A Brief Biography: Catharine O’Connell PhD

January 14, 2009

On July 1, 2009, Dr. Catharine O’Connell assumes leadership of the academic life of Mary Baldwin University as its vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college.

O’Connell most recently served as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Defiance College. There she worked with faculty on development of innovative academic programs including new undergraduate majors in digital forensics and international and global studies; a new licensure in special education for the master of arts in education and an MBA; a 1+2+1 bachelor of science in nursing in cooperation with a regional community college; Hench Autism Studies Program serving adolescents with autism and their families; and the College’s signature program, McMaster School for Advancing Humanity, which provides faculty and students opportunity to conduct service-based research internationally in interdisciplinary teams.

Earlier, O’Connell held the position of dean for academic affairs at Cabrini College from 2001 to 2004. She worked on development of first-year programming, including curricular learning communities and a living/learning experience for students in the honors program. She assisted faculty in developing new models of community-based research and refining general education requirements and assessment processes.

An English professor, O’Connell taught at St. John Fisher College from 1991 to2001 and was tenured in 1997. She chaired the English department, which at the time had the highest student contact hours in the college, from 1998 to 2001. O’Connell taught extensively in the first-year program and developed a new major in American studies. She also taught general education and major courses in American literature, her area of scholarly emphasis. She has published on Harriet Beecher Stowe, Herman Melville, and Mark Twain, among other 19th-century American writers.

O’Connell earned a master’s and doctorate in American culture at University of Michigan. Her undergraduate degree is from Amherst College. Born and raised in the Washington DC area, she attended an all-female preparatory school, Holton-Arms School in Maryland. O’Connell and husband Matt have two children, Victor and Ruth. As a family they enjoy hiking and exploring the history of different regions of the country.