Madonna University News

  • Education Specialist

Education Specialist Degree Offers School Administrators Leadership and Visioning Skills

July 2, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – Giving leaders the skills to lead other leaders, is the aim of Madonna University’s new Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership, Ed.S. The program builds on the strength of the current master’s program in educational leadership offered through Madonna’s College of Education and provides the preparation for pursuit of a future Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degree. This graduate program is expected to attract aspiring superintendents, school principals, central office administrators, special education administrators, department chairs and other school district leaders who want to build leadership skills.

According to Madonna education professor Todd Symington, who along with colleague Jill Robinson Ed.D., is co-director of the Education Specialist program, Madonna’s program meets Michigan Department of Education standards for central office-level administrators while incorporating an expanded knowledge of the unique leadership characteristics within special education. In addition, Madonna’s small class sizes enable professors to offer a mentor/mentee relationship and what Symington called “shoulder-to-shoulder” support.

Symington said, “The goal of the program is the progressive implementation of 21st-century, evidence-based practices to support teachers to meet the needs of all students.”

To best accommodate school administrators’ schedules, the program is offered in hybrid format, with a combination of face-to-face and online classes once per week. The program includes 10 courses taken over two years, for 30 total credits.

Among the classes are Strategic Planning & Program Assessment, Leading Teaching and Learning, and Legal and Ethical Issues in Educational Policy. The classes help students develop skills in effective leadership, school district visioning and strategic planning, data-driven analysis, evaluating teacher/program for growth, and handling conflict. The program also focuses on strategies and outcomes to promote success for all students, i.e., living in poverty, those with special needs, or those whose first language is not English

Visit for more information or to apply for the program.

Accredited by the National Council of Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), Madonna University’s College of Education offers undergraduate and graduate programs that develop professional, highly effective teachers who are passionate about their students, schools and teaching. Undergraduate programs include child development, physical education, sport management and elementary and secondary education. Other master’s programs include: autism spectrum disorders, Catholic school leadership, curriculum and instruction, educational technology, learning disabilities, online teaching, literacy, teaching English to speakers of other languages and higher education and student affairs.


  • Grandillo Day 1

Madonna's First Lay President Assumes Office

July 1, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. - Dr. Michael A. Grandillo assumed the office of president of Madonna University this morning, making him the first lay president in the university’s 78-year history.

As Madonna’s seventh president, Grandillo succeeds Sister Rose Marie Kujawa, CSSF, at the helm of the 4,500-student, liberal arts university. Over the last two weeks he has attended conferences and worked closely with Sr. Rose Marie to get acclimated. Grandillo and his wife Nancy are hosting a July 4th Open House for Madonna faculty, staff and their families, and an inauguration is planned for Oct. 17.

“It is a distinct pleasure and a high honor to serve as leader of this fine Catholic and Franciscan institution of higher learning,” Grandillo said. “The faculty and staff are stellar and they have welcomed Nancy and I into the Madonna family with genuine enthusiasm and kindness. Together we will continue to deliver the quality liberal arts education and career preparation that students and employers have come to expect.”

Grandillo has more than 35 years of experience in higher education, including academic leadership, recruitment, enrollment management, public relations and advancement at a number of colleges and universities. He’s also served on the city council of Tiffin, Ohio, where he and his wife raised their children, Vincent and Gina. A lifelong Roman Catholic, Dr. Grandillo grew up in Dayton, Ohio.

“I am committed to humbly building upon the legacy of excellence and community service developed by the Felician Sisters over the years,” said Grandillo. “I was attracted to Madonna’s simple, yet universal, Franciscan values, and I was equally impressed by the rigor and relevance of its undergraduate and graduate degree programs.”

Most recently, Grandillo was a consultant with the Registry for College and University Presidents and served as interim vice president at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where he led the Foundation Board, advancement team and public outreach initiatives. Just prior to St. Mary’s, he completed a similar assignment at Bethel College in Indiana.

