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Workshop to focus on role of liberal arts in business

Dr. Paula King, dean of the School of Business and Leadership
Dr. Paula King, dean of the School of Business and Leadership
Rebecca Zenefski '10

At the end of her 10-page curriculum vitae — or résumé, as Paula King herself might call it, given her years of experience in the business world — is a bullet-pointed list that illustrates her variety of interests: culture, travel, learning, researching ancestors, hiking in the mountains.

Sprinkled amid her numerous academic publications and presentations are “change agent” community involvements and awards for teaching. The multi-faceted résumé also offers a clue to the workshop that King, dean of the School of Business and Leadership at St. Kate’s, will offer in October about how the liberal arts affects business and leadership.

“I firmly believe that seeing things through the lens of the liberal arts helps people think critically and see multiple perspectives,” says King, who holds a bachelor’s degree in social work, a Master of Science in counseling and a Ph.D. in corporate strategy and organizations from the Carlson School of Management.

The daylong event, called “Infusing Business and Leadership with Creativity, Design and the Arts,” will be held Oct. 15 at Cavallo Point, the Lodge at the Golden Gate, in Sausalito, Calif. and is open to the public. The $75 cost includes lunch and morning/afternoon refreshments.  For more information or to register, email Kelly Povo ’09 or call 651-690-6063.

Sponsored by the alumnae relations office at St. Catherine University, the event is intended as a gathering for San Francisco–area alumnae. 

What inspired this topic?

I’ve used a lot of liberal arts methodologies in my teaching. When I was teaching a course on organizational behavior at the Carlson School, I took the entire class to Theatre de la Jeune Lune to a play based on an Emile Zola novel (Germinal) about the mines in France in the 1790s. The assignment was to look through the lens of theater to evaluate the shadow side of organizations — that underbelly where things aren’t always good and nice and respectable, or at least where politics sometimes get pretty nasty.

How did you end up in business, given your obvious interest in the arts?

When I was in high school, I wanted to get a doctorate in art history and be a curator in a museum. My guidance counselor said there were no museum jobs for women. It was very bad career advice, but it allowed me to pursue the arts as an avocation.
Being at Gabberts Furniture and Design Studio as a senior executive was the perfect fit. It combined business experience and acumen with aesthetics, beauty, design and architecture. I’ve never been the traditional “profit at all costs” kind of business person. I want to create something of value, something that works. When I was 13, I wanted to be an architect.

You like to brainstorm in meetings, to bring out the creativity in other people.

Yes, almost to the point of being dangerous! I have too many ideas. I believe in always striving toward that intersection of perfection — our mission and vision, our strengths and our potential. I am not comfortable always with the incremental step forward. Let’s shoot for the very best, and then step back if we have to from that. But let’s not limit ourselves in the design phase.

I’m a proponent of design thinking. And that’s basically creativity. It’s the whole idea that elegant design — of a process, a product, a curriculum, a university — is a process that can create something truly unique and amazing. To get to that sort of wonderful design, we have to experiment. It doesn’t have to be perfect initially; we just have to get out there and try.

So, what do you have planned for the alumnae and others who will attend this event?

This will be an experiential day. I’m planning to use three modalities of the arts: literature, such as “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas,” by Ursula K. Le Guin, a fabulous short story for illustrating ethics); a creativity innovation exercise; and music. I’ll talk about how the kind of thinking one develops with a liberal arts education creates the conditions that lead to big breakthroughs and new ways of seeing.

I’ll also highlight the School of Business and Leadership, because I think alumnae will want to know what’s going on.

How are you approaching this job of dean as a creative endeavor?

I’m a builder, not a maintainer. I look at it as: How can the School of Business and Leadership, along with the rest of the University, find the synergies among our majors in order to build programs that tap into our historic strengths and also reach out into marketplace with new and compelling programs of study.

We’re looking at a Bachelor of Science and a master’s of interior design that focuses on leadership, for example. This is a profession where women own their own businesses and are very successful. We’re thinking not of a residential degree but a commercial focus on healthcare — bringing healthcare and sustainability and project management together in a cluster of design-related bachelor’s, master’s and certificate programs.

We also want to emphasize our strong position in nutrition, but combining that with a focus on food and culture. We’re thinking about courses in food justice, the economics of hunger, food and obesity, food writing, food and eating disorders, and food and media.

You are a real consumer of contemporary culture.

Part of that is my natural curiosity about what’s next. What are the big ideas? What’s happening in science, in politics, in neurobiology? I’ve always been a trend spotter, and I love to read across disciplines. That was reinforced in my doctoral program where read a lot in physics, brain theory — subjects that you wouldn’t think a management theorist would care about.

Sep. 15, 2011 by Amy Gage

See also: Alumnae/i, Business, Leadership, Liberal Arts