Kathleen Pacious (‘04)

University of Mary Washington, '08

When she was a high school student, Kathleen Pacious (‘04) probably never imagined that one day she’d be working at a school just like Oakcrest all the way across the Atlantic. But life is funny that way. And after quite a few of life’s twists and turns, Kathleen now happily serves as Head of Development at Rosemont Secondary School in Dublin, Ireland.

Kathleen’s journey began with a passion for literature. While she had always loved reading, Oakcrest taught her how to write and communicate effectively, how to put ideas together and defend her arguments, and how to seek the truth in different ideas. She particularly enjoyed her senior AP English class, as well as the joint English/history research paper she wrote senior year. And so it came as no surprise that she decided to dive deeper into English during college and beyond. Kathleen majored in English at University of Mary Washington, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 2008. After returning to Oakcrest for a year to work in the marketing department and then spending a couple years in New York City, Kathleen felt the desire to continue her studies. Seeking to broaden her horizons, she moved to Ireland to begin a Master’s program in Comparative Literature at Trinity College, Dublin in 2011. While it was certainly a huge leap, Kathleen says that her Oakcrest education helped prepare her. “Transitioning to life in a different country is never easy but the flexibility combined with character with which I have pursued my career and life is something I learned at Oakcrest,” she says.

After earning her Master’s, Kathleen moved to Galway. She began a PhD program at the National University of Ireland, which had awarded her an Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholarship. While working on her doctorate, Kathleen kept up a busy and impressive academic life. She presented papers at conferences in Vancouver, Amsterdam, London, and Boston; published peer-reviewed articles in the journals Narrative and Style; and taught English literature to undergraduate and masters students. In 2016, Kathleen successfully defended her dissertation, “The Ethics of Narrative Form in Gaskell, Dickens, and Eliot.”

It was then that Kathleen had to make a decision about where to go next. Although she’d enjoyed teaching at the university level, Kathleen knew that if she continued along that route she’d likely have to make another major move. She’d come to love Ireland, though, and wanted to put down roots in the country. Kathleen ultimately decided to ground herself in Ireland’s educational system and began a Professional Master’s of Education to qualify as an English secondary school teacher. She qualified in 2018.

After spending six years in Galway, Kathleen moved back to Dublin and accepted a position as Head of Development at Rosemont, Oakcrest’s Irish sister school. When asked what she loves most about working there, Kathleen mentions the mission and ethos of the school and the relationships she’s forged with students. “Every day is unique,” she says. “I get to mentor a few students and I have enjoyed getting to know the students more. I also have a beautiful view of the Irish Sea from my desk and the Dublin mountains are all around me when I get to school!”

Kathleen says there is no doubt that her time at Oakcrest impacted her in deep, lasting ways. She explains, “Oakcrest gave me confidence, resilience, core values, deep friendships, and a real security in myself. It formed my relationship with God and with others.” She mentions in particular how her liberal arts education formed her as a whole person. It gave her a level of self-knowledge and intellectual freedom that she deeply appreciates today. It trained her imagination, verbal-linguistic thinking, figurative language, and gave her a sense of how each of us fits into the history we come from and the future we are shaping. She is grateful for the freedom she experienced to support her ideas without falling into tropes or “isms,” and the ability to rethink her ideas. “Liberal arts gives the ability to think outside the box because you already know what’s in the box,” she adds.

She has plenty of advice to give current Oakies. “Don’t worry if you don’t have all ‘your ducks in a row,’” she says. “Part of life is seeing what unfolds. Life does not have to go according to Plan A. Let it surprise you. Work hard and get to know what is important to you. Challenge yourself—don’t take no for an answer. Make good friends—the kind that challenge you, encourage you, and are honest…. think about how you want to contribute to what is good.”
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