Boldly Baldwin: Mary Baldwin Introduces New Dean O’Connell to Lead Academic Life at College

January 15, 2009

In a move that clearly speaks to its rally call of being Boldly Baldwin, Mary Baldwin University announces the appointment of Dr. Catharine O’Connell as vice president for academic affairs, dean of the college, and professor of English effective July 1, 2009.

“Dr. Catharine O’Connell is an ideal match in experience and expertise for Mary Baldwin University. I am delighted to welcome her to our wonderful institution as a colleague. A warm and dynamic leader with an impressive record of teaching, scholarship, and administration, Dr. O’Connell brings a breadth of background in education and innovative achievements. Her own educational pedigree spans an all-female preparatory school, Amherst College, and University of Michigan. Her administrative achievements with civic and global engagement, first-year pedagogies, and faculty development will be a welcome partnership in the next five years of Mary Baldwin’s strategic plan. I am very excited about our work together,” stated Dr. Pamela Fox, president of Mary Baldwin University.

Dean O’Connell will be charged to provide leadership and strategic direction for all academic programs of the college. The vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college is responsible for recruitment and appointment of faculty members; conducting annual reviews of faculty; overseeing faculty development and making recommendations regarding tenure, promotion, salary, and appointment of department chairs, among other duties.

“Mary Baldwin University is an institution committed to the intellectual and personal growth of every student and this is the kind of institution to which I want to dedicate my time and energy. The focus on education for citizenship and leadership at Mary Baldwin is very compelling to me and this emphasis is increasingly being recognized nationally as an effective educational model,” said O’Connell.

“I have been extremely impressed with the passion for the institution expressed by everyone I met at Mary Baldwin. President Fox has a dynamic strategic vision that positions Mary Baldwin extremely well for future success. The quality of the faculty and students was immediately evident to me. Mary Baldwin’s plans for the future are grounded in a long history of excellence and this combination of longstanding community strength and strategic vision for the future makes the opportunity to join the Mary Baldwin community extraordinarily attractive.”

“Everyone I have met has been as warm and welcoming as possible. This is an extraordinary community and I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to become part of it.”

A group of individuals representing a cross-culture of the college were charged in spring 2008 to conduct a national search to fill this key position at Mary Baldwin. “We sought the kind of person who really understands the true nature of a small, liberal arts college and specifically, someone who would best fit in our environment of proud tradition and meaningful innovation,” said Dr. Roderic Owen, professor of philosophy and chair of the search committee.

“The search process worked well and we included in our criteria, results from a survey we conducted with faculty about the characteristics for a college dean and academic leader which they felt would best serve Mary Baldwin in particular. Dr. O’Connell rose to the top of the heap fairly quickly. She will match the high standard of leadership set by our president and can help us achieve the goals of our strategic plan,Composing Our Future.”

O’Connell is currently provost and vice president for academic affairs, as well as professor of humanities, at Defiance College in Ohio. Prior to that, she was dean for academic affairs and a professor of English at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania. Her own education credits include Amherst College, where she graduatedsumma cum laude, and a master’s and doctorate in American culture from University of Michigan. O’Connell has experienced first-hand the benefits of single-sex education as a student at an all-girls preparatory school in Maryland, Holton-Arms School. The incoming dean will move to the Shenandoah Valley with her husband Matt and their two children, Victor and Ruth.

Dr. Edward Scott, associate professor of philosophy, has acted as interim dean and vice president for academic affairs since 2006. He came to that role having earned the respect and esteem of his colleagues and students, and he will return to the classroom with the universal respect and gratitude of all members of the campus community whom he has served with grace and energy. Scott’s passion for teaching is well known and his return will be met with great joy.