New Associate Dean Works to Expand Graduate Opportunities in Liberal Studies


When a rancorous budget battle caused the federal government to shut down for more than two weeks in October 2013, Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies made a decision that still resonates with John Dolan today.

“They offered professional development courses to government workers for free,” said Dolan, who was named Associate Dean of SCS’s graduate liberal studies programs in May. “I thought it was an amazing illustration of service to others.”

For Dolan, who has spent much of his career in higher education, the free classes are an example of Jesuit values in action, and it is these values that guide him as he seeks to grow Georgetown’s graduate liberal studies programs and expand their reach to more students.

Both the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) and Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) degrees draw on a wide range of foundational courses in the humanities, including history, philosophy, theology, art, literature, and social sciences. Students acquire a wealth of knowledge in these subjects as well as the intellectual framework with which to draw connections between these disciplines and integrate them into a coherent understanding of Western Civilization.

Georgetown’s liberal studies graduate programs offer intrinsic rewards to those who want to deepen their understanding of the humanities. They also provide students with valuable critical thinking skills that are highly sought after by today’s businesses. According to a Hart Research Associates report cited this year by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, 91 percent of employers “agree that for career success, a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.”

“Our programs help students learn to synthesize information, see complex problems from multiple perspectives, and put issues into historical, global, and ethical frameworks,” Dolan said.

Dolan comes to Georgetown from George Washington University, where he was Director of Executive and Professional Education for the School of Media and Public Affairs. Earlier, he held several posts at Penn State, including Assistant Director of Continuing and Professional Education and Director of the Office of Digital Media and Pedagogy in the College of the Liberal Arts.

A former Product Manager for the Washington Post, Dolan holds a Ph.D. in organizational development from Penn State and an MBA from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. Having grown up in State College, Pennsylvania, and attended Penn State, he has a natural affinity for the Nittany Lions, but his Georgetown roots go back even further: his father was a 1950 Georgetown graduate. As a reminder of these familial ties, Dolan keeps a faded photo of his father’s 1948 Georgetown football team in his office.

“It’s really nice for me to be walking along the same paths that he did,” Dolan said.

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