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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Feb. 27, 2009

Bratsch Prince

Dawn Bratsch-Prince, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, took advantage of learning and leadership opportunities to create an evolving career path. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Seizing opportunities

by Erin Rosacker

After living abroad and pursuing degrees on both coasts, it's here, in the middle of America, that Dawn Bratsch-Prince found the perfect place to build on her passions for collaboration, innovation and continued learning. And, it's here that she seized opportunities to sample new experiences that helped shape her career path.

"If an opportunity presents itself, and you take it, it opens up a whole new range of opportunities and possibilities," she said.

Bratsch-Prince, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native, fell in love with languages at her Catholic girls prep school. She went on to study them as an undergraduate at both Marymount Manhattan College and New York University, where she graduated cum laude with a degree in Spanish. But it was the two years she spent in Madrid as part of the "NYU in Spain" program that really left an impression on her.

"I really never expected to come back. I planned on staying there," Bratsch-Prince said. "But, I decided to go to graduate school and came back."

She earned a master's degree in Spanish from NYU, then went off to the University of California, Berkeley, where she studied philology. No, that's not a typo. Philology is the study of language history, and Bratsch-Prince earned her doctorate in romance philology.

"No one ever understands what that is," she said. "It's the history of the romance languages through the study of their early texts."

The academic path

After getting a taste of teaching during her graduate and doctoral years, Bratsch-Prince decided to pursue a career in academia.

"Spending time abroad really changed me as a person," she said. "You're so excited to share that with students and to get them to think about leaving. You need to get out to see how other people live, how other societies are organized."

Bratsch-Prince began applying for university positions. When the offer from Iowa State arrived, her adviser encouraged her to take the job. She's thankful the decision put her at a science and technology school that values humanities, rather than a school that pigeon-holes its faculty.

"One of the nice things about Iowa State is that it doesn't lock you into a career trajectory that doesn't allow for flexibility," she said. "There's a lot of flexibility, interdisciplinary work and collaboration across all of the disciplines. The scientists appreciate and value that, and so do the people in the humanities."

The administrative path

Since landing at ISU in 1990, she has earned tenure, developed courses, headed up an interdisciplinary linguistics program and served as assistant chair of the world languages and cultures department for three years before taking over as chair for six years. Bratsch-Prince also took advantage of leadership programs, such as American Council on Education workshops and a Kellogg Foundation Shared Leadership for Institutional Change (SLIC) program offered at ISU in 2000-01.

As part of the SLIC curriculum, participants completed the Myers-Briggs personality type indicator and applied it toward their leadership styles. Bratsch-Prince had an "Ah-ha!" moment when she discovered that having an introverted personality did not preclude her from being a strong leader.

"That was a key moment for me," she said. "That really impacted me, and gave me more confidence that I didn't have to change my entire personality to aspire to having some type of leadership position."

From the ground up

It seems each new experience helped lay the groundwork in the evolution of Bratsch-Prince's career. Last July, she became an associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences after spending a year and a half as an intern associate dean in the college, while simultaneously handling her department chair duties.

She was charged with the creation of two new projects -- the college's distance education and international programs.

"We had to create an office and set up an infrastructure. Right now, we're looking at strategic planning and marketing. That's been exciting to build something from zero," Bratsch-Prince said.

The LAS distance education program, which offers both undergraduate and graduate courses, is seeing results. It has grown from 19 courses last fall to about 27 this semester. She anticipates more additions this summer.

Service-learning opportunities, and long- and short-term study abroad options are being developed as part of the international programs project. Bratsch-Prince also is exploring a global seminar initiative that would include faculty and students from all disciplines, not just the humanities.

"It would be nice if all our students had the opportunity to go abroad with a faculty member, for a short period of time, and get a taste of what it is like to be in another linguistic and cultural environment," Bratsch-Prince said.

What's next on her list of things to do? Bratsch-Prince wants to work on her finance and budgeting skills, using data to help "make arguments with numbers." Perhaps she might even pursue an MBA in the future. But, right now, she's relishing her first year of a five-year appointment in the dean's office and learning more about how the university works.

"I don't know if I set out to be an administrator," she said. "But I always felt that if I had a good idea and there was something that I thought needed to be done, I'm certainly capable of doing it."


"If an opportunity presents itself, and you take it, it opens up a whole new range of opportunities and possibilities."

Dawn Bratsch-Prince