Dr. Ross is nationally known as a leader in higher education, especially in the field of cross-cultural communication. Her career in higher education spans more than four decades. In the 1970s, she served as provost of Fort Wright College of the Holy Names in Spokane where she oversaw the creation of outreach programs in Toppenish and Omak that extended the opportunity for four-year college degrees to rural, underserved and low-income populations typically overlooked by higher education institutions.
When Fort Wright College was forced to close, Sister Kathleen Ross, snjm worked with two Yakama Indian women, Martha B. Yallup and Violet Lumley Rau to start Heritage College in Toppenish as its founding President. She oversaw its growth from 85 students to more than 1400, and she stepped down in 2010. Today, she maintains her ties to Heritage and is working to share the success of the Heritage model with colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Dr. Ross has received numerous awards, including the 1989 Harold McGraw Prize in education, the 1991 John Carroll Award from Georgetown University, the 1995 Washington State Medal of Merit, and in 1997 she was named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow, the so-called “Genius Award.” She has received honorary degrees from more than a dozen colleges and universities including Dartmouth, Alverno, Pomona, Whitworth, Notre Dame, Gonzaga, Pacific Lutheran, Puget Sound and Seattle University. Dr. Ross holds a B.A. degree from Fort Wright College (the predecessor to Heritage University), an M.A. from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. from the Claremont Graduate University. At Claremont, she did her dissertation on cultural factors affecting the success of American Indian students in higher education.
See: Institute Director Shares Videos on Teaching First-Generation Students (Chronicle of Higher Education)