Vincent Guerrero sitting on a concrete structure on a rooftop



The Journey

Villanova’s College of Professional Studies offers many paths
for students to become what they are not yet

Villanova’s newest college is based on one of the University’s foundational principles: meeting the unique needs of students at every stage of their educational journey. The College of Professional Studies, established in 2014, builds on a more than century-long commitment to adult learners.

In the 10 years since CPS was founded, the college has built a reputation for providing the hallmarks of a Villanova experience—academically rigorous, top-quality, innovative programs within a supportive community—to students who are pursuing higher education amidst busy professional and personal lives.

“We created CPS as our sixth college to deliver to adult learners the same excellent education that traditional undergraduate students receive,” says University Provost Patrick G. Maggitti, PhD. “We promise all of our students rigorous academics and a transformative experience that is rooted in the Augustinian Catholic mission. CPS delivers on that promise for our adult students.”

Villanova first offered degree and certificate programs for adults in 1918. The market for these programs exploded after World War II, and Villanova began offering evening classes for lay men and women at Hallahan High School in Philadelphia, later bringing them to campus. CPS began as the merger of two programs that had grown from that foundation—Part-time Studies and Continuing Studies.

But the story of the first decade of the college is so much more. Under the leadership of Christine Kelleher Palus, PhD, who became dean in 2018, CPS has expanded its offerings–there is now a full slate of degrees, certificates and professional development courses and programs that are designed to meet students where they are as they look to launch, change or advance in a career.

“Our students are remarkable and some of the finest examples of Veritas, Unitas, Caritas in action,” says Dean Palus. “They come to Villanova because they want the Villanova experience as they complete their degree or advance their career. They want to be challenged while also being welcomed and supported, and that’s what Villanova does for all of its students, regardless of which pathway they take.”

Throughout my journey, I felt like everybody at CPS was invested in me. They wanted me to succeed.

Erica Howard ’21 CPS


In addition to its degree programs, CPS has a portfolio of non-credit professional certificates and courses that is substantial and growing. The college offers more than 30 programs and courses to allow professionals to build proficiency in high-demand areas of expertise or to complete certification in a marketable skill. For many working professionals, a CPS certificate can provide the résumé and competency boost necessary to pivot or level up in their careers.

The college also partners with employers and organizations to deliver customized strategic training programs, workforce education and professional development solutions. CPS partners with organizations and helps craft the education that meets their strategic goals and objectives and fills the gaps in employee training and skills.

Multiple Pathways to Degree Completion

Whether students start in CPS with dozens of credits, or they have just a few college courses on their transcript, the college specializes in putting them on a path to completing a bachelor’s degree. It’s not one size fits all—each student follows an individualized course of study that considers their academic history, current career path, personal and professional goals, and life circumstances. 

CPS offers five undergraduate degree options, with the signature offering being a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies (BIS) with seven possible majors:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • General Studies
  • Human Resource Management
  • Leadership
  • Information Systems and Technology
  • Organizational Development and Management
  • Public Service and Administration

Within each program, there are options for additional certificates, as well as accelerated paths to master’s degrees. 

The key is flexibility. Students can opt to learn on campus, online, or a combination of the two, taking one course at a time or choosing a more accelerated timeline. Within all of the options, there is an emphasis on building community with their fellow students, sharing the experience and learning from and with each other.

Members of Villanova’s world-class faculty teach across CPS, as do more than 150 adjunct professors, experts working at the top of their fields. All lend their scholarly expertise and professional experiences to be unparalleled resources for students. For example, students who hope to advance their careers in Human Resource Management learn from professors who have decades of experience in HR in settings ranging from small, privately owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies. Entrepreneurship faculty members have studied best practices in innovation, and have also built their own successful businesses from the ground up.

Students in CPS take courses just like the traditional undergraduate students—Theology, Ethics and the Augustine and Culture Seminar, to name a few—and they also have the opportunity to customize their degrees to align with their professional interests.

