Dr. Debra Colley, executive vice president at Niagara University.

Having been given the ability to be part of shaping the opportunities facing higher education today, Dr. Debra Colley, executive vice president at Niagara University, uses her administrative role as a tool to leverage change into the future, not only on campus but in our own backyards.

Dr. Colley first started her journey in Western New York, where she grew up with two sisters and a brother. Her interest in education and leadership sparked her desire to earn a bachelor’s degree in elementary and special education from the State University College at Buffalo.

From there, Dr. Colley’s love for teaching, researching and working with individuals never wavered. Her graduate studies focused on these areas of expertise while allowing her to obtain knowledge about leadership and policy relating to bilingual special education. With additional studies in executive leadership from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and in national women’s leadership from the American Council of Education, Dr. Colley is also a graduate of the Vincentian Mission Institute, a program focused on learning about St. Vincent de Paul and Sr. Louise de Marillac which encapsulates Niagara’s mission.

After completing her undergrad studies and studying in both Mexico and Spain, Dr. Colley never thought she would have a doctoral degree. However, early in her career, she found herself in multiple leadership positions revolving around education with a strength of language, culture and ability at the core.

“We never know where doors may open; sometimes we have to walk through them to try new things in new places.”

Through her knowledge, experience, and commitment to making a difference, Dr. Colley made her way to Monteagle Ridge. This commitment and passion paired nicely with the Vincentian mission and core values.

“The significance of education is important for all students, each and every one, regardless of their background, experience, or zip code,” says Colley.  

From working with students across the university, mentoring the university’s newest students and supporting graduate students as they begin their careers, Dr. Colley has watched and helped many purple eagles grow up and leave the nest.

Dr. Colley’s strong work ethic has allowed her to become a very empowering woman not only on campus but also in the workforce. Her determination and passion is respected by others while her friendly and approachable personality reassures students that they are cared for by our senior staff and the university as a whole.

Although it seems as though Dr. Colley is a resident on campus herself, she is also a loving wife, and mother to her daughter Lindsey Pastusynski, ’20. She enjoys skiing or being on the lake whether it be on a watercraft or kayaking with her family.

“Spending time with my family, well, that is the best,” says Colley.  

Dr. Colley believes that individuals must be true to themselves. She did not know where her journey would lead her, but found her home within the Vincentian community of Niagara University, “where a commitment and embrace of community would guide the accomplishments and outcomes of students.”

Article and photo by Madeline Dallessandro, ’20, co-president of the Public Relations Student Society of Niagara. In celebration of Women’s History Month, PRSSN teamed up with the women’s studies committee to spotlight some of Niagara University’s most influential female faculty and staff. Throughout the month of March, get to know more about their lives, careers, accomplishments and the impact that they have on the NU community.


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