M.L. "Cissy" Petty, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students
Email: [email protected]
Former students were once asked to describe Dr. Cissy Petty; abruptly, one piped up and said, “she’s a lightning bolt on two feet.” Lots of ways to look at this description!
Dean Petty has high energy, a drive to accomplish bold projects, and a keen eye for the details. She would describe herself as a change agent, comfortable with intuitively seeing the potential in people, places, and things. She is also described as a relentless advocate for learning. Learning opens up the possibilities to imagine and re-imagine what can happen at any given moment. Maya Angelou, one of her favored authors, evokes this excellence in the following, “the horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change.”
In August 2019, M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D. was appointed to the George Washington University’s leadership team. As Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Dean Petty reports directly to GW President Mark Wrighton and Provost Chris Bracey. Dean Petty provides leadership over areas including student conduct, student health and well-being, campus living and residential education, fraternity and sorority life, student organizations and leadership development, military and veteran student support, and on-campus student programming.
“Our students are an engaged, active community, and we are here to do whatever we can to help them achieve academic success and personal growth,” Dr. Petty said. “I am excited to build on the progress we have made to the student experience during the past year, especially our ongoing efforts to enhance community space, programs, and a sense of belonging at GW.”
Prior to her arrival at GW, Dean Petty served as Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Provost at Loyola University New Orleans, arriving eight months after Katrina and the failure of the levees decimated New Orleans. “As a southerner, a change agent and having felt a calling, I wanted to be a part of rebuilding this great American city; Loyola is the leader in putting faith into action.”
In previous roles, Dean Petty had the privilege to serve St. Lawrence University as Vice President and Dean of Students for Co- Curricular Education and Programming; was selected for a post-doctoral fellowship as the Upsilon Nu Chi Distinguished Scholar in Counseling at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro; served as Dean for Student Development at Mississippi University for Women; and served as Director for Student Development at the University of North Carolina - Asheville.
Recognized nationally as a thought leader in student affairs, Dean Petty has taught courses on leadership development and counseling at the graduate and undergraduate levels and has presented extensively. She has held numerous leadership roles in professional organizations, including the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) and the American College Personnel Association (ACPA). NASPA’s Foundation awarded her the Pillar of the Profession award in 2014, their highest peer recognition for outstanding leadership in the profession.
She currently serves on the NASPA Foundation Board of Directors and on the editorial board of the Journal of Student Affairs and Research Practice. Her presentations are numerous on the national level regarding higher education administration and student development program implementation. She consults with a variety of non-profit leaders in education, business, and hospital administration.
Dean Petty’s undergraduate and graduate degrees are from Florida State University. Dean Petty was selected for a prestigious post-doctoral fellowship as the Distinguished Scholar in Counseling at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro; selected for Harvard University’s Senior Institutional Management Program; completed her professional leadership coaching certification from Georgetown University; and completed a two-year certificate course in Spiritual Studies from St. Thomas University.