Leading Ladies: Teresa Beam gets ready to start new dean’s role

Science and Tech
May 08, 2023

Set to Succeed

by Nathaniel Miller

Growing up in Columbia City, Indiana, Teresa “Teri” Beam, Ph.D., was an inquisitive child.

Questioning how and why things worked in certain ways, Beam found herself fascinated with the sciences, specifically the subject of genetics, and longed to understand why some people were predisposed to certain ailments.

Teresa “Teri” Beam, Ph.D., will soon become Dean of the School of Science, Engineering and Technology

Beam said her first genetics course was difficult. Not one to give up, she continued pursuing the sciences and eventually earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology/Chemistry from the University of Saint Francis and a doctorate in Molecular Biology from the University of Notre Dame, both in Indiana.

“It can be challenging, but if you pursue something long enough, eventually it’ll click,” Beam said. “That’s what I love about higher education is helping others find ways to make things click.”

Beam’s life choices will bring her to St. Mary’s University as the new Dean of the School of Science, Engineering and Technology beginning June 5.

Currently serving as Associate Dean of Academic Programs at Manchester University in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Beam said she was drawn to St. Mary’s by its Catholic values and its focus on teaching students beyond their selected major.

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution, the University’s mission aligns with one of Beam’s personal goals: finding ways to make the sciences more accessible to underrepresented groups.

A Pew Research Center report stated that about half of the workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics occupations are women, but they are primarily found in health care fields. Workers who identify as Black or Hispanic account for only 9% and 7% of STEM employees, respectively.

“People of color and women are underrepresented in the sciences,” Beam said. “St. Mary’s has a real commitment to changing that fact, and I want to be part of it.”

From her scientific background, Beam observed that genetic diversity can drive evolutionary changes.

“From a biological perspective, you don’t have adaptation and change without diversity at the start,” she said.

“People of color and women are underrepresented in the sciences. St. Mary’s has a real commitment to changing that fact, and I want to be part of it.”

Teresa Beam

Citing the Marianist principle of educating for adaptation and change, a diverse group of leaders benefits the
well-being of a university, she added.

“We’re really no different than the natural world in that, if there’s going to be adaptation and change and if we’re going to innovate, then we need as much diversity as possible,” Beam said. “Otherwise, we’re missing opportunities and possibilities.”

Beam added it’s essential that women in leadership positions show students how to interact kindly with each other while remaining truthful to themselves. For female students, especially those looking at STEM fields, she encourages kindness toward themselves.

“We as women are not afraid to be who we are, and we’re going to be accepting of one another,” Beam said. “When you do that, you’re living your own mission, and you’re living the St. Mary’s mission.”

Read more about the women leading the way at St. Mary's University

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Since joining St. Mary’s University as Dean in 2021, Rowena Ortiz-Walters, Ph.D., said her mission is to find ways to be inclusive by fostering a program that welcomes students from all backgrounds. 

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