Carnegie Mellon University
August 24, 2015

Meet the New Assistant Dean for Educational Initiatives

By Shilo Rea

Meet the New Assistant Dean for Educational Initiatives

Jennifer Keating-Miller has joined the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences as the new assistant dean for educational initiatives.

Previously, Keating-Miller spent the past six years as CMU’s associate director of undergraduate research and national fellowships. In this role, she administered programs like SURG, SURF and ISURG and helped students apply for nationally competitive fellowships such as the Churchill Scholarship and Rhodes Scholarship.

Keating-Miller also worked closely with Associate Deans Joseph E. Devine and Brian Junker to create, launch and mold the college’s Honors Fellowship Program. In its second year, the program is part of the college’s Senior Honors Program and is designed to give students a head start on their thesis development.

She also teaches writing and literature in the Department of English as special faculty. Her research interests include representations of colonialism, nationalism and gender relations in 19th century British Literature and 20th century Anglophone literature, primarily in Ireland and parts of the Caribbean. She also pursues work pertaining to memoir, legacies of violence and identity formation in societies in strife.

Her current project, “Performing Peace in the North of Ireland,” focuses on the concept of performance in the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland. This is supported through the Center for Arts in Society’s (CAS) Performance Initiative. Her writing has recently appeared in New Hibernia Review and her book, “Language, Identity and Liberation in Contemporary Irish Literature,” was awarded the Michael Durkan Prize for Best Book on Irish Language and Culture by the American Conference for Irish Studies in 2011.

Keating-Miller recently sat down with Dietrich College News to tell us about her new role.

As assistant dean for educational initiatives, what will you be doing?

In my new role in the Dietrich College, I will focus on synthesizing the educational experience for students studying in the college. I will coordinate existing programs like Freshman Seminars to ensure they serve as an entry point for students in the college: an opportunity for students to get to know the research strengths offered by our talented faculty and for them to identify and exercise learning habits that will help them to succeed as students in Dietrich College. I will also work with supplemental educational programs like Under Construction, an event that allows students to explore possible career paths by listening to Dietrich alumni narrate their own professional trajectories since graduation; and research opportunities like the Dietrich Honors Program and the developing Dietrich Honors Fellowship program.

Additionally, I will work with faculty and students on a college Diversity Policy, to ensure we provide staff, faculty and students equitable access to a high quality education and an inclusive work and learning environment. I also expect to build further programming to enhance the educational experience for students in the college as the year unfolds.

How will you work with students in this role?

As much as I am driven to build educational programming and administer existing programs, my first love is working with students – teaching, advising and learning from the students at CMU. Without students at the core of this work, it really has no point! So, I anticipate working with students in a very direct manner. I will meet with and advise students as they make progress in programs like Dietrich Honors and the Dietrich Honors Fellowship. And, I intend to enlist student participants and contributors to committees that I assemble to further develop programs like Under Construction, the Dietrich College Diversity Policy and other initiatives.

What can the college’s faculty expect from having someone take charge of these areas?

Faculty can expect an ally in the Dean’s Office who is charged with tending to the educational experience for our students. This means Dietrich faculty have a colleague who is interested in supporting their ideas for developing and implementing educational efforts that enhance our students’ learning and finding ways to bolster the existing successful work already underway in the departments throughout the college. I am also invested in taking the administrative lead on programs and ideas that require the Dean’s Office to provide robust infrastructure to improve our students’ academic preparation. As partners, I am excited to collaborate with faculty to find ways to improve opportunities for our students to explore and learn from their research, international connections and creative practice. I look forward to ways in which we might deepen interdisciplinary research at the faculty level and find creative ways to enlist student participation in these efforts too, where appropriate. Working with faculty I want to ensure Dietrich College leads conversations on campus and nation-wide on the value of high quality research and teaching in the humanities and social sciences.

How did the second summer of the Honors Fellowship Program go?

The Dietrich Honors Fellowship Program went very well this summer thanks to committed faculty mentors and a talented group of eight fellows in disciplines ranging from psychology to creative writing to global studies. This program has been a pleasure to build, working collaboratively with Associate Deans Brian Junker and Jay Devine, Lauren Henry from Alumni Affairs and Dietrich faculty. The student projects have unfolded in unexpected ways as the Fellows took advantage of the breathing room afforded in the summer without the commitment to coursework and the myriad of other responsibilities our students undertake. I enjoyed frequent conversations with students working through the folds of their projects, exploring new avenues and acknowledging paths that proved unfruitful. This is what I love about the research endeavor myself, so it is always interesting to see how its curves and crannies appear for others too.

The group came together on several occasions throughout the summer for discussions led by faculty like Steve Schlossman (History), Brooke Feeney (Psychology), Jane McCafferty (English) and Marlene Behrmann (Psychology). They also learned about communicating their work through blog posting strategies offered by Shilo Rea (Dietrich Dean’s Office) and verbal presentation strategies and critique offered by Nisha Shanmugaraj (GCC). Kevin Monahan (CPDC) also discussed how students might leverage their research interests in considering and articulating future career plans or goals.

Although the program is still developing, I hope to see it as an integral part of the Honors Program in the coming years for students who can benefit from a little lead-time on their honors thesis project.

Will you still be teaching in the English Department?

I will indeed continue to teach in the Department of English, as this is my intellectual home. In fall 2015 I will teach “Presenting a Public Self,” a writing class focused on facilitating students’ development of a dynamic and authentic writing voice. Students read the work of public intellectuals who represent a variety of disciplinary expertise. They also read one another’s work in progress – self portrait essays, op-eds and personal statements – learning and practicing strategies for writing personal narrative and argument and critiquing one another’s work.

In the spring term, I will team-teach “Art, Conflict and Technology in the North of Ireland” with the School of Art’s John Carson and the Robotics Institute’s Illah Nourbakshsh. In this class, we will explore the influence of technology on Northern Irish society from about 1968 to the present, through visual arts, literature and theatrical performance, noting the manner in which writers and artists have commented on and critiqued eras of conflict and post-conflict in the region. We also travel to Northern Ireland for spring break as a field trip that complements the course. (Applications to register for this course will be sent out via academic advisors in the weeks ahead of spring registration!)

What are you most excited about now that you’re part of the Dietrich College Dean’s Office?

I have been fortunate to get to know Carnegie Mellon at the university level in my first years on campus through rewarding work in the Undergraduate Research Office and the Fellowship and Scholarship Office. Learning the institution at a systems level, with the added benefit of working one-on-one with our talented students, has been a formative experience for me in the early years of my career. Working in Dietrich College, with a focus on the educational experience for our students, is really the perfect balance of my interests in administering and creating robust educational programs and the intimacy of teaching and advising. The combination of working in the Dean’s Office on college-level programs and working with students in the classroom is a really nice alignment of my professional and intellectual pursuits. I am pleased to be working in the college that houses my own discipline and feel very fortunate to come to work each day to contribute to an enterprise that I know can make a difference in the lives of others. I like to be intellectually challenged in my work and I believe my role in Dietrich College will deliver on this in expected and (many!) unexpected ways. I am very pleased to be surrounded by my colleagues in Dietrich College and am excited about the work we will undertake together.