Catching up with Dean Woo's former students

Winter 2012

After Dean Woo announced that she was leaving the Mendoza College of Business to become the president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services, we received a multitude of telephone calls, emails and notes. Business leaders, benefactors, b-school colleagues, news media and others have shared thoughts on the dean’s decision. But the heartfelt comments of those who were possibly most impacted by Dean Woo – her students – are the ones we wanted to share with you:

Dale “Doc” Dougherty (MBA ‘08)

“My admiration for Dean Woo grew when I read the letter she penned about her departure for the autumn 2011 Notre Dame Magazine. I loved her willingness to acknowledge doubt in her new task, while at the same time acknowledging the need to leave her comfort zone, something she has always encouraged students to do. In addition, her recognition that faith is the antidote for fear serves as another indication of her Catholic belief that God calls all of us to serve in many different ways.

Dean Woo has taken her calling to another level. She is now leaving Notre Dame to continue making her impact on the world…by making an impact on the world! ”

Dougherty is the executive director of parks and recreation for the City of Macon-Bibb County, Macon, Ga.

 Douglas Jefferson (Jeff) Hsu (MBA ’10, ’00)

“Besides being a mentor, colleague, and friend, Carolyn has also been an important source of inspiration and leadership for me. Making the transition from military service to civilian life is never easy. When I decided to leave active duty with the Marines, I was not only saying goodbye to the comfort of a stable career and lifestyle, I was also venturing away from the people and institution that had become my family.

The Marines had become everything to me, and leaving the service after I had gone through so much was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to endure. Carolyn understood this. She knew how difficult my transition would be and it was her compassion, direction and faith in me that helped me navigate the darkness. She not only took the time to help me find my direction, but she also helped me understand that I could find the same sense of meaning, friendship and accomplishment in my civilian life that I found in the Marines.

Carolyn, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Your friendship, guidance, and compassion made all the difference in the world and I am deeply honored and thankful to have you as a friend and mentor.”
Hsu is an innovation and design strategy consultant intern at ITT Institute of Design.

Hsu is an innovation and design strategy consultant intern at ITT Institute of Design.

 Paul Cafiero (EMBA ‘95)

“Dean Woo is an inspiration to anyone who is around her for more than five minutes. Her energy, enthusiasm and passion for education, and her relentless pursuit of improving the educational process, define her.

But my most vivid memories of Dean Woo involve her sense of service. She takes the concept of service to a level that most people cannot understand.

When Dean Woo asked me to chair the Graduate Alumni Board, I hesitated. I was concerned about taking on too much. And then I thought of Dean Woo and her sense of service to this University. I told her I would be honored.

I would like to thank her for giving me the opportunity to know her and to work with her. I would ask that she continue to inspire others to focus on their sense of service to others. I wish her all the best in her new endeavor.”

Cafiero is the senior vice president and chief financial officer for AM General.

Colleen Moore (M.Div. ’04, ‘97)

“I met Carolyn in 2006 when I became a teaching assistant for the Character Project course.

Carolyn’s presence gives witness to the truth that the greatest possession is the desire to belong to God.

When Carolyn speaks, her eyes are often closed, as if to focus her mind, heart and senses on drawing her words from a well deeper than that of clever thought or kind sentiment. It is her ability to be led by something more profound than herself that allows Carolyn to see our students’ need for character formation, business’ need for ethics education, and the Church’s need to see those who suffer most and to inspire and facilitate the world’s response.

I am inspired by Carolyn’s courage to travel again to the edge of herself and of the world to learn to serve in new ways. She has inspired me to live and work less self-consciously and with greater gratitude, laughter, food, art and humility.”

Moore works in the University’s Institute for Church Life as the director of Echo, a two-year service, learning and ministry formation program.

 Andrew Schoppe (MBA ‘03)

“My conversations with Dean Woo touched often on personal and professional guidance. One of the most enjoyable conversations I have had with Dean Woo since graduating was when I stopped by campus this July. The day before our visit, it was announced that Dean Woo was leaving ND to become president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.