Prior to his time with the Registry, Grandillo served as president and CEO of Lakeland College in Sheboygan, Wis. He served for 17 years as vice president for development and public affairs at Tiffin University, and another nine years as director of development at Heidelberg College. His time in fundraising resulted in five successful capital campaigns, tripling of the endowment at two institutions, and raising more than $80 million dollars.

He began his career in admissions at his alma mater, Ohio Northern University, where he received the 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award. During his tenure as associate dean of admissions at Heidelberg, undergraduate enrollment doubled.

With a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio Northern University, Grandillo attended the University of Dayton to earn a Master of Science in Education. In 2006, he completed a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Higher Education and Italian Renaissance History at the University of Toledo.

His research and scholarly interests are in the areas of philanthropic support of education, university history and public policy, and enhancing the collegiate experience for students and student-athletes. He has presented at numerous conferences, shared his time and talent with a number of community service groups, and has enjoyed teaching political science as an adjunct professor.

Madonna has been led by the Felician Sisters since its founding in 1937, and by Sister Kujawa for the past 14 years. During her tenure, retention improved by eight percent, the University’s first doctoral program (the Doctor of Nursing Practice) was launched, and Madonna became the first independent university in Michigan to be awarded the Community Engagement Classification by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She led a capital campaign that exceeded its $50 million goal by $6 million, which funded the LEED Gold Franciscan Center, nursing and sign language labs, a new athletic complex, additional undergraduate and graduate academic programs and establishment of the Haiti Educational Leadership Program.

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  • Urban Garden

Madonna Students “Turnip” Children’s Nutrition Knowledge with Urban Garden

June 30, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – With the help of Madonna University students, young gardeners plant and care for vegetables, try new foods, and even learn such life skills as teamwork. In other words, it’s a garden that can’t be “beet.”

Madonna dietetics students plant, weed and water alongside elementary-school children in the Children’s Urban Garden, at the St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center, in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood. The project has been ongoing for the last several years as a part of Madonna professor Laura Freeland Kull’s Community Nutrition service-learning class.

An element of the six-week Children’s Summer Program, the Children’s Urban Garden involves students who have just finished first through fifth grade. It’s designed to help them retain the information they learned the previous school year and give them a head start on what they will be taught the next academic year. They also play games, take field trips and participate in other activities.

Kull explained that her Community Nutrition class requires the students spend at least five hours planting and maintaining the Children’s Urban Garden at three locations during the semester, which encourages them to experience multiple aspects of community nutrition. The 18 students in the class work in the garden on a rotation to make sure the vegetables are cared for throughout the semester.

Kull said that while her students engage the children in discussions about which veggie is their favorite, they are pleasantly surprised to learn how many children actually like vegetables. “Generally, they have a really fun time,” she said. The children watch their vegetables grow during the summer program and eventually take some home to their families.

In its three beds the Children’s Garden sprouts a bean teepee – an excellent playing and hiding spot for young children – plus rows of tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, leafy greens, hot and bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli and even a little corn.

Eva Essex, children’s program coordinator at St. Vincent and Sarah Fisher Center, said without the Madonna University students, the garden wouldn’t be nearly as big or well-maintained. Working in the garden is both fun and educational for the children, as they learn how to plant and care for the vegetables and patiently watch them grow. And when their parents come to pick them up at the end of the day, the kids are excited to show off their hard work.

Some of the youngsters are leery of tasting vegetables at first, but “tasting produce fresh out of the garden is a great experience for them,” Essex said. “Learning how to grow their own food has a huge impact on the kids. There is so much excitement when they arrive for the after school program, asking, ‘Are we going outside to the garden today?’ They even enjoy doing the weeding.”

David Camilleri, a pre-dietetics student in his third year of classes at Madonna University, said they also played games with the kids. For example, in the nutrition relay, the child draws a card with the picture of a food item on it, and they must run to the appropriate bucket of fruit, vegetable, protein, dairy or grain, to match the picture to the correct food group.

