Margaret McManus, PH.D.

Margaret McManus

Dr. Margaret “Peg” McManus (Masi) ’69 holds the positions of associate dean in the School of Arts and Sciences and the executive director of Graduate Studies and is also a professor in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, all at La Salle University in Philadelphia.

Her work encompasses academic and administrative leadership, strategic planning, assessment, faculty development, fiscal management, development and external outreach.

She directed the M.S. Computer Information Science Program and co-developed the M.S. Information Technology Leadership Program. She has been a co-principal investigator and awardee for the NSF-SENCER (Science Education for New Civic Engagement and Responsibility) and the NSF-CSEMS (Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics Scholarship) programs, and chairs the Graduate Management Team.

But in 1969, when she graduated from Immaculata with a B.A. in mathematics and a minor in economics, she wasn’t sure which direction to take. “Sister Maria Socorro, who was chair of the Mathematics Department at that time, was very influential for me,” said McManus. “Not only was she a masterful teacher, but she really encouraged me—and all of us—to pursue our interests and to go into all fields. She was very active in the professional world of physics and she helped me, upon graduation to make a decision about my future.”

The decision to study computer science had its seeds planted when Sister Maria taught a course in FORTRAN, a computer language. McManus admits, “The class sounded fascinating. We didn’t even have computers to use, so we just hand wrote our code to solve problems. I thought computer science was a really interesting area to pursue so Sister Maria really got me on that path.”

That path took a slightly circuitous route when McManus married and she was a few courses short of completing her master’s at The Pennsylvania State University. Working with her advisor, she took courses at the King of Prussia Graduate Center and finished through distance education and independent study. “I would work on materials and solutions, then send them to the main campus to my advisor. I completed my master’s project that way.”

While there, a professor asked her to help him as an assistant teaching COBOL, a course McManus eventually taught herself at Penn State.

By the time the McManus family had three children, her husband was teaching as an adjunct at La Salle and he suggested she do that, as well. “I taught in the Mathematical Sciences Department,” said McManus. “I was a stay-at-home mom, which I loved, so I would teach evenings. I could be with the children during the day and have this other stimulation and challenge in the evening.”

In 1983, a full-time position opened at La Salle and McManus received the appointment, but she knew she needed a doctorate. A couple of her colleagues were pursuing doctorates part-time at Temple, so that’s what McManus did. “I had a lot of support from La Salle, so I could manage it. It took a decade because I was taking courses on a part-time basis while I was teaching, but I was very happy. I had a great doctoral advisor who was very supportive and encouraging.”

McManus became interested in intelligent tutoring systems and collaborative learning, combining those two ideas for her dissertation; in the early ’90s she developed a rudimentary type of learning management system that allowed people to communicate with each other via networks while they were learning collaboration skills as well as content.

No sooner had she finished her doctorate, McManus, whose department had changed to Mathematics and Computer Science, was appointed director of the master’s program of computer information science. “It was a new program,” said McManus, “just a year old, and I was thrilled. I was responsible for overseeing curriculum, appointing faculty to teach the program, recruiting new students and advising students. Half of my time was spent directing, the other half teaching.”

McManus also led the development of the M.S. in Information Technology Leadership, an interdisciplinary program combining technology and business. “In 1998, I kept the directorship side of the job and assumed the role of associate dean for Graduate Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences. I spent three years growing and enhancing the graduate program.

“Dr. Barbara Millard, the dean I worked with at the time and the first woman dean at La Salle in Arts and Sciences, was a great influence on me.”

Upon Millard’s retirement in 2001, McManus became interim dean and served in that capacity for two years until the new dean was appointed and McManus stayed on as associate dean.

McManus went on to chair the Arts and Science Technology Committee, important because “it leads to ideas that are useful across campus, that the University’s IT department will consider.” McManus sees it as a perfect example of “carrying ideas from my technology background into my administrative work.”

Another interesting project McManus worked on was the renovation and expansion of La Salle’s science building, Holroyd Hall. “I was the administrative liaison between faculty and architects and construction managers. My science background helped me because we would have meetings with faculty who would talk about their dreams, and then it got down to specifications. We ended up with a beautiful building. I was really happy I could participate.”

As the executive director of Graduate Studies, McManus is proudest of how La Salle’s graduate culture and programs have grown. “When I started working at La Salle, there were a handful of graduate programs. Now there are 22, 19 master’s and three doctorates.”

McManus confessed that the most challenging thing she faces is achieving that work/life balance. “I’m happy with the work that I do, I love to be involved, but it’s quite a busy life. We have three adult children and six grandchildren that we like to spend time with. And that makes a pleasant change of pace.”

With all of McManus’s impressive achievements, she credits her parents with having had a tremendous influence on her. “My dad, a mechanical engineer, encouraged me in math and the sciences, especially as a high school and college student,” she said. “And my mom, even now at 97, is a model for mental stimulation and lifelong learning.”

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