I have always admired Dean Woo for her openness and transparency, and I was moved as she shared her thoughts on how she decided this opportunity with Catholic Relief Services was the right thing to do.

At the end of our talk I told her, “You always told us to continue to learn and challenge ourselves, live to serve with humility, and think beyond just business. You are leading by example. As an alumnus, this is the greatest inspiration possible and gives us courage to do the same, so thank you.”

We will miss her at Notre Dame, but look forward seeing the great things she will do to help and inspire others as a servant of Christ in her new leadership role at Catholic Relief Services.

Schoppe is a managing associate with ScottMadden Consulting, a mid-sized general management consulting firm based out of Atlanta. 

 Hilary Kelly (2012)

“The Character Project is, without doubt, one of the best classes I have taken at Notre Dame. The things I learned in class will be relevant to me at any stage of my life and in any professional or personal setting. I am grateful to Dean Woo for sharing her personal experiences and struggles. One story of decision-making that she shared particularly struck a chord with me and I have thought back on it several times as I contemplate post-graduation options.

I have a great deal of respect for Dean Woo. She has become an important role model for me. I am sad to see her leaving Notre Dame but I am so excited to watch the impact she will have on the world through her position as CEO of Catholic Relief Services.”

Kelly is a political science major. Following her graduation, she hopes to pursue a master of public policy or to work in the public policy or international affairs realm.

 Catherine Soler (2012)

“Dean Woo’s words are provocative and encouraging. She continually seeks to challenge people's ways of thinking and push people to use their hearts as much as their minds. Dean Woo has shaped the minds of many here at Notre Dame and I am thrilled to watch as she transforms the hearts of the world.

Dean Woo has shown me how strong faith and conviction can propel leaders into expressing ideas and making tangible impact. She has inspired me to let my passion and beliefs be a driving force in my aspirations, but to work and serve in humble ways.

In a world where passion and emotion from female leaders can be viewed as weakness and instability, Dean Woo has been a supreme example of how honesty, vulnerability and the ability to deeply connect with others can make a leader stronger and more powerful.

We were able to learn from Dean Woo as we were educated at ND - shaped and molded by her example. And now we get to continue this learning as we see her succeed in a whole new world at CRS. I wish her the best of luck - though I doubt she will need it - as she bestows her magic on a brand new audience.”

Soler is an accountancy major who has accepted a position in the audit function with Deloitte in New York City.

 Jeff Harer (MBA ‘11)

“A couple of times a week, I would attend midday service in the chapel of Mendoza. Carolyn frequently attended these short 30-minute services. I had heard her speak of faith and its importance in her life many times, but witnessing the simple act of her turning those words into action had a profound effect on me. Her legacy at Notre Dame will always be defined by the hard work and everyday actions that she took to make certain each and every one of her students was given the best opportunity to succeed both personally and professionally.

I would like tell Dean Woo that she is leaving Notre Dame and the Mendoza College of Business a better place than she found it; that she has changed and improved more lives than she’ll ever know. I would like tell her how much she will be missed and that she will be in our thoughts and prayers as she begins the exciting next phase of her journey. Most of all though, I would like to tell her, ’Thank you and may God bless you.’”

Harer is a senior financial analyst at Procter & Gamble.

 Dan Parrish, C.S.C. (MBA ’08, M.Div. ‘03)

“Dean Woo has been a model for me of Catholic leadership. She is a formidable administrator, lifting business education at Notre Dame to new heights, with excellent facilities and an excellent  faculty. She is a devoted friend of Holy Cross, and one of our treasured lay collaborators who has tirelessly promoted the Holy Cross vision of higher education. At the root of it all, however, is Dean Woo's tireless commitment to her deepest values. She believes in Catholic higher education; it is a part of her deepest self.

Dean Woo is devoted to excellence and has pushed the entire Mendoza community to continuously improve at all levels. Finally, she is generous and kind and always has time to listen.

