY, SUNY, and the University of Massachusetts.


PhD, Sociology, Northeastern University

MA, Philosophy, Northeastern University

BS, Psychology, Michigan State University

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