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Dr. Karen L. Gould: College president is in a class of her own

Brooklyn Daily
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In the early 1900s the American Vitagraph Company — known as the “Big V on Avenue M” — churned out movies and groomed early motion picture stars from a film studio a stone’s toss away from Brooklyn College, pioneering trends with lavish sets and a special tank for marine scenes.

More than a century after its fledgling film industry fled to Hollywood, the borough is on the verge of a movie-making comeback — with Brooklyn College in a starring role.

Karen L. Gould, the ambitious, first-female president of the storied Midwood school where Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham taught theater, and actor James Franco studied fiction writing, developed the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard with founding director Jonathan Wacks — the man behind “21 Jump Street” and “Repo Man” — to help budding Steven Spielbergs obtain a 21st century education.

“It’s America’s only operational film school on a working movie lot that also happens to be the largest film and television production company outside of Hollywood,” says the former California State University provost, who brought with her extensive academic and administrative experience from five major public higher education institutions when the college hired her in 2009.

Her mission? To make students matter.

“I don’t think we are fully realizing our capacity to tell the most compelling stories about the students who are here now and where they are headed and what we are providing for them,” the internationally known, published scholar of French-Canadian literature with her own Wikipedia page told the Faculty Newsletter after her appointment.

Gould restructured the School of Education, and advanced the college resume by creating four new internal institutions: the School of Business, the School of Humanities and Social Science, the School of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, and the School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts.

“The five schools now accurately depict the array of our strengths,” she says.

Under her skilled leadership, student enrollment is up to 17,400, the projected haul in private funds this year is around $20 million, and Brooklyn College is a lead producer of the nation’s Fulbright scholars.

“We send more students to China annually to study for short term and in the summer than any other C.U.N.Y. school,” says Gould, who has helped to make Brooklyn College an eco-classroom of the future, as host institution to the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay, a top-tier research consortium exploring coastal resiliency at the doorstep of the Atlantic Ocean that boasts more than 10,000 acres of prized parkland.

Board of Trustees chairperson Benno Schmidt and chancellor Matthew Goldstein knew they had tapped a special leader in the Woman of Distinction when they brought her on board.

“Dr. Gould’s appointment is a marvelous stroke of good fortune,” they said in a joint statement. “She will take an outstanding institution to higher levels.”

Gould is rising to the occasion, and her beneficiary is the future generation she cheers, applauds, and boosts at various college events.

“I try to show students that I am interested in all the different ways they are engaged,” she says.

OCCUPATION: President.

COMPANY: Brooklyn College.

CLAIM TO FAME: Working with others to transform students’ lives.

FAVORITE PLACE: Paris, France.

WOMAN I ADMIRE: Supreme Court Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg because of her tremendous accomplishments.

MOTTO: Keep moving forward.

Updated 12:09 pm, June 11, 2015
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