Notre Dame will miss Dean Woo tremendously. But as she has said, she would not be able to take on this new position had it not been for her time under the Dome. She is modeling for us what we hope every Notre Dame experience ultimately provides, namely, a personal transformation that equips us with the values and skills we need to change the world.

Carolyn, thank you for all that you have done for Notre Dame, and for the Congregation of Holy Cross, and know of our deep affection and prayers for this next step of your journey.”

Fr. Parrish is a Holy Cross priest in the doctoral studies program in higher education administration, concentrating on organizational behavior, at the University of Michigan. 

 Stephanie LaBomascus (‘06)

“While I was a student at Notre Dame, I worked in Dean Woo’s office. I was grateful to have the opportunity to work in the office of someone who had such a global presence, yet still managed to find time to talk with me when we crossed paths in the office.

I contacted Dean Woo several times on my road to medical school to thank her for all of her sound advice and support and to keep her abreast of my interviews.

When I first met Dean Woo, I really didn’t know where the road through ND and beyond was going to lead me. She made me realize what it means to have a calling and to work for something bigger than oneself. I often think of her and the impact she’s had on my life as a role model and also as a genuine supporter who encouraged me to find my calling. I found my passion in medicine, particularly in working with cancer patients. I am very lucky to have worked so closely with someone I admire so highly."

LaBomascus is in her fourth year of medical school and set to graduate May 2012. She is applying for a residency in internal medicine and plans to pursue a fellowship in hematology/oncology after residency.

 Edie Graham ('12)

“The Character Project, co-taught by Dean Woo and Fr. Mark Poorman, was hands-down the best class I have taken at Notre Dame. It was unlike any other class in that the subject of the class was ‘me.’ It made me turn my focus of study to myself and to examine the type of person I was becoming as a junior in college. We had open discussions about virtues and vices and everyday moral dilemmas. Critically thinking about how to build one’s character with the influence of two great mentors in Dean Woo and Fr. Poorman is a skill I will take with me for the rest of my life.

Dean Woo has influenced the way I think about everyday situations. She also has taught me the value of good hospitality and how to be a good host. Dean Woo is truly one of the best women I have ever met in my life and I definitely view her as a role model. I have immense respect and admiration for her decision to become the President and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.”

Graham is an Arts & Letters Pre-Professional, American Studies major and is planning to attend medical school in the fall of 2012.

Justin Bartkus (MTS '12, ‘10)

As a teaching assistant in the Character Project, there were a couple of things that I came to realize about my mother as an instructor.

By being able to see her teach through the eyes of those in the class, I realized that she has a commanding presence —not in any kind of authoritarian or coercive way, but simply in the way that she comports herself. When she speaks, you get the feeling  that her words are coming from a place of deep intuition inside her heart that very few people are ever able to cultivate. Her words have power, and her advice and observations always reveal a certain weight of the lived experience and wisdom behind them. She doesn't speak if she doesn't need to—which is why when she does, she is able to command your full and complete attention without appearing the least bit intimidating. She is always genuine and has a very simple heart.

Interacting with her, you realize that you have to be accountable and a person of integrity. When she teaches, she's not teaching your brain, or your mind, but your entire being, your moral identity, your heart, your gifts, your core.

I'd say the one thing that she's taught me best is that life is serious. Not in the sense that we should never have fun, or joke around, but in the sense that a life not lived on the basis of a deep calling and a profound vision is a life that isn't being lived to its fullest. It's something that I've had to struggle with a great deal, to discern what is ‘my Mendoza,’ my project in life? One of the greatest things about her is that she desires everyone who works with her to do the best that he or she is capable of.

So I could say all kinds of things about my mom and how she's influenced me, but that story isn't over yet. The Notre Dame chapter, however, is ending. What I can say to her is, don't worry about what will happen to us here at Notre Dame after you leave. It's our turn to live out the message of your life and work, and we won't soon forget it.

Bartkus has a BA in theology and will graduate with an MTS in theology in May 2012. Following commencement, he plans to teach high school theology. Bartkus is the younger son of Dean Carolyn Woo and her husband, David Bartkus.