Susan Catron to Step Down as Dean of Continuing and Professional Education

Update June 29, 2023: Susan Catron’s appointment as dean of the Division of Continuing and Professional Education was extended into October 2023 as the national search for her successor is conducted.

The Office of the Provost released this announcement today (Sept. 13).

Susan Catron has announced she will step down as dean of the Division of Continuing and Professional Education, or CPE, in June 2023, after five years in office.

Susan Catron headshot
Susan Catron

Catron joined CPE in 1990 as a program manager and left in 2002 as director of marketing. After a five-year hiatus to complete her graduate studies and work in state legislative policy, she returned to the division in a variety of roles: director of health and policy programs, associate dean for program innovation, and senior associate dean for academic affairs.

During her tenure as dean, Catron led a number of innovative, far-reaching campus initiatives and collaborations, including:

  • Developing a strategic, campuswide approach to advancing online graduate education that will help to extend the reach and impact of UC Davis while retaining tuition dollars locally.
  • Championing the influential role of professional education in our region by establishing CPE as an anchor tenant in Aggie Square.
  • Advancing UC Davis’ commitment to diversity, inclusion and opportunity by partnering to create the UC Degree Completion Program, a state-funded effort to help UC stop-outs and Californians with some college experience — particularly underrepresented minorities — complete their degrees.
  • Establishing the division’s first philanthropic program to provide diversity and equity-based scholarships for adults pursuing continuing education.
  • Building the campus presence on Coursera to more than 3 million global learners, which ranks UC Davis 22nd among 250 university partners on the platform for reach and 10th among all partners (university and industry) for revenue.

The multiyear strategic plan Catron developed as dean prioritized strategic, sustainable growth and successfully guided CPE’s accelerated transition to online learning during the pandemic. Catron navigated sizable revenue impacts from the pandemic on top of preexisting financial challenges she inherited, and shepherded the division to exit the pandemic with its largest positive year in a decade and a substantial improvement in its reserve position and long-term sustainability.

“Susan has made substantial contributions to the campus and far beyond by assuring access and opportunities for our students, alumni, and community members,” said Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Mary Croughan. “Moreover, she has overseen a forward-looking agenda during a challenging time for the unit. These accomplishments have been substantive and have resulted in CPE becoming a self-sustaining entity. We will miss Susan’s leadership and strategic vision, and wish her all the best in her retirement.

With more than 60,000 enrollments annually, CPE is the third-largest UC extension as measured by enrollment, serving learners regionally, nationally and from around the world. The division has more than 170 staff and 700 contract instructors, and generates $35 million in self-supporting revenue.

In her academic career, Catron has developed and led innovative, entrepreneurial programs in teacher education, autism, public policy, health services, public health, business, technology and management. In partnership with UC Davis faculty, she launched the nation’s first online program in health care analytics.

As an administrator, Catron led the digital transformation of CPE’s academic mission, expanded platform partnerships, strengthened market research capabilities, modernized the operational infrastructure, and established the division’s first DEI plan and fundraising program. Nationally, Catron has been active in the University Continuing Education Association, having served on the Board of Directors, as co-chair of the 2022 Annual Conference, and as a member of the task force that developed Hallmarks of Excellence for Alternative Credentials. Catron also served on the editorial board for a forthcoming book, New Models of Higher Education: Unbundled, Rebundled, Customized, & DIY.

Catron stepped in to lead CPE at a time of crisis within the division and while facing considerable challenge in her personal life — she lost her husband of 30 years only a week before her appointment as interim dean. Her husband’s untimely death from brain cancer inspires her to retire while she is healthy and able to explore her many personal interests.

Catron feels the timing is opportune for a new leader to steer the next phase of CPE’s vision to increase its regional and campus impact. “It has been an honor to serve as dean of CPE during perhaps the most difficult period in the organization’s history. I’m proud of what our team has accomplished, how we’ve adapted our approaches to a digitally transformed world, and how well positioned CPE is to thrive in this new economy and higher education landscape.”

Catron has agreed to stay on board until the search process concludes and a successor is chosen. The provost will be launching the search for a new dean this fall.

John O’Neill is the marketing director for the Division of Continuing and Professional Education.

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