Dean College Dean Hall

Dean Leadership Institute was pleased to virtually welcome Mary Katz, Executive Director of The Carson Center for the Performing Arts, as the latest Leadership in Action speaker this semester.

Katz has 25 years of experience in education through teaching and community involvement with a focus on arts education. She became Executive Director of The Carson Center in 2017 and also serves as artistic director. She first started at The Carson Center in 2002 as a capital campaign volunteer, joined the Board of Directors in 2004 and left the Board in 2008 to join the staff as Education Director. As Education Director, Katz grew The Carson Center’s educational and performance offerings, including expanding the Class Acts Education Series for preschool through high school students; creating the US Bank Art for All series (previously known as US Bank Family Series) of diverse performances with budget-friendly pricing; establishing the First Stages Mini-Series for younger children and their families; and bringing Broadway Workshop™ from New York City to The Carson Center each summer to provide youth with professional musical theater training by Broadway performers. She was part of the 2011 Emerging Leadership Institute of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and has served on the advisory council of the Kentucky Governor’s School for the Arts. 

Katz holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and French from Agnes Scott College, a Master of Arts in teaching from the University of Memphis along with a gifted and talented teaching endorsement, and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts Administration from the University of Kentucky. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Rotary Club of Paducah, Paducah Area Creative and Cultural Council, and is a graduate of Leadership Paducah. She is being proposed for nomination to the Kentucky Film Commission, an advisory commission within the Kentucky Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet.

Katz spoke to our students about leading people in difficult times and how her non-linear career path led to her position as Executive Director of The Carson Center. “If you’re ever wondering ‘What should I be doing?’, think back to what you did when you were 10 years old, before anyone told you what you should do or what you should be,” she recommended. For Katz, that was producing plays, magic shows, and carnivals in her backyard – which directly ties to her current role. She also shared her stories about distinguishing between management and leadership and about the challenges The Carson Center faced from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Katz advised students to conquer their fears, to take advantage of group work and group learning, to take care of themselves, and to build soft skills like collaboration, kindness, empathy and communication. She also emphasized the importance of lifelong learning and adding to a backpack of leadership tools.

“You don’t have to know everything, but you do need to be open to learning anything new all your life,” said Katz. “It doesn’t stop when you get out of college – this is a lifelong goal. You might as well enjoy it while you’re on the ride.”

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience with our students, Mary Katz! For more information about past and future speakers, visit Dean Leadership Institute.