By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
GALLOWAY – Growing up in Newark, Dr. Christopher Catching had to overcome numerous obstacles – including the loss of his father while in high school – to be a successful college student and reach beyond his environment.
Today, as vice president for student affairs at Stockton University, Catching is using that experience and past lessons learned to help current students and be a role model for others. Since February 2018, Catching has led the division, working to ensure all undergraduate and graduate students have access to the learning opportunities, programs and services that will prepare them for life-long success.
“It’s something I think about [being a role model] every day, just as it mattered for me when I was a student,” Catching told Front Runner New Jersey recently. “I was successful in comporting myself in a certain way because others were watching and others were looking for role modeling. That continues into my professional work and certainly at the level that I sit at now, it goes beyond students and it goes to staff and colleagues.
“So it’s just part of me and it’s been part of my experience for my entire career. I’m always cognizant of the fact that, it’s bigger than me. The decisions I make, the way I treat people matter beyond anything that’s limited to my own experience,” Catching said.
Catching’s story includes overcoming numerous obstacles that would make his time as a college student challenging, but inspiring him to eventually go into higher education to be an example for others.
He lost his father before his junior year in high school. He was a highly-motivated student but admitted high school did not prepare him for the rigors of college life. He touted the Educational Opportunity Fund Program (EOF) at Montclair State University as playing a critical role in his success.
“I did well in high school and had ambitions, but I was under prepared curricularly for college level coursework,” Catching said. “So, like many of the students who started the summer program, I struggled in writing and really struggled in math so much so that I failed my math course during the summer experience.
“I did a little bit better in writing by the time the six week program ended. As I walked away from that initial experience, I knew the support that I had by way of the community of students that I was a part of and the academic advisors that I had in the program and the academic support put in place for me were going to be very important. In particular, the advisement and my role model as a student was my advisor in the EOF program who shared characteristics with me,” Catching said.
Finding Value in Support Systems
He said that advisor took him under his wing and taught him the value of having a support system, especially for young African-Americans who are the first in their family to attend college.
“It’s interesting because I think about this, I had a number of friends who, some graduated from college and some didn’t,” Catching said. “I reflect back all these years later, why the supports were necessary. Because all of those students had the capabilities of being successfully earning a degree, but for varying degrees in varying reasons they may not have completed their degree. Those support systems that the university provided them makes all of the difference in giving them the greatest chance possible to graduate.”
The offices that report to Catching help create an environment conducive to student success, including academic partners to help students with their initial enrollment and financing of their education, academic and social transition to Stockton, connection in residential learning communities, holistic health and wellness, and leadership, professional and career development.
In 2012, he was given the Governor Thomas Kean Distinguished Alumni Award from the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund Program for his work.
“The one thing I’ve learned in this really important role is that, it’s a depth of experience that helps you be extremely successful and it takes a while to learn those things,” Catching said. “It only comes through experienced teachers and exposure. So, I hope five years from now I will have accumulated some significant experiences serving students, but also in this institution. I hope that I move from being a novice vice president to an excellent one.”
Catching came to Stockton from Southern Connecticut State University where he served as assistant vice president for student affairs. Before that, he served as coordinator for Greek Leadership Development at Seton Hall University, director of multicultural engagement at Rutgers University and assistant provost at Hofstra University.
He earned his doctorate in education at Rutgers, his master’s in higher education from New York University and bachelor’s from Montclair State.
Catching said most of his family still live in North Jersey and he hopes he has been an inspiration for them as well.
“I have four sisters in my immediate family,” Catching said. “One lives in Somerset, but the other three live up in the Newark area. And I have a bunch of nieces and nephews. My aunt, who’s up in the Newark area as well. So they’re all in North Jersey. I’m the only one that’s down here.
“I definitely think that they proud of me. I think, in addition to my mother and my aunt and my sisters, and I have a number of nieces and nephews also, and even a great niece. So, there’s this implications for my experience and my success. So, I hope that I have represented them well so far.”
Catching touched on various other subjects during his interview with Front Runner New Jersey.com.
FRNJ: What brought you to Stockton?
Christopher Catching: Being from New Jersey and being educated and having spent most of my career in New Jersey, I’m certainly committed to our state and helping our students identify very closely with New Jersey student, given my own educational history here. Stockton, in terms of its growth and its expansion into Atlantic City and just really its elevation, is one of the premier institutions in the state was very attractive to me and it certainly the existing leadership.
Dr. (Harvey) Kesselman and the existing cabinet and the overall vision for the university and where it was headed was also very attractive to me. I felt like I brought a good mix of experience to the table and I thought that it was a great fit, just in terms of, not only what my interests are and my talents and skills and experiences, but also where the university is headed and serving students in the state of New Jersey and serving the state overall.
FRNJ: What made you interested not only in higher education, but getting your advanced degrees as well?
Christopher Catching: The need to provide greater access to students who were coming from modest economic backgrounds personally and family to go to college like myself, wanting to provide those types of pathways and opportunities for students. That’s what piqued my interest in going into higher education at a very early age. My initial interest in even being in this particular role as vice president of student affairs, that idea actually started when I was probably a junior or senior in college and I got a chance to work in those offices and saw the impact that you could have.
FRNJ: How have you enjoyed your time here in Stockton?
Christopher Catching: It’s been a learning experience from day but so far long. I’ve learned a lot very quickly, just working with the students but also, working closely with my colleagues. Working as part of the university’s senior leadership and cabinet has been excellent. Dr. Kesselman has been instrumental in helping me get a good foothold here. I have great colleagues that I have the opportunity to lead in student affairs, who are committed to serving students and it’s been a tremendous experience so far.
Photos courtesy of Stockton University.
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