Academic Leadership

Mount Mercy's team of talented and accomplished academic department leaders, in conjunction with our provost, are responsible for shaping the faith-inspired, practical and values-based education that we provide.

Together, these individuals boast a combined 230 years of experience and service in the higher education arena; they are poised to utilize their expertise to help inspire and shape Mount Mercy students into the future leaders of tomorrow. 

Undergraduate Programs

Undergraduate programs at Mount Mercy are organized into eight academic departments led by chairs. 

Rob RittenhouseRobert Rittenhouse, M.B.A.
Chair, Department of Business
Assistant Professor of Business

Robert Rittenhouse received his Bachelor of Science degree from South Dakota State University and a Master of Business Administration from the Universtiy of South Dakota. 


Neil BernsteinNeil Bernstein, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Natural and Applied Sciences
Professor of Biology

Bernstein's scholarship interests include ornithology, conservation, environmental issues and animal behavior. He studies Antarctic seabirds and, currently, ornate box turtle ecology while conducting research on the state-endangered yellow mud turtle. Bernstein holds a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota and is former president of the Iowa Academy of Science (IAS) and editor of The Journal of the Iowa Academy of Science.

Kathryn HagyKathryn Hagy, M.F.A.
Chair, Department of Communications, Literature & Arts
Professor of Art
Kathryn Hagy holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting/printmaking from the University of Washington in Seattle, and a Master of Fine Arts in painting/printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in Providence, Rhode Island. Hagy's printmaking work focuses on pattern and rhythms in nature, which manifest themselves in the phenomena via movement through air, space and fluid. Hagy is a 2010 Fulbright Scholar, studying in Nepal.

Ellen O'KeefeEllen O'Keefe, Ph.D.
Professor of Education
Ellen O'Keefe holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rivier College in New Hampshire, a Master of Arts degree from the University of Northern Colorado, and a Ph.D. in Special Education from the University of Iowa, where she completed doctoral research on self-advocacy and self-determination with middle school children with disabilities.

Mary DuceyMary Ducey, Ph.D.
Chair, Department of Philosophy and Religion
Professor of Philosophy
Mary Ducey joined Mount Mercy in 1994. Prior to coming to Mount Mercy she taught at St. Louis University, as well as Catholic University of America, Avila College, Rockhurst College, and Webster College. She also has experience teaching high school math and theology. Teaching areas include Greek philosophy, ethics and critical thinking.

Mary TarboxMary Tarbox '74, Ed.D., R.N.
Chair, Department of Nursing
Professor of Nursing
Mary Tarbox has been on the Mount Mercy nursing faculty since 1977. She previously worked as a pediatric nurse at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics, and in various public health nursing roles. She holds an Ed.D. from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has been recognized as one of the 100 Great Nurses of Iowa for 2008, and was awarded the Iowa Nurses Association Region 2 Nurse of the Year award (2007).

Joni HowlandJoni Howland, M.S.W.
Chair, Department of Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work
Associate Professor of Social Work
Prior to joining Mount Mercy she spent the majority of her career working with adults with chronic illness. Specific assignments included working with AIDS patients and their families at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Texas, as the social worker in a regional cancer treatment center, and as the adult cardiology social worker at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. She has held several leadership positions in the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, and developed and piloted a healthcare access program at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Accelerated Programs

Colette AtkinsColette Atkins
Assistant Provost
Colette Atkins maintains the overall academic integrity of Mount Mercy's accelerated programs. Her primary responsibilities include recruiting a diverse group of adult students, monitoring the program's effectiveness and student success and providing leadership within all areas of the program. She also chairs Mount Mercy's Sustainability Committee.


Graduate Programs

Thomas CastleThomas Castle, M.B.A.
Associate Provost
Associate Professor of Business
Thomas Castle was instrumental in the development of Mount Mercy's accelerated Master of Business Administraton program and continues to provide strategic direction for all adult-focused and off-campus business initiatives, including the expansion of accelerated programs. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa and holds a Master of Business Administration from the same institution. Castle has been a faculty member and administrator at Mount Mercy since 1990, serving as the chair of the Business Department from 1996-2004 prior to his appointment as Dean of Adult Accelerated Programs in 2005.