Dr. Joanne Preston ’68 The Values Of Broad-Based Learning

Apr 23, 2020

by Greg Williams
Publications Editor
Originally appeared in Southern News Magazine

When Dr. Joanne Cave Preston ’68 thinks back on the variety in her class schedule while a student at Florida Southern, its impact upon her wide-ranging career seems clear and direct.

Gaining knowledge in various areas of study “taught me to be really flexible in my learning, because my field didn’t exist when I graduated,” Dr. Preston said. “I helped to create the field.”

Through her work as an international management consultant  specializing in organizational development, Dr. Preston’s  communication skills have allowed her “to creatively find ways to solve conflicts,” she said. Her career as a problem solver has led to rewarding connections with major corporate clients and governments in Japan, Korea, China, Argentina, Russia, Kenya, and other international locations.

She considers herself especially lucky to have personally coached and strategized with Poland’s President Lech Walesa and South Africa’s President Nelson Mandela, referring to the Polish leader as “absolutely brilliant” and saying Mandela was the nicest person you could imagine.

Reflecting on her days at FSC, Dr. Preston said, “Even though I was a psychology major, I continued on with languages, and that has helped me tremendously. In Poland, I could remember Polish is a combination of Russian and German, so I could understand the translator. And in South Africa, Afrikaans is a combination of Dutch, French, and, of course, African languages.”

Dr. Preston assisted Mandela in dealing with “13 tribes that were hating each other,” she said. “Mandela was the only person that all 13 tribes respected.” As a young man, Mandela had believed in violence, but as President of South Africa, she explained, he “had to become the model for finding creative solutions that would help the people.”

One of Dr. Preston’s most memorable experiences as an international consultant took place one evening when she joined President Mandela beside a campfire at a traditional South African barbecue.

“It was a beautiful night,” she recalled. “You could hear hyenas, and lions, and elephants.” The experience was extra special, Dr. Preston added, because she was able to share it with her young daughter, Lauren, who was still a pre-teen.

Now living in Colorado, Dr. Preston has been highlighted in The Palgrave Handbook of Organizational Change Thinkers, which charts advancements in the field of organizational change during the past century. Her research and consulting work are noted for how they integrate theories from several different disciplines to guide the growth of organizations.

“I couldn’t have done that without a liberal arts education,” Dr. Preston explained. “I pulled from all sorts of fields.”