Chancellor-designate: ‘I want to be an inspirational leader’

Frank answers questions about her goals, herself during visit to campus
Chancellor-designate Katherine P. Frank speaks during a presenation on campus.
December 23, 2019

Katherine P. Frank discussed a variety of topics in an interview when she visited University of Wisconsin-Stout recently for the first time since being named the new chancellor.

Katherine P. FrankChancellor-designate Frank will become the university’s eighth leader when she takes over March 1, 2020, from interim Chancellor Patrick Guilfoile. Read more about her appointment here.

Frank, 48, said she and her husband, Joe Dvorsky, will live in Menomonie.

She grew up in Colorado and has a bachelor’s degree in English from Bates College, Lewiston, Maine. She has master’s and doctorate degrees in English from the University of Washington, Seattle. Her doctorate and master’s thesis addressed the Branwell and Charlotte Bronte family writings as children about the imaginary world of Angria.

Frank is vice president of Academic Innovation and professor of English at Central Washington University. From 2016 to 2019 she was provost and vice president of Academic and Student Life and professor of English at Central Washington. From 2014 to 2016 she was dean of arts and sciences and professor of English at Northern Kentucky University. She was dean of humanities and social sciences at Indiana University East from 2011 to 2014. She previously worked for 10 years at Colorado State University-Pueblo including as chair of the English and foreign languages department and administrator of the writing program.

Frank responded to eight questions from the University Communications office, which also produced a video of the interview.

Q: What interested you in UW-Stout?

A: The appeal is largely in the combination of applied, career-focused programs but with a strong investment in the liberal arts. That is what for me makes Stout stand out as a comprehensive polytechnic. I connected with the institution immediately. It feels like a very good fit. I am excited to start in March.


Q: What’s been overall reaction to being named the eighth UW-Stout chancellor?

A: As soon as the announcement went out, I was inundated in a very positive way with welcome notes and congratulatory emails. It’s been this very generous, warm welcoming reception.


Q: What are you doing to prepare to start as chancellor March 1?

A: I want to make the transition not only smooth for me but for the people surrounding me and for the institution. The more time I can spend in conversation with my colleagues, getting to know people, getting to know the campus, listening, identifying some key points of entry (the better the transition).


Q: What are your priorities?

A: Obviously, budget is at the top of everybody’s list and becoming as sustainable an institution from a financial standpoint as possible. I know that the institution is entering into its next strategic planning phase. This is a perfect opportunity for me to come in and learn and highlight some areas that we can focus on together. I said during my interview that inclusivity and diversity is extremely important to me, and I know it is important to the institution as well.


Q: You are the first UW-Stout woman chancellor. Do you see yourself as an inspiration for younger women, and what is it like to be the first woman chancellor?

A: It’s an honor to be chancellor. It’s an honor to serve as the first woman chancellor at Stout, and I hope I am a role model for other women. I hope that what we are doing is redefining expectations in terms of leadership going forward for the institution. I also hope this inspires more female students to come to Stout. I want to be an inspirational leader, period. I want to do what’s right by the institution.


Q: You studied English. Talk about the move from English to administration?

A: It was my love for the literature that kept me as an English major. I love to analyze language and stories and narrative and to think about our own placement in the world as we think through the stories and materials we are able to engage in. What drew me to the Bronte juvenilia and novels is that they were all “collaborative” works. The Brontes wrote together as children, and this collaborative practice influenced their novels. They also learned to write based on what they were reading and the different voices that were influencing them. I really became immersed in thinking about collaborative models of authorship and collaborative models of leadership. I was one of the first people to publish on using problem-based learning in a composition classroom. That carried over into my leadership. As I started moving into administration, it’s been about such relationships. It’s been about working through really difficult problems, critical thinking, frames of understanding, understanding systems and how people work in those systems and being able then to communicate that to different audiences. I rely on the expertise of others. You learn to do that when you are working in groups and you are thinking about how people communicate. That’s a key point about leadership:  You can’t do this alone. It’s about the team. It’s about the people who surround you. It’s about the campus community. It’s about the region. Our institutions are what they are because of the people that are within the institution and who surround our institution. That is why Stout is such a successful, regional comprehensive polytechnic institution.


Q: What are your hobbies?

A: I like to be outside as much as possible. I like to move a lot. I run for me. I used to run competitively. I spent many years running marathons My husband and I both love to road cycle and mountain bike. We love to travel. We love adventure. We also love animals and have three cats.


Q: When you were young what did you want to be?

A: I think I have always been interested in teaching. It was always going to be something in education.



Katherine P. Frank