Meet Dr. Catherine WoodBrooks!
What is your current position at Assumption College?
Vice President for Student Affairs
What do you love about working at Assumption College?
I get asked that question a lot and it’s difficult to answer because there are so many things I love about my work. If I had to pick one thing it would fall under the category of community. Friendship is a central component of our founding order, the Augustinians of the Assumption, and the culture of friendship permeates our community. Our alumni stay very connected to each other and to those of us who knew them as students.
When you aren’t working, how do you spend your free time?
I’m an Equestrian so I spend a lot of my free time with my horse at the barn. I am also certified to teach Paddle Boarding and spend time on the water in the summer. Both of these hobbies find their way into my life at the College. I’m the advisor to the Equestrian Team and I take student leaders out paddling during Leadership Training. Lots of blurred boundaries in the work of student affairs, and wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who inspired you to get involved in Higher Education?
I was a student leader as an undergraduate and interacted with some wonderful student affairs professionals. I was a Speech Pathology major but I found my calling through my RA experience and leadership training. I was introduced to the literature in the field and read everything I could get my hands on related to student development theory. I was greatly inspired by the work of Arthur Chickering, who continues to be one of the most prolific writers and revered scholars in the field.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in your career (so far)?
I rely heavily on active listening and try to be aware that my own lived experience as a white woman from a blue collar family informs every conversation. There is much to be learned from acknowledging our differences and to seek ways to understand others’ perspectives. We all become smarter in the process. I work on this goal every day!
What is on your Higher Ed bucket list?
I think I would enjoy working at a university in a different country with a completely different approach to student affairs. It would be fascinating and I’m the adventurous type. I’ve considered some of these opportunities in the past, but the timing wasn’t right. If it were to happen that would be great, but I have no complaints. I’ve lived an incredibly blessed life.
What advice would you offer to new professionals who are starting their first professional position?
Stay in your first position at least two years, three if possible. Never underestimate the importance of networking. Join a professional organization and look for opportunities to volunteer at a regional conference. Read, read, read. There are so many great journals like The Journal of Student Development and The Journal of Higher Education that help you become better acquainted with current national issues in higher education. Best practices in the field of student affairs are ever-changing so be willing to learn new tricks!