To familiarize the children with the various vegetables, there are signs throughout the garden that identify each veggie and the vitamins it contains, to encourage them to try it. On Camilleri’s first day of volunteering, a child asked him what was in his salad; it was a green pepper. “These kids are 9, 10 years old and don’t know what a green pepper looks like,” he said.

Camilleri, 26, from Livonia, said although some of the kids were skittish about working in the dirt and finding worms, he tried to make it fun for them by making a game out of who could find the first worm and then explaining how worms help the soil. The Madonna students would get the children to practice math skills by counting seeds or measuring how far apart or deep to plant them.

Not only are community gardens extremely important, but when children dig-in they are more likely to enjoy gardening and eating the vegetables for the rest of their lives. “It’s such a simple thing that can make a big difference,” he said.

Research supports this: While children’s gardens expose young students to different vegetables, they might also improve other life skills. One study, Growing Minds: The Effects of a One-year School Garden Program on Six Constructs of Life Skills of Elementary School Children (, published in the July-September 2005 issue of Hort Technology, the journal for the American Society for Horticultural Science, showed that school garden programs improved students’ skills of working as part of a team.


  • Campaign50M

Madonna University Capital Campaign Exceeds $50 Million Goal

June 25, 2015

LIVONIA, Mich. – Madonna University President Sister Rose Marie Kujawa announced to the Board of Trustees, Wednesday, June 24, that the Leading the Way Capital Campaign had reached a successful conclusion by achieving gifts and pledges of $56 million. Surpassing the $50 million campaign goal by more than 10 percent is significant Kujawa told the trustees. “We could not have exceeded what was a very ambitious goal, without gifts of all sizes. It was a broad base of support that enabled us to set University fundraising records during the most difficult of economic times,” she said. “I extend my most heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to this major milestone.”

According to Kujawa’s report, more than 9,000 donors supported the Campaign and over 35,500 gifts were recorded. The University community also met the $1.5 million challenge grant awarded by The Kresge Foundation – the largest in Madonna’s history.

Andrea Nodge, vice president for advancement at Madonna, attributes the campaign’s fruitful closure to the dedication, vision and service of the Felician Sisters, who have shaped the University since its founding in 1937. “The Sisters fostered a culture of giving within the campus community,” Nodge said. “The enthusiastic support of the Campaign demonstrated by students, faculty and staff really resonated with donors, who also gave generously to take Madonna University to new heights.”

The Leading the Way Campaign resulted in numerous campus enhancements and academic initiatives, including:

  • construction of the Franciscan Center for Science and Media; the first Gold Level LEED-certified “green” building in Livonia
  • establishment of a Center for Catholic Studies and Interfaith Dialogue
  • renovations to classrooms, student service offices, the Graduate School, and alumni recognition areas
  • addition of state-of-the-art Nursing Simulation and Sign Language Labs
  • doubling the number of endowed and annual scholarships
  • significant enhancements to the Athletic Complex, i.e., new bleachers in the Activities Center, a new artificial turf soccer field, renovation of the softball field which also sports artificial turf at the Athletic Complex, and the addition of a press box, concession stand and locker rooms at Madonna baseball’s Ilitch Ball Park
  • launch of the first doctoral program in nursing

“This Campaign offered a joyous opportunity to work with so many who care deeply for Madonna University, its students and its future,”said Kujawa, who retires June 30, following 14 years as the University’s leader. “Together we have laid the financial foundation that will impact our students for years to come.”

About Madonna: Liberal arts education, career preparation and service-learning have been the hallmarks of Madonna University for 78 years. In addition to the beautiful main campus, conveniently located at I-96 and Levan Road in Livonia, Madonna offers academic programs in Gaylord, Macomb, Southwest Detroit, and online in China, United Arab Emirates and Haiti. Michigan’s most affordable, independent, Catholic, liberal arts university, Madonna offers more than 100 undergraduate and 30-plus graduate programs in the colleges of arts and humanities, science and mathematics, social sciences, education, and nursing and health, as well as the School of Business and the Graduate School.

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