Cathy Webster – Past Chair
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at University of Central Oklahoma
What drew you to be a part of the OKGIT?
I was delighted to learn that such a group existed to serve and promote the international activity of our state. Because we lack ports of entry, Oklahoma can be overlooked in international conversation and Oklahomans may be less likely to pursue international experiences than those from other regions of the US. I personally work to change that impression and that reality, so the OKGIT seemed like an excellent way to make a contribution.
Tell us about your international experiences and how that is reflected in your life/work in Oklahoma?
I earned a doctorate in French and moved here in 2006 to pursue a career as a French faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma. I consider myself to be an international educator, helping students understand why learning about language and culture can improve individual lives and society at large. I have had the opportunity to promote international academic exchanges and to lead groups of students overseas.
Why is it important for you that Oklahoma has strong international ties?
Thanks to ever-improving technology, the world is flatter than ever. Oklahoma has more of an opportunity to become active on the global stage than at any time in its history, and a citizenry equipped with international competency is one that can succeed in industry, commerce, and culture.
Dr. Catherine Webster has more than 30 years of experience across a broad range of institutions of higher education, from large public and private universities to small private colleges. She has developed programs, increased resources, improved institutional visibility and community ties, and championed interdisciplinary and high-impact learning practices.
Dr. Webster serves as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Central Oklahoma. She is responsible for the largest enrollments at the institution, with more than 10,000 students involved in general education courses and 2,000 majors across eight departments, which include Humanities and Social Science disciplines along with the School of Criminal Justice programs. She leads the processes for tenure and promotion at the College and oversees its budget. She has been actively involved the construction of the new Liberal Arts South Wing, a 55,000-square foot facility that has added 15 state-of-the-art classrooms, student spaces for informal study and interaction, a 200-seat lecture hall, 30 faculty and staff offices, and a café to the campus landscape. As Dean, she established a Student Advisory Board to give voice to student concerns on curricular and funding matters, and has enormously improved grant funding to faculty and student projects.
Prior to her Deanship, Dr. Webster served as Chair of the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultural Studies, where she developed relationships with language teachers across the OKC Metro, bolstered offerings in lesser-taught languages, improved access to study abroad partnerships, and coordinated the expansion of full-time faculty in the department from eight to thirteen members. Dr. Webster joined the UCO faculty in 2007 as an Assistant Professor of French and subsequently earned tenure and promotion to the rank of full Professor in 2014. She has led scores of students on European study tours, collaborating with faculty members from Spanish, History, Humanities, Fashion Marketing, and Nutrition.
Dr. Webster’s career in higher education began at Barnard College, where she contributed to the establishment of its Summer in New York Pre-College Program. She served as a residence hall director and the Coordinator of the First-Year Focus Program for more than 500 incoming Barnard students. She subsequently moved to Lawrence, Kansas, where she served as Assistant Director for New Student Orientation, but soon returned to Barnard as First-Year Class Dean and later as an Assistant Dean of Studies serving the sophomore class, transfer and international students, and working the parent and family programs.
Dr. Webster’s professional and academic accolades include membership in the Oklahoma Governor’s International Team, a board of government, business, and education leaders who assist the State in furthering global initiatives. She served as President of the Alliance Française of Oklahoma City and contributed to the establishment of the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Franco-American Fellows program. The Oklahoma Humanities Council recognized her for this work in 2010 with its Community Leadership Prize. She has been named a Fellow by the DaVinci Institute of the state of Oklahoma, honored by UCO with the Modeling the Way award for campus leadership, and recognized by the College of Liberal Arts as Faculty Member of the Year. She was a McCracken Scholar at New York University, where she also received the Penfield Prize and the Dulau Fellowship for graduate study. Her graduate work She was the inaugural Proctor Kahn Scholar at Columbia University and also receive the Gerdy Prize for her work on campus publications.
A scholar of contemporary French and Francophone literature and culture, Dr. Webster has published work on Jean Cocteau and Fanta Nacro and regularly gives papers at national and international academic meetings. In 2019, she organized and hosted a Colloquium that brought nearly 200 from four continents to Oklahoma City. She has been awarded a Summer Stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Dr. Webster has taught not only at UCO, but also at Barnard College, New York University (in both Manhattan and Paris), Mars Hill College, and the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She earned a BA in French and Master’s Degree in Student Personnel Administration from Columbia University and earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from New York University in Italian language and literature. Dr. Webster and her husband, Dr. William Dycus, have two children, daughter Meredith and son Thayer.