Intrigued by the call of loons in the Adirondacks, passionate about economic development, and committed to sustainability, Cathy Dove fit right into the culture at Paul Smith’s College when she assumed the presidency in 2014. Before moving to the region, Dove served as the vice president for Cornell Tech, a new graduate tech campus in New York City. Although the campus landscape in her new community couldn’t be more different than the cityscapes she left behind, she didn’t experience the culture shock one might expect. “I just love both kinds of environments,” she explained, noting the trade-offs such as losing quick access to conveniences like grocery shopping, while gaining easy access to gorgeous natural beauty, paddling, hiking, and other outdoor passions. “There is no better place to be; it’s such a beautiful place,” she added.
Dove has made quite an impact in the region in her brief tenure at Paul Smith’s College. She was appointed to the Regional Economic Development Council in 2015, and currently shares her experience with a number of regional, state, and national organizations. “I am fortunate to be on a few boards that really reflect both the mission of the college and also my passions,” she said. “It’s nice when those are in alignment.”
President Dove recently took time away from her work and community involvement to share some of her insights with Strictly Business readers.
Hometown: Arlington, MA (Boston area)
Family: A grown daughter, Jamie, who lives in Brooklyn, NY; and three four-legged children—a dog named Cendrillon and two cats, Cosette and Catie
Education: Ed.D. in Higher Education Management from
University of Pennsylvania; M.B.A. from Cornell University;
B.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University
Occupation: President, Paul Smith’s College
Community Involvement: Partial list of board memberships—
North Country Regional Economic Development Council,
ANCA (Adirondack North Country Association),
NY State Business Council, Commission on Independent
Colleges and Universities, Association for the
Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education
SB: What important lessons did you learn early in your career?
CD: I learned early on how transferable experiences can be. My career didn’t take a traditional path. I started out in municipal government, and then took a job at a university for what I thought would be a few years. Whether I worked in the private sector or education, I was always able to build on my experiences and apply effectively what I learned to the next job. Even within higher education, I’ve had a variety of jobs and experiences. I continue to learn, which I think is something we all want to do.
SB: What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
CD: Build a network and watch your reputation. Sometimes I think especially young people who are just getting into the job market don’t realize how your reputation follows you forever. Be good to people and be ethical. It is amazing how connected people are, even across large organizations, and how your reputation can follow you—good or bad.
SB: What advice would you offer to someone starting his or her business career?
CD: Something I stress to students is to make sure you don’t overthink your career path. I can almost guarantee that 20 years from now you will be doing something different than you expected. You need to know what you like doing and what you are passionate about, and then work really hard. Don’t chase the money; chase your passion. You are going to have opportunities if you work hard, if you are ethical, and if you do a good job. Go work with the best organization that you can find, a culture that fits who you are, and with organizations that you admire. Work hard and it works out.
SB: Who was your most influential mentor?
CD: I was fortunate. My first job out of college was in municipal government, and my boss there was a great mentor. He just loved working with freshly minted college graduates. For most of us this was our first job. He was great about exposing us to different experiences, but also giving us more responsibility than sometimes we thought we could handle. He knew that we were going to make mistakes and he was absolutely forgiving about that. He instilled confidence in my abilities, and was just wonderful. I still remember a lot of the advice he gave me, and to this day I try and work on some of the things he taught me.
SB: If you could start your professional career over again, what would you do differently?
CD: I would have more trust that things will work out fine. Looking back, I would not get so stressed about wondering where I would be in 10 years. I have been fortunate. Every job I have had, there have been aspects that are challenging, but for the most part they have been terrific. I had the opportunity to work at great organizations with great people.
SB: What inspires you?
CD: I am goal oriented. I like setting and achieving goals. I am inspired by people who make me think. I love quotes. Every day I am inspired by a good quote that I receive from an app I use. At the end of the day I am most inspired by the people I work with.
SB: What surprised you the most during your first year in the Adirondacks?
CD: I knew what the area was going to be like when I moved up here. I had a good idea about what the challenges at the college were. What surprised me the most was how phenomenal and committed the people are to the region and specifically, to Paul Smith’s. The students, faculty, staff, and community members I have gotten to know have a longterm commitment to the well-being of the people who live here, and it is inspirational to be able to work with people like that. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a group of people who are as dedicated.
SB: What do you do in your free time?
CD: I love the outdoors. Once the ice melts, I will be back outside running, and can’t wait to get back into the water and paddling again. I also like to hike. I’ve only done a few of the High Peaks and hope to get a few more done this summer. On my bucket list this year is to learn how to play the guitar. I don’t do a lot of travelling now, but at some point, I’d love to do more international travel.
SB: What is something no one would guess about you?
CD: To put this in context, there is a strong hunting culture on our campus and in our region. Some people are surprised to find out that I am a long-standing vegetarian. When I arrived here, one of the first things someone showed me was a deer hook, and that was the first time I had one! For the record, I have no problem with hunting, as long as it is humane, and the meat is used for food and sustenance.
SB: What do you believe the North Country community should do today to ensure a prosperous future?
CD: There is incredible talent here and there are so many people working on the challenges facing this rural area. I believe strong colleges are critically important to a region, and strong regions are important to colleges. Every region needs a lifeblood of young people who are educated and who become our future. We [at Paul Smith’s] take that role seriously. We are doing everything we can as a college to see how we can help places like the Adirondacks address issues around rural resiliency. It is a balancing act between competing issues whether they are environmental, economic, or social justice, and our college touches all of those.