St. Katherine College: A Worthy {Orthodox} Start-Up Venture

Seal of St. Katherine College
Seal of St. Katherine College
I recently spent a day at St. Katherine College in Encinitas, California.  That particular day happened to be an “open house,” aimed at local area high school students and parents from southern California. The College had invited students considering college to spend a day learning about St. Katherine. But the students were also given advice on how to choose a college and think about their future careers. The day spent was a great opportunity to see the new faculty and staff in action. 

No doubt a few might have heard something about this newly launched Orthodox College in the San Diego area. Surely, Orthodox Christians, in one way or another, can recognize the need for an Orthodox College. True, we have need in America for many types of Orthodox institutions to help the needy and others. But, the plan for this college has been scoped and its development is now well underway.  Therefore, it would seem prudent to be supportive of seeing St. Katherine College not only survive, but also evolve into a well established and recognized institution. One worthy of our Church and, an institution that serves as an important symbol of all our Orthodox faith, regardless of jurisdiction, here in America.     

St. Katherine College is designed to focus on the Liberal Arts and Sciences, and do so through an Orthodox Christian environment. This new venture college launches this coming autumn, with its inaugural freshman class.  There is much at stake for those who are engaged in this new venture.  The following discussion presents what is at stake for a new venture, what the college has put in place as initial infrastructure, and why this college is worthy of all our prayers and tangible support. 

This article is structured to help those who are unfamiliar with the essentials of start-up ventures, to understand the basic requirements and fundamentals for any new start-up, hoping for a successful outcome. For all the specific details about the college, its vision, its offerings, its staff, schedules, and other information, please visit the St. Katherine College website at

The Basics: For the Start-up Venture

For those not familiar with the life cycle stages of start-up ventures in general, each stage is a fairly rigid path and if not accomplished successfully, consequences can be brutal. From the point of launch to success (however that is defined – going to IPO, profitability, having another organization purchase the start-up venture, or just having a positive cash flow) the time frame is three to five years.  If the start-up does not reach its defined success target, the investors (sometimes known as venture capitalists) generally pull the plug. 

Therefore as one might guess, it takes a substantial amount of capital to get started and achieve the point of launching. Some start-ups are lucky because they mainly need intellectual property and a few skilled employees to launch. Many times start-ups can develop their product in someone’s garage, basement, or small area of rented space at a start-up incubator – maybe located in “high tech” park where the new venture can feed off the synergy with other new start-ups. Sometimes it does take more. 

In the case of a college, a significant amount of real estate, staff and teachers are required to launch. The good news here is that St. Katherine’s investors and donators have already been able to cross the initial threshold. They seem to have assembled enough operating funds to acquire a viable infrastructure and enough staff to launch. 

Actually, St. Katherine now has suitable space for its offices, classrooms, plus some apartment type dormitories for students to live in during their stay at the campus. It may not look like a traditional campus, but start-ups are known for not looking like big organizations that are heavy burdened with high overhead costs and inflexibility.  Rather start-ups are known for being lean, creative, energetic, focused on the talent of the employees and with lots of personal interaction. 

The Leadership: Academic, Entrepreneur and Orthodox

Leadership is a true requisite for success of any organization. In a start-up it is important the leader has the ability to set a clear vision and establish the necessary organizational culture that is durable to carry the venture forward for a period of time. 

The principle founder and president of St. Katherine College is Dr. Frank J. Papatheofanis. The doctorate title is well earned, as he has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Public Policy. Already having achieved a successful academic career, including; at present being listed as part of the faculty at the University of California-San Diego’s College of Medicine. Now, Frank has turned himself into a new, venture start-up CEO. And a CEO of a venture to educate our nation’s young through establishing the first Orthodox institution of higher learning.  

But, any new venture CEO’s main task is to keep the organization and its employees focused. Every successful new venture CEO I have heard speak, states emphatically, the key to survival and success is keeping focused. During the warm sunny 70 degree, January day that I was there on campus, and met Frank, he sure appeared to me as a man driven by purpose and definitely focused. 

The venture can be organized as a “for profit” or as a “not for profit.” The latter is the case for St. Katherine. In either case, the CEO/College President must be a tireless and good fundraiser. Frank seems to have scheduled several upcoming fundraising events across the country. Maybe there will be one in your area and where you can attend. 

The Team: Administration and Faculty

In selecting his team, the entrepreneur wants bright, creative, energetic, dedicated, risk takers, and out of the box thinkers.  Frank definitely had some of these qualities in mind when he assembled the initial team for St. Katherine. At least on first impressions, from the group of staff I had the chance to meet; they all seemed to be upbeat, very personable, full of enthusiasm and committed to helping and educating the students.  

