The Professor Is In: Q&A with Kathy Winsted

Professor Kathy Winsted talks about her days riding a motorcycle to work for Jimmy Carter, words of advice for students, why she gave up calculus, and more, in this month’s The Professor Is In.

By Pace student Helen Arase ’14

When she gets a break from being an avid reader or supportive mom to her three kids in college, Professor Kathy Winsted, PhD, teaches at the Pleasantville Campus and is Associate Director of Lubin’s Business Honors Program. She has an extensive resume in entrepreneurship and public administration. Winsted has founded and run multiple small businesses and has been producing them right and left since college! During her undergraduate years in Vermont she ran a small newspaper, at Harvard she founded a coffee house, and later set up her consulting business in Colorado. Joining academia was a late career choice for Winsted, but, inspired by her father, she’s changing the lives of students every day. She is responsible for the beginning of the Pace Perk Café, which is now student run and operated. Winsted is looking forward to working with Pace’s Entrepreneurship Lab which is teaching students the skills to become successful entrepreneurs.

What was your favorite class as a student? Least favorite?
My least favorite was calculus: calculus and physics. I went to school as a physics major and both my calculus professor and my physics professor spent their whole time with their backs turned to us writing formulas on the board. I loved math and physics until then, but I hated those classes and stopped taking both math and science. My favorite class was a labor relations course I took at Harvard Business School. We had an exercise to try to negotiate a contract and I was on the management team. I still remember it because I negotiated the best contract in the class. It was real, experience based, and something I was proud of.

What one thing or person made you passionate about your current career?
My father. He was a professor and Dean of the business school at Clarkson University. He got me thinking about an academic career–that it was a good way to raise a family and have time in the summer to do things with your family.  He also gave me a love of lifelong learning. He wrote the business simulations that I now use in my Business 150 class. He definitely inspired me.

What quality do you most value in your students?
An interest in learning. That they are attentive and they want to learn. When you get one [student] that really wants to learn, it’s exciting.

What’s your advice to students to make the most out of their time in college?
Get involved, have lots of different experiences, and view everything as a learning experience. Look at lots of different ways to learn, not just the courses you’re getting credit for. Leadership in organizations can be a wonderful opportunity. I advise the Pace Perk. They learn so much by running that business, where they are learning outside the classroom, as well as in. And, of course, internships are important.

If you had to do it all over again and took another path, what profession would you like to attempt? What profession would you not like to do?
I always thought I’d like to be a second grade teacher. Because you’re teaching kids right when they’re starting the learning curve, and you can teach a little bit of everything. I actually trained to be a town manager in government. I did an internship when I was in college; I wanted to be a town manager. I worked in government for the first half of my career. I’ve had a lot of jobs—waitressing, bus driving—all kinds of job that people don’t think are fun, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them for various reasons. I would hate a job for which I had to do exactly the same thing every day and where there wasn’t any room for growth, or innovation, or improvement. The military is another job I would hate because I don’t like following instructions without having a chance to question them. I like to be able to think about how I want to do things.

What is your favorite book/TV show?
I like the Jody Picoult books. I pretty much like anything she’s ever written because I like reading about general life stories. One of my favorites is 19 Minutes.  I like American Idol, I don’t know if I should admit it… I just love a good human interest story. I love a success story. I love to see those kids having their dreams come true. You get so happy for them when they succeed.

What would you do if you had an extra hour every day?
Sleep. Except that’s not really true, because I don’t sleep as much as I could. But that’s what I need… I would also probably read more, for fun.

What is your favorite journey/experience?
I worked at the White House for a while, when Jimmy Carter was president. And that was just fascinating. I also rode a motorcycle at the time. The Associated Press wrote an article about me headlined “President’s energy aide practices what she preaches” and they wrote all about how I was riding a motorcycle to save energy.What I was really doing was riding a motorcycle because I liked it.

What is your favorite saying/words to live by?
I have two favorite sayings: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”—Henry Ford

I tell that to my students. Confidence and believing in yourself is key to everything.

The other is “Things turn out the best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.”–John Wooden

I like it because people say, “Oh you’re so lucky” or “Things always work out for you”… No, it’s just that whatever does happen, I make the best of it. You make it work out.

If you could have any five people, living or dead, imagined or real, as guests at a dinner party, who would you choose?
The first thing I thought of was my family, because we’re all spread out, and there are five of us. My second thought was some of my best female friends here at Pace. But if you want famous people: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, Rachel Maddow, and Jane Lynch.