Catawba Impact Remains Strong, Say Alums Katie and Colin O’Connor As They Follow Careers That Serve Students
October 6, 2021
Catawba College alum Dr. Katie O’Connor, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), participates in the groundbreaking for NCSSM’s Morganton campus.
Dr. Katie O’Connor, Ed.D, and husband Colin O’Connor, are both following careers involved in education, after graduating from Catawba College. They both played on the Catawba soccer teams and say those teams were family to them during their college years.
Today, Katie is Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Programs at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM), part of the University of North Carolina system and located in Durham. She is busy helping to open a second campus in Morganton, and Colin is Regional Director of Development at Duke University.
Catawba’s small-school atmosphere appealed to Colin, and Katie, too, wanted the more personalized education that Catawba prides itself in offering. Their choices to come to Catawba revolved around the College’s soccer programs. She was also impressed with the Education program, and she knew the college because her brother attended Catawba.
Katie, Class of ’94, was an Education major. Originally from Hillsborough, she says the opportunity to have practicum experiences and internships, particularly student teaching, at Catawba helped prepare her for her career.
She has spent 27 years in education, earning her Master in Education degree at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1999 and her Doctorate at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2003. She taught in Orange County for nine years, transitioning to higher education in 2003 to teach in the College of Education at East Carolina University. While there, she helped open the Honors College and was Associate Dean of the Honors College and Director of the EC Scholars Program.
“Being part of the team that created and opened the Honors Program was an opportunity to serve talented students,” she says. In 2017, she was named to ECU’s Educators Hall of Fame.
And now, as Provost and Vice Chancellor at NCSSM since 2015, she says she is involved in her most exciting endeavor in education, the opening of a second campus in Morganton.
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help open another campus in the UNC System to serve hundreds more academically-talented students from across North Carolina," she says. "Not only are we offering high school students access to advanced coursework in STEM and the humanities with expert educators, it's at no cost to them or their families.”
Colin, Class of ’91, was recruited to play soccer at Catawba and was a captain his senior year. Originally from Herndon, VA, he majored in sociology. His Catawba background helps in his career at Duke, where he works with people and builds relationships with donors, he says.
He was instrumental in raising funds to create the Duke UNICEF Innovation Accelerator. Duke partners with UNICEF in the Innovation Accelerator to identify the world’s most pressing challenges for youth and to find solutions. The Accelerator pairs UNICEF’s commitment to children and its global reach with Duke’s expertise in social innovation to make a lasting difference in the lives of children around the world.
Dr. Katie O’Connor and husband Colin O’Connor with their daughters, Delaney and Brogan. The O’Connors say that their experiences at Catawba continue to impact their lives.
The O’Connors and daughters Delaney and Brogan live near the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail in Hillsborough. Delaney is a student at the University of South Carolina, and Brogan is in her second year of high school, pursuing an IB diploma.
During her career, Katie has received the UNC Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Teaching Award (2010), the ECU Scholar Teacher Award (2010), and the Edward C. Pomeroy Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teacher Education, as a member of the Editorial Team receiving this award (2010).
As students at Catawba, the O’Connors list the soccer teams as having had meaningful impacts on them, particularly Coach Tom Ferland for Katie. Faculty members such as Dr. Edith Bolick, Dr. Janice Fuller, Dr. Lou Ann Kasais, Dr. Shirley Ritchie, and Dr. Shirley Haworth also impact their lives today.
“We both draw on our education and experiences gained while at Catawba,” she adds.