Naegeli promoted to dean of growing Honors College
Story by Ashlee Larrison
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Thunderous applause reverberated around Grand Canyon University Arena on Monday morning at the Spring Faculty Conference.
The reason was a short announcement by Provost Dr. Hank Radda:
“Congratulations, Dr. Breanna Naegeli, Dean of the Honors College!”
After serving as the associate dean of the college for the last 3½ years, Naegeli officially was named its dean.
Leading the cheers were Honors College Director of Operations Dennis Williams and program managers Anya Cofrancesco, Gabby Marrama and Katalina Inzunza Herrera.
It was the kind of experience Naegeli never could have imagined when she joined the Honors College in 2014.
“If I was talking to myself as an 18-year-old high school graduate, as a recent college graduate or as a new young professional in the workplace and I had said, ‘In less than a decade you’re going to be the dean of the Honors College and supporting 2,800 exceptionally gifted students,’ I wouldn’t have believed it,” she said. “It’s very rewarding, it’s exciting and it’s invigorating to have received this opportunity, and it serves as a new source of fuel going into the next decade.”
Naegeli, who began her GCU career as a university development representative in 2009, has been managing the Honors College as associate dean since 2018. She has spent that time learning from the University’s eight other deans while also completing work toward her doctoral degree in 2020.
In 2021, she was named one of 10 young business leaders to watch by AZ Big Media, and she recently was awarded the HAIL Athena Founder’s Award by the nonprofit Athena Valley of the Sun.
Her latest promotion was just a matter of timing.
“I think the Honors program, myself and our team, just needed that time to grow and to get established,” she said. “The timing feels right, and it feels great to step into that dean role now that there is more experience under my belt and a growing vision ready to execute upon.”
Since joining the Honors College, she has played an integral role in helping it grow from 59 students in its inaugural year to nearly 3,000 students in less than eight years.
But reaching this point in her career was something Naegeli said she couldn’t have done alone. It stems from the overwhelming support and encouragement she has received along the way.
“Throughout my time here at GCU, I feel like I have been provided numerous unmatched opportunities to grow and take on challenging roles, tasks and projects, and that only happens when you have leadership in place that has faith in you and is continually empowering you to reach your fullest potential,” she said.
“It feels good to reach this moment and know that the hard work has been acknowledged, but most importantly it’s just gratitude to those who mentored and supported me on this path to where I am today.”
Naegeli’s work ethic and ability to establish strong connections with staff and students made her promotion a sensible decision, in Radda’s view.
“Since day one as part of the Honors College, Dr. Naegeli has demonstrated a passion for intellectual and character development in herself and the students,” he said. “The reputation of the Honors program has grown tremendously under her leadership as she has partnered with every college, the faculty and industry.
“With an expectation of over 1,200 new students beginning next year, her leadership continues to influence programming, collaboration and, most importantly, student development.”
As the college approaches its 10-year anniversary, Naegeli and her staff show no sign of slowing down. It’s a testament to the leadership and guidance Honors students have been praising for years.
And Naegeli’s story just makes it that much more inspirational.
“A mentor of mine once shared with me this quote, ‘When you focus on the past, that’s your ego. When you dwell on the future, that’s you’re pride, but when you live in the present and bring your best each and every day, that’s humility,’” she said. “Today, I am just humbled and grateful to be here at GCU and in this role, and now I’m excited to get back to work!”
Contact Ashlee Larrison at (602) 639-8488 or [email protected].