Frank along with Eve Tibbs, the person he has chosen for the College Dean, will oversee the curriculum development and ensure that quality and standards are met.  Eve has an earned doctorate in theology, plus other degrees in church history and biblical studies. She has been for a number of years on the faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Also since 2005, she has been a Visiting Professor at the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute at Berkeley, California. 

A wide ranging faculty has been assembled, having an average teaching experience of over 15 years; and, all classes are taught by a faculty who have earned terminal degrees in their academic field. Most have already become distinguished scholars.  

The college staff at St. Katherine has enough know how to help the incoming students with the traditional on boarding issues and other needs students have at college; including a very enthusiastic Orthodox priest who understands something about the trials and tribulations of linking college studies to professional careers.  Most importantly the college has the qualified faculty to offer an arts and sciences curriculum. Yes, theology and biblical studies are offered, but the College is to be known as a College of Arts and Sciences. 

The Vision: A New Pedagogical Philosophy

As with all start-up ventures, the entrepreneur always begins with a very high aim to solve a problem and fill a unique market niche with either a product or service. It seems that St. Katherine’s vision does just that! 

St. Katherine offers a participatory academic culture, small class sizes, and high-caliber professors. But beyond this, the college has a unique approach to curriculum and organization. Typical colleges and universities are organized around departments, in order to allow specialization to occur within each of the academic disciplines (i.e. biology, chemistry, literature, etc.) Though this allows for specialization of knowledge, it also contributes to building overhead bureaucracy and self-promoting interests of the departments, generally at the expense of the student’s ability to build and follow their own path to inquiry and learning. 

Frank and Eve have in mind a different method. They have evolved an integrated method of pedagogy, a method that has its roots in the lyceums of the Socratic Greeks.   The basic liberal arts course curriculum are being offered, however, it includes a matrix approach to course delivery that promotes the students ability to reach out to different areas of knowledge and inquiry of their own interests; rather than fitting the student into a “pigeon holes” that traditional academic departments usually force on them. Rest assure, the student is getting the liberal arts and science education needed to become well-rounded and to prepare them, if they so chose, to go on to professional education in graduate school. 

So the unique niche required to make a go for this venture in the competitive academic market place is an Orthodox Christian environment, small classes, dedicated faculty, low cost overhead, a unique inquiry path to allow the student to meet their own interests and talents, set in a small town environment, and in one of the beautiful spots of this nation – sunny, southern California. 

The Challenges: Overcoming the Hurdles and Meeting the Milestones

The obvious first challenge is having enough financing to last until the College can sustain itself and grow to its planned objective. The first milestone needed is to have enough students.  The college needs a critical mass by the fall. For many new ventures, a viable marketing technique is to give away the venture’s product or service for free for a period of time. Indeed that is part of the plan, several courses, including one for adults on the biology of aging are being offered to allow students to see what St. Katherine College can really do. 

Another milestone that the College needs to achieve is accreditation. This is sort of a chicken and egg type situation. It is also a fact of life that for an institution; it needs to receive recognition and hence have credibility.  In this case, St. Katherine is underway to seek recognition by the Western Associate of Schools and Colleges. But this takes time, resources, dedication to standards and filling out an enormous amounts of paper work as well as the numerous, entailed visits by the accrediting certifiers. It also takes resources. The College must have a library with a 50,000 volume plus book collection. This will take time to acquire. The entry classes of students must demonstrate ability and learning to set, prescribed, standards. No doubt putting extra pressure on the college professors and administration.  

These are just a few of the challenges. 

Summary: Can You Help?

There is high risk involved in every new venture. The relative rate of failure is fairly high, meaning that many new ventures have the plug pulled before they reach their success criteria. As you can see there are challenges here. 

This is where our faith and belief must materialize. Let us hope and pray that the St. Katherine College is successful. The founder, administration, and financial backers have already accomplished an enormous task. As outlined, all the essential elements (initial investment, leadership, vision, talent, and infrastructure) to make a launch and a good start are in place.   Dr. Papatheofanis and his team I believe, would welcome all your prayers, encouragement, support, dollars, and helping hands. This is an Orthodox Christian Venture that can make a difference for all of us. 

The author is an OCL Board Member and parishioner at St. Nicholas Cathedral in the District of Columbia. By profession he has been both a college professor and management consultant in strategy, organizational development, and technology innovation.

Orthodox News

by Kenneth D. Mitchell

15 февраля 2011 г.

Здесь Вы можете оставить свой комментарий к данной статье. Все комментарии будут прочитаны редакцией портала Православие.Ru.
Ваше имя:
Ваш email:
Введите число, напечатанное на картинке
Войдите через FaceBook ВКонтакте Яндекс Mail.Ru Google или введите свои данные:
Храм Новомученников Церкви Русской. Внести лепту