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Meet the Dean: Kathleen Vouté MacDonald — Informal Conversations with the Deans of St. John's University

Monday, July 30, 2012

Kathleen Vouté MacDonald, Ed.D, M.B.A., has served as Dean of the College of Professional Studies (CPS) since 1994. She wore many professional hats before coming to St. John’s, and these experiences, she believes, prepared her to take the helm of CPS — known for preparing students for many of today’s leading careers while providing them with a solid liberal arts education.

What was your first career aspiration?
My first ambition was to be a nurse. I remember going to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade [in New York City] and being fascinated by the nurses from St. Vincent’s Hospital who were marching proudly in white uniforms and capes with red linings. But the parade ended, I grew up and life happened.

Describe a typical workday for you as a Dean.
There is no typical day. When you are Dean, it’s an ever-present reality that I never forget about. For example, if I am reading a book during the weekend, when I come across new and emerging ideas or disciplines, inevitably I will start to consider whether CPS should introduce a new program.

If you could be or do anything else, what might that be?
I’d love to be a space explorer. I am intrigued by the mysteries of science and all there is to know. I can still remember the first moon landing. My family had just gotten a nine-inch, black-and-white television, and the neighborhood kids gathered at our house to watch the landing. That was exciting enough, but think about how many changes there have been since then!

If you could change something about your job, what would you change and why?
A few weeks ago, I would have said that I’d like to see the faculty, administrators and staff of CPS in one location. Now I am happy to say that plans are under way to relocate all of our deans, faculty, support staff and CPS’s Media and Communication Arts Complex to the second floor of the Main Library in St. Augustine Hall.

We expect to be in our new home by Spring 2013.

What’s the one thing about you that few people know?
Not many people know that I spent seven years in Japan teaching English and sociology at Sofia University. I was so intrigued by Asia that I pursued Oriental Studies at Columbia University.

I’m also an award-winning cake decorator.

As Dean, how would you like to be remembered?
For helping CPS to carve out its identity as a career-oriented institution, fusing the liberal arts with professional studies. I am very proud of adding a graduate division and introducing a wide diversity of academic programs — all with the enthusiastic support of the faculty.
What five words would you use to describe CPS?
Dynamic, innovative, evolving, responsive and extraordinarily concerned about our students and faculty.

What’s your proudest achievement at St. John’s?
Spearheading our 1999 name change from St. Vincent’s College to the College of Professional Studies. I felt our College needed to have a name that communicated what our mission is, especially for recruitment purposes.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in your College during your time here?
CPS has helped to foster a new understanding that universities can combine a classical liberal arts education with solid career preparation. This allows us to tailor the learning experience to the needs of today’s students.

What makes a degree from CPS so valuable?
CPS’s flexibility and awareness of societal trends prepare our students well for career success. Our faculty are quite skillful at incorporating new programs and disciplines that keep up with an ever-changing job market. As a result, a large number of CPS graduates have become leaders in such fields as marketing, business, technology, accounting and journalism.

What’s the best piece of advice you could give a student?
To be connected — with friends, family, co-workers, people in your field and CPS alumni. No one is an island; you can’t be alone. I have always subscribed to the views of Thomas Merton, who believed that the true self is best expressed by living as part of communities.

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned from a student?
That rules and protocols at times need to be broken and that flexibility is critical if I want to enable students to develop their potential.