Mary Ellen Kondrat, MSSW, (’72) PhD

Headshot of Mary Ellen Kondrat
Richard Gwin/Journal World-Photo
New Dean of the School of Social Welfare Mary Ellen Kondrat.

I had the fun (and adventure) of going through the MSW program with my then husband Ron (he died in 1998 from multiple myeloma). After graduation in January 1972, I took a position on an adult unit in what was then called Mendota State Hospital, working with the wonderful Dr. Virginia Sincaban. I stayed there for almost 3 years, leaving in December 1974 with the birth of our youngest child David (now an associate professor at the Indiana University School of Social Work—yup, proverbial apple falling not far from the equally proverbial tree). In 1977 I began to work on the psych unit at Madison General Hospital (now called Meriter Hospital). In 1985, I started work part time on a PhD in education, continuing to work part time at Madison General. I earned my PhD in 1990, and was hired at Michigan State University as the practicum director/assistant professor. The school was in some turmoil at that time, and in 1992, when I saw some openings advertised at (The) Ohio State University, I applied and was hired there. I never looked back! That was a great place to support an academic career. While there, along with teaching and research, I worked with a colleague in India to start a summer study abroad program in that country. I believe with that ever-sanguine, social critic, Mark Twain: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, ….” OSU and the College of Social Work were very supportive of such initiatives. That program was still going when I left OSU in 2003.

In 2003 I accepted an invitation to apply for a dean position at Louisiana State University. I moved to Baton Rouge in August of that year. The position had the right formula of strengths and challenges to make it very interesting. Strengths included a great faculty and a strong research office. We all showed our mettle during and after Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, the state legislators did not believe much in supporting education (at any level). And I was realizing that I missed the Midwest. So, after 3 years at LSU, I was encouraged to apply for the open Dean position at the University of Kansas. It turned out to be my dream job. I could go on and on about how wonderful it was…but that is another topic for another day. I did get to help faculty start or continue summer study abroad programs (Costa Rica, Ireland, South Korea, Italy, and, of course, India), established hybrid programs that allowed students from far away western Kansas to work toward an MSW degree, oversaw a strengthening of the MSW and doctoral programs. I was most pleased whenever faculty, staff and students won university wide or national awards, which they did on a regular basis.

I retired in 2014, realizing my stamina was waning, and being a dean does require a lot of stamina. Oh, and one other thing, in 2019, I got married again. Who knew!!! I now split my time between Rio Verde, Arizona (winters), and summer home in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.