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Getting to Know: Cathryn Wilkinson (Liberal Arts)

Post Date:03/21/2019 10:00 AM


By: Lewis Leader

Filled with determination and enthusiasm, Cathryn Wilkinson is in the midst of a second successful and busy year as Monterey Peninsula College’s Dean of Instruction for Liberal Arts, which encompasses Social Sciences, Humanities, Creative Arts, Older Adult and Continuing Education.

“I’m reaching the end of the first learning curve,” Dr. Wilkinson says. “I’ve now done everything here at least once. Each school has its own rhythms and paces and I know what’s ahead of me.”

A key to achievement at any job is how well people work together, and that is certainly true at a community college with its interwoven layers.

“I have developed a strong sense of trust in the people I work with,” says Dr. Wilkinson. “I feel like it’s really a privilege to be here at this time and with this team.”

Dr. Wilkinson has a deep background in academia. She arrived at MPC after two years at Napa Valley College, where she was Dean of Arts and Humanities.  There, in a newly-created role, she was able to add critical staffing and renovate unused space for visual arts.

Prior to Napa there were four years as Associate Dean for Fine and Applied Arts at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL, home to the county’s premiere performing and visual arts center. She served as the lead academic administrator for a $35 million renovation of the center, supervised a full-time faculty of 28, and re-affirmed the college’s accreditation with the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Before that she was a department chair at Aurora (IL) University. At this small private college, Dr. Wilkinson spearheaded and completed the design and installation of a custom-built pipe organ in the college auditorium. Her career as a college administrator was preceded by 10 years teaching music at the college level and included leading a successful application for accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Music. 

Dr. Wilkinson has volunteered time and energy in the public sector, serving on a public school board in Illinois, a position that she says, “helped me to understand the duties of board  members and gave me a lot of faith in the education system.” She is a member of the board of the Arts Council of Monterey County. 

She has served in the Peace Corps in the Slovak Republic in Eastern Europe, where she concentrated on small business development in the tourism sector and coached English at the college level. 

Why did she decide to become an educator?

“I think it’s because I just loved being a student,” Dr. Wilkinson says. “I still have relationships with teachers I had in the K through 12th grades.”

Dr. Wilkinson is cognizant of MPC’s rich 72-year history and keenly aware of changes to be made.

“We’re working really hard on expanding continuing education and meeting the needs of the less traditional students,” she says. They include those who are training for new jobs and lifelong learners.

Dr. Wilkinson was among a group of 18 administrators from across the state who completed the Association of California Community College Administrators mentee program in February. The training included consultations with Chancellor’s Office staff and an invitation to the governor’s annual budget hearing in Sacramento.

Dr. Wilkinson earned her Bachelor’s of Arts degree at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, with a double major: Economics and Music. She spent her junior year at the University of Münster in Germany and received music training at the North German Organ Academy in Bunde, Germany.

Her Master’s of Fine Arts was earned at the University of  Iowa School of Music. She received her Doctorate at the University of Iowa, where her area of study was Music Theory.

Music remains a meaningful extra-curricular activity and great pleasure for Dr. Wilkinson. A fine organist, she often performs locally.

Her educational philosophy is straightforward and comprehensive.

“I believe in the power of education to empower people to be optimistic about their future.” Dr. Wilkinson says. “We’re really making a difference in the ability of students to reach their educational goals. In my role as dean,  I don’t see a lot of students directly, but everything that I do helps someone on the front lines who ensures that our students are learning effectively.”

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