Crummer Connections: Getting to Know Dr. Mary Conway Dato-on
Dr. Mary Conway Dato-on is the first female faculty President in Crummer’s history – and that’s just one of the many barriers she has broken throughout her decorated career.
To say that Dr. Mary Conway Dato-on is comfortable with breaking barriers is an understatement.
Demonstrated throughout her entire career, pushing for equality, women’s rights, and social justice has been a part of Dr. Conway Dato-on’s DNA.
“I’ve been a feminist since the 1970s,” she commented.
As the Professor of International Business and Social Entrepreneurship, George D. & Harriet W. Cornell Chair, Dr. Conway Dato-on serves as the first female faculty president in the school’s history. (Soon to be followed by the second, Dr. Tracy Kizer!)
When she is not in the classroom, teaching students about international business or social entrepreneurship, she is one of the most involved professors at Crummer. Dr. Conway Dato-on serves as the Faculty Director for The Global Links Initiative and as the Crummer Champion for the Rollins Impact Hub. She also holds a board position on Rally: The Social Enterprise Accelerator and volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages of Winter Park.
When social injustices came to the forefront of our society in the Summer of 2020, Rollins President Grant Cornwell and the entire Rollins leadership team confirmed the College’s commitment to the issue of diversity, creating an institution-wide effort to address racial justice at every level.
Dr. Conway Dato-on demonstrated her leadership once again, helping to launch Crummer’s Convening Group on Racial Justice. Following the College’s lead, the Crummer Convening Group was established to examine diversity and inclusion while offering the opportunity to reflect and learn from one another. In the nonprofit sector, she is a faculty liaison on Evoking Change, The Edyth Bush Institute for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership’s initiative to leverage its network and the community’s knowledge to lead the conversation on creating a more equal and just society.
Taking a lead role on projects and initiatives like the ones mentioned are all part of Dr. Conway Dato-on’s North Star to spark change, starting with the younger generations.
“If we empower ourselves to change and empower young people to change, then we can all move forward together,” said Dr. Conway Dato-on.
Discovering Her Passion
Dating back to her undergraduate days at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, she was naturally drawn to international relations and marketing.
“Marketing studies how people make decisions, which I thought was interesting,” said Dr. Conway Dato-on.
One thing in particular she found thought-provoking, was that for all human beings, some of our first memories revolve around consumption. The things we buy and the things we receive as gifts tend be some of the fondest memories we have.
In that line of thinking, Dr. Conway Dato-on started to relate consumption to people in different cultures and the things they have access to and do not have access to.
“That led me to discover inequalities, which connects to social entrepreneurship, the practice of using business models to create social wealth rather than just economic wealth” she noted.
When you see Dr. Conway Dato-on walking through the hallways of Crummer, her wardrobe reflects her beliefs.
As someone who “votes with her dollars”, her clothes, jewelry and shoes all have meaning behind them.
“The things I wear are things that are going to make me look good and feel good, because my purchase has provided a living wage to the person in the place it is produced,” said Dr. Conway Dato-on.
At Denver University, she wanted to keep career doors open, so she enrolled in a Masters of International Management program before heading into the corporate world.
Like most Crummer professors, Dr. Conway Dato-on has practical work experience coupled with her doctoral education. Before she enrolled in a PhD program, she expanded her worldview with a myriad of career opportunities and travel across the globe.
She first started working for one of the big automotive manufacturers. Not particularly enthralled by this industry, she left the position to travel to Europe before moving to Boston. She calls her time in Boston a “poor economic decision” for her and a failure that she learned from.
Always one to embrace change, Dr. Conway Dato-on left the United States to work and live in Japan – without being able to speak any Japanese. It was a humbling, yet enriching experience for her.
“I learned what it means to be functionally illiterate,” she explained. “It was important to learn to be open and give up control.” This experience motivates her monthly donation to help others learn to read.
From Japan, she moved onto the Philippines, working in a mahogany wood and door joinery firm.
A recurring theme throughout Dr. Conway Dato-on’s career was her work in male-dominated industries, like the automotive industry at the time. Her career in the Philippines exposed her to moral and social issues in the workplace, and was one of the more formative workplace experiences that molded Dr. Conway Dato-on into who she is today.
“It was a male-dominated business in a factory with lots of ethical issues,” she noted.
This was the impetus for her to leave and pursue education, equipped with a unique marketing and international business worldview.
Dr. Conway Dato-on’s self-described “eclectic background” has made her into a Crummer professor that doesn’t fit into one box. She has a PhD in marketing, but teaches courses in international business and social entrepreneurship, as well as design thinking.
She has a unique approach in the classroom and is known to challenge students’ thinking. It’s not in a way to embarrass anyone, but a way to spark change in the minds of students.
In today’s day and age where the world is in constant transition, her progressive style is all about embracing change, just like she has her whole career.
“Change happens within context; the energy and perspective students bring to problems is so beautifully augmented to someone who has the historical context and is willing to change,” she said.
The Crummer Connections Podcast & Video Faculty Series is a way for the Crummer Community to hear to the stories and learn more about the distinguished faculty at the School. Listen to Dr. Conway Dato-on’s full interview here.