Campus Communications

Office Hours with Dr. Catherine Gunther Kodat, Provost and Dean of Faculty

Michelle Eggink, Assistant Director of Content Marketing & Communications
Dr. Kodat in her office in Hancock. Photo by Nelson Echeverria/Marist College.

Office Hours is a recurring segment where the Inside Marist team sparks conversations with key members of the campus community. Find out more about the inner workings of the College, gain fresh perspectives, and celebrate the invaluable contributions of those who make Marist the vibrant community that it is.

In this segment, Inside Marist’s Michelle Eggink interviews Provost and Dean of Faculty, Dr. Catherine (“Katie”) Gunther Kodat. Dr. Kodat has held pivotal roles at universities across the country, serving as a Provost and Dean of Faculty, and a Professor of English and American Studies among other key leadership positions. With extensive experience in academia, Dr. Kodat is known for her commitment to diversity initiatives and academic excellence.

Image of Dr. Kodat

Dr. Kodat in front of her office bookshelf. Photo by Nelson Echeverria/Marist College.

Q As Provost and Dean of Faculty, what is the scope of your job?

A A provost is a chief academic officer, relating to all academic affairs.

Probably the most exciting part about my position is working with the incredible faculty at Marist. When we think about Marist 100 and the academic vibrancy piece of it, my job is to support the faculty and make sure that they are being given the resources, time, and funding to teach, conduct research, build professional skills, and present their work so that they can grow as scholars, clinicians, professionals, and artists. Their growth fuels student success, as faculty innovation in curricular design and pedagogical approaches expands to include more active, experiential learning in existing fields—and the exploration of new fields and academic programming.

Q As a scholar of 20th century literature and American studies, you've authored two books: Don't Act, Just Dance: The Metapolitics of Cold War Culture and Faulknerista. Who are some of your favorite authors, and what advice do you have for young writers?

Mark Twain, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, and William Faulkner to name just a few from a very long list. Reading Faulkner and Morrison together made me realize that I really cared about how 20th century authors were grappling with issues of race, which led to my dissertation work.

My advice to young writers would be to work on finding your sense of voice. Most writers start off writing in the styles of their favorite authors. It takes time to find your integrity, feel confident in your own writing, and be able to say what you want clearly and persuasively. Follow your interests and keep going until you find your voice.

Q You have a unique educational background first as a piano major at The Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University then as an English major at the University of Baltimore before pursuing your Ph.D. What were some of your own challenges and triumphs as an undergraduate student?

As a student, I had to take a year off between my first and second year at the music conservatory to work full-time to afford college. I supported my education through working as a waitress, financial aid, and loans. It didn't take me long to figure out that working full-time and my desire to pursue other interests would not allow for those long hours of piano practice. Sitting in one place just wasn't for me.

I vividly remember playing in front of a jury of piano faculty at school at the end of my sophomore year and failing because of a terrible case of performance nerves. The life of a classical musician while wonderful for some, just wasn’t for me so I transferred and pursued English and journalism.

I got a job in the circulation department at the Baltimore Sun as a senior and worked my way up in the newsroom. My piano training helped me become a sought-after typist during a presidential election year because of my typing speed and accuracy.

Q What about music and dance brings you joy?

Great music brings a physical sensation, a chill, and an overtaking of the heart and body. I love all kinds of music, but moments of classical music move me most.

Dance is more of a visual pleasure, seeing different shapes take form. I was once a dance critic and also did adult ballet classes. I do more yoga now than dance but find zen in the routine and flow of both.

Q What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I met my husband in adult ballet dance class and didn’t find out until after we were dating he was the last Baltimore Colts Mascot (the team left Baltimore after the 1983 season). His enthusiasm for the job led to my fascination with mascots. I once suited up as Frankie the Fox to give an incoming student their acceptance letter and had a blast.

Q You’ve lived and worked in a lot of places like Florida, Massachusetts, Oregon, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York. What’s been your favorite and what do you like about living in the Hudson Valley now?

My family moved around a lot because my dad worked for the federal government. I’m the oldest of five and just about all of us were born in different states. We ended up sort of settling in upstate New York so the area feels the most familiar. Plus it’s great that all three of my children now live in New York City.

While I like a different thing about every one of the places I’ve lived I’d say the east coast is my favorite. There is something about the landscape of New York, whether it's the Catskills or the Adirondacks, that just feels like home to me.

Image of Dr. Kodat at Convocation

Dr. Kodat speaking at Convocation and the launch of Marist 100. Photo by Nelson Echeverria/Marist College.

Q Why did you choose Marist?

A I was on sabbatical but was looking forward to getting back east. That's when a search consultant, who also happens to be a long-time friend, suggested I take a look at Marist and their new President.

I was captivated by President Weinman's inauguration speech, particularly his emphasis on the power of “AND not OR,” where students don't need to choose between a liberal arts college and a pre-professional college education. I thought to myself, “YES, that is what higher education needs more of and that's what I want to be a part of.” A college student who for example enjoys playing the clarinet should also be able to pursue their passion for computer science, feeding ALL of their educational interests. What’s happening at Marist is really a model for the nation.

Image of Dr. Kodat at Dyson Center construction site.

Dr. Kodat signs a beam during the construction of the new Dyson Center alongside members of the Marist administration. Photo by Carlo de Jesus/Marist College.

Q What current and future Marist projects are you looking forward to?

A I’m very excited about the new Dyson Center and all that it will have to offer for students and faculty from the Saxbys student-run cafe to a mock courtroom and new investment center. I'm discussing the next big academic building project, with the master planning about to kick off. Down the line, I’d also love to work on the arts, uplifting dance, music, and performing arts alongside our incredible fashion and art and design programs. I’m also working with others on the faculty handbook to fill in gaps for best practices and foster more guidance for faculty.

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