Meet Patricia Grant: The Mindful Dean Who Melds Business with Purpose
For more than 11 years, Patricia Grant has been helping undergraduate business students discover their potential. As the senior associate dean of the Undergraduate Program, she continues to build opportunities for students to expand their knowledge, explore their passions, and lead with agility.
How did you choose your career path?
Since I was 5 years-old, I wanted to be an educator. At that time, and until my collegiate years, I translated that as being a high school teacher who would eventually become a principal. As I progressed in my career, I hoped I would end up as a superintendent of a large school district. I also may have set my sights on the U.S. Secretary of Education. While I clearly strayed a bit from that vision, I still hold dear the importance of access to high quality education for everyone so they can achieve whatever dreams they’ve set for themselves and their families.
What is your personal philosophy?
I believe in the importance of mentoring and reflection. As an avid reader and consumer of information, I continue to be led by the drive to be a resource to others while consistently reflecting on my privilege to influence the lives of others. In a phrase, it’s the golden rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
What are students surprised to learn about you during the program?
Many students and alumni are surprised at my level of visibility and engagement. I am merely giving back the gifts of presence and molding given to me by so many advisers, mentors, and sponsors along my journey. We all need that shaping, influence, and advice to maximize talents, passion, opportunities for financial gain, and figure out what we will give back to the world. Some call this “ikigai,” raison d’être, or the intersection of intrinsic and extrinsic value. If I can be one small piece of the impetus to find one’s way in life, I am doubly blessed.
What can we find you doing outside of Georgetown?
I enjoy reading articles, white papers and reports; watching news and other TV programs; and listening to all musical genres. Sometimes I engage in all three activities at once. I also love to travel. I have three continents to go on my bucket list. Learning about other cultures and ways of life are affirming and fascinating to me. As a Bahamian who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, I met so many people from all over the world early in life. Ever since, I have enjoyed every minute of meeting and becoming lifelong friends with people from all ethnicities, cultures, and faith traditions.
How are you influenced by Georgetown’s Jesuit values?
When I came to Georgetown, I never imagined I would find a place so welcoming and affirming. I have engaged with and learned from all of Georgetown’s Jesuit values. However, the most influential one is community in diversity. I have met so many people who have made the concept of community come alive. The power of the Georgetown spirit is in its remarkable people—students, faculty, staff, parents, and alumni. There is an energy each of our stakeholders bring to every engagement that is infectious, educative, and unique. At Georgetown, we know how to put unity at the center of our engagement with one another, no matter who we are, where we come from, or what we believe.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“Do more than what is asked.”
There is what people ask of you and there is what is in its ecosystem. To do this, you need to be innovative, expansive, and a risk-taker. You may get quizzical looks or responses, as you expand the scope of activities, programs, and endeavors. The mosaic that is created will bring your purpose and goals into clear focus. Your product will speak for itself, as will your brand.
What has been the biggest change to the business world since you entered academia?
So much has changed since 1996, but in a steady and forceful way, digitization of higher education has taken root in our ethos and operations. I remember programming reports in SQL, and now being able to click a few buttons to get the data I’m seeking. Tools like email, instant chat, and mobile technology also have revolutionized the way we communicate and engage.
Nevertheless, we have maintained a humanized approach to teaching, learning, scholarship, service, and innovating. The academy needs all of these elements to cooperate in balance. Watching them shift, morph, and recalibrate across the years has been fascinating. The future of higher education must continue to center humanity as the fourth industrial revolution becomes the fifth, sixth, etc.
What do you hope students take away from Georgetown’s Undergraduate Program?
I love talking to students as they journey through our program and remaining in touch as they settle into being thriving alumni. I hope every graduate of our program leaves with a spirit of agility and openness to pivoting. The worst question we ask young people is what they want to be when they grow up. While practical and a necessary consideration, it can cause them to foreclose before realizing their greatest and most untapped possibilities.
I prefer to ask, “What are the top five passions that you’re exploring right now?” The beauty of being engaged in the educational process is that you are in the mindset of continuous learning and discovery. You learn about the world, evolving knowledge and yourself in relation to the two. Finding your fit in this way is a process that is really never-ending. As we continue to preskill, upskill, and reskill, our students join us in the journey, and we help them discern their path. Sometimes that means they go straight into the world of work, and in others they continue on to graduate school (right away or in due time).
This mental agility and ability to pivot your pathways is an important leadership competency. I’ve seen our alumni do it over and over, as they return to school, change industries, or create profitable companies or for-purpose organizations. I’m confident their Jesuit training married with sound, foundational business education, prepares them for this iterative process.
What is one thing you recommend your students do before graduating?
Before graduating from Georgetown McDonough, I recommend every student engage in a process of possibility mapping. Life comes at you fast, and if you’re not mindful or intentional, you can end up living a life that doesn’t maximize purpose.
So, what does this look like? Each leader needs an advisory board. This group of trusted individuals can help you navigate the most difficult and complex decisions in your life. These five to seven people will help you both reality-check and reality-proof your post-graduation plans. These plans should be written out and chunked in two, five, and 10-year intervals so you have a working roadmap that can be tinkered on as you live it. Things will change, but you will have something to serve as an anchor for your talents and goals. Those who invest time on this reap the dividends throughout life. They also can withstand the winds of societal change. We are definitely experiencing gale-force winds from world events, technology, and the economy. Those with a plan and great advisors can more readily push through the resistance with assurance and insurance.