“Our students are not taking an easy path in coming to Villanova. They balance demanding classes with professional and personal commitments,” says Dean Palus. “It’s not for the faint of heart—but they’re in a place at Villanova that understands the adult’s experience and has an exceptional staff of professionals who can support students at every step.” 

The Rev. David Cregan, OSA, PhD, ’89 CLAS, associate dean of Academic Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for CPS, has worked to enrich the college’s degree programs to align with the needs of adult learners who come to Villanova because they want an education with substance and meaning. In recent years, a research seminar has been added to give students the opportunity to pursue scholarly projects, and most degree programs have a culminating capstone experience where students apply what they learned to a scenario similar to one that they would encounter in the field.

CPS students also have the opportunity to participate in diverse learning experiences like internships, study abroad opportunities, such as the European Innovation Academy in Portugal, and Villanova on the Hill—a weeklong immersion experience that introduces students to politics and policymaking in Washington, D.C.

“We want our students to be prepared for success in their careers and also in their lives. We want them to gain a larger perspective and a sense of obligation to return one’s education to the world by making it a better place,” says Father Cregan. “We believe that mission is fundamental to creating the conditions that will allow our students to accomplish their dreams.”

Photo of Dean Palus

An Expert at the Helm

Christine Kelleher Palus, PhD, has been dean of the College of Professional Studies since 2018, but her dedication to lifelong learning has been evident throughout her career.

A scholar of public administration and management, state and local politics, urban politics and women in politics, Dean Palus joined Villanova’s faculty in 2004, and she now holds the rank of professor. Her research has been widely published in leading academic journals.

While serving as chair of the Department of Public Administration and director of the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dean Palus introduced a highly successful certificate in Nonprofit Management, as well as an online version of the MPA program. Immediately prior to being named dean of CPS, Dean Palus was dean of Graduate Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where she was instrumental in the creation of the master’s program in Environmental Science and the PhD in Theology.

Throughout her career as an academic leader, she has championed innovative programming, online and blended learning and creating a supportive environment for students to achieve at the highest level.

“Dean Palus is deeply committed to the mission and values of Villanova and is a true teacher-scholar who is passionate about the transformative power of education at all levels,” says the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, ’75 CLAS. “She has built a strong community of students, faculty and staff in the College of Professional Studies who are making Villanova a better place for all.”

The Personal Touch 

For students who are already juggling family and work obligations, keeping track of credits and requirements can become a distant third priority, so robust academic advising is essential. Susan Leighton ’16 CPS, ’22 MBA, assistant dean for Academic Programs, remembers herself what it was like to be a busy CPS student, balancing her full-time job with her course load. When she started working at CPS in 2017, Leighton set out to create more pathways for students to receive personalized support. 

After reviewing education industry best practices and conducting research internally at Villanova, Leighton helped to establish an academic advising center with a proactive model. “We see academic advising as a partnership between the student and the adviser,” Leighton says. “Our advisers are deeply caring and phenomenal at what they do.”

Today, each student in a CPS degree program is paired with an adviser who helps to chart a course that is just right for that individual. Erica Howard ’21 CPS recalls, “Throughout my journey, I felt like everybody at CPS was invested in me. They wanted me to succeed. No matter who I reached out to, whether it was an adviser, faculty, or an administrator, they supported me in what I was trying to achieve.”

As she’s witnessed more and more CPS students graduating over the past several years, Dean Palus is gratified to see the combination of intellect, ambition and persistence that brings them to that long-awaited moment. Many are going on to master’s degree programs, to run their own businesses and nonprofits, to leap forward in their careers, to follow their dreams. All have made their communities—at home, at work and on campus—enormously proud.

“Our students are studying with the same goal as the traditional students. You see that when they walk across the stage at Commencement and receive their Villanova degree and are just as proud as all of the 22-year-olds who are there,” Dean Palus says. “These students have worked so incredibly hard. This University is theirs and it is their home.” 


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