Phyllis Beck Kritek, M.S.N., Ph.D., F.A.A.N., was appointed fifth dean of the college in 1988 after a national search. The first lay dean of the college, Kritek was a member of the Order of St. Francis for eight years and held a profound appreciation of charism and mission. She received her nursing master's and Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and was professor and founding director of the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. University administration charged her with strengthening academic and research programs, fiscal soundness, and community involvement of the college. Noting the urgency of the charge, Kritek responded with an ambitious mission-driven agenda. She shared governance with faculty and facilitated a revised college mission. She initiated advanced-practice nursing programs, established a focused research infrastructure, and increased student and faculty diversity. She established the inner-city Mary Mahoney Clinic and represented nursing in the creation of the Wisconsin Area Health Education Center. She strengthened relationships with the Milwaukee Health Department and Medical College of Wisconsin and raised the college's image nationally.
After her deanship, Kritek was founding director of the doctoral program at the University of Texas at Galveston and president of the Board of Trustees of the Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools. Kritek is nationally and internationally recognized as an expert in conflict resolution. She authored two editions of Negotiating at an Uneven Table: Developing Moral Courage in Resolving our Conflicts. She is sole proprietor of courage, a training and consulting company that provides conflict engagement services.