Christopher Catching ’99 has had the opportunity to observe Montclair State University’s evolution as a student, alumnus, sibling to Montclair State graduates and as a higher education professional for nearly 25 years. Catching currently serves as the vice president for Student Affairs at Stockton University. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in History at Montclair State, he pursued a Master of Arts in Student Affairs in Higher Education from New York University in 2001 and a Doctorate in Education from Rutgers University in 2008.
Prior to his role at Stockton University, Catching served as the assistant vice president for Student Affairs at Southern Connecticut State University, coordinator for Greek Leadership Development at Seton Hall University, director of Multicultural Engagement at Rutgers University, and assistant provost at Hofstra University.
Catching first became inspired to become an educator during his participation in the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) Summer Program at Montclair State in 1995. “During this transformational learning opportunity, I realized how critical it was for all students, particularly those from underserved communities, to have access to affordable and excellent education,” he says. Without a doubt, Catching credits his experience in the EOF program for his success as an educator.
He vividly recalls the moment he first came across the program. It was during a visit from Ms. Bertha Diggs, former associate director of EOF, to his high school where he learned more about EOF. Catching is eternally grateful to Ms. Diggs as she was committed to giving him an opportunity and advocated for his admission to Montclair State.
Catching says he had the privilege to been an advisee of former EOF advisor, Curtis Price, who convinced him to “stretch beyond his horizons” and pursue a Master’s degree in order to have the opportunity to serve college students. Writing Instructors, Joanne Carlson and Doreen Ladinski, helped him develop confidence in his ability to write at a college level during his EOF experience. As an alumnus of the program, Catching is passionate about providing students with access to the same transformative learning experiences that he experienced as a student.
Aside from being heavily involved in the EOF Program, Catching was a chartering member of Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Incorporated, where he served as president. The chapter celebrated the 22nd anniversary of its chartering at Montclair State on May 5th. He also served as chairperson and treasurer for the Organization of Students for African Unity (OSAU) and academic chairperson for the Greek Council. Although, Catching majored in History, he took elective courses in African Studies and Human Services and Counseling. “These selected areas of study prepared me for subsequent learning at the graduate level and prepared me to serve historically underrepresented students,” he says.
Catching also kept himself busy by working several on-campus jobs that served as a foundation for his career in higher education. His first on-campus position as a student assistant in the University mailroom provided him with the opportunity to learn the university’s structure and key personnel, while being an admissions ambassador gave him the opportunity to learn more about the history of Montclair State and gain confidence in public speaking. A position as computer lab assistant in the EOF Electronic Learning Lab gave him the opportunity to mentor EOF students who utilized the lab.
During his senior year, Catching served as a NASPA Minority Undergraduate Fellow in the Office of the Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life in which he developed a mentoring program for underrepresented students.
It was through this experience that he was connected with James Harris, former associate Dean of Students at Montclair State Univeristy, who served as his supervisor and mentor. Dean Harris served as an advocate and role model for students and a role model for Catching’s career as a college student educator. Having the opportunity to work closely with Dean Harris was a transformative experience as it showed Catching the importance of advocating for students’ access to higher education and the powerful impact that he could have on students’ lives.
Not only did he earn course credits that enabled him to graduate on time, but also valuable experience that prepared him for a future career in college student affairs.
“I was inspired to earn my doctorate by working closely with administrators such as Dr. Karen Pennington, vice president for Student Development and Campus Life, Dr. Leslie Wilson, acting associate Dean for the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Dr. Felicia McGinty, executive vice chancellor for Administration and Planning at Rutgers University,” says Catching. Earning his doctorate at Rutgers University was the successful achievement of a goal that he set for himself during his junior year at Montclair State.
As he settles in his new role at Stockton University, Catching hopes to utilize everything that he learned from his experience in the EOF Program at Montclair State, graduate education and professional experiences that he acquired during the past two decades. His goal? To help students achieve their dreams and goals just like he did. “Believe in yourself, pursue your purpose, inspire the world,” he advises to students.