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Hamilton Names New Dean of Faculty and VPAA


Suzanne Keen
Suzanne Keen

Suzanne Keen, a member of the faculty and current dean of the college at Washington and Lee University, has been named vice president of academic affairs and dean of faculty at Hamilton.

Keen will report to President David Wippman and serve as a member of the College’s senior staff. Her selection includes a faculty appointment in the Literature and Creative Writing Department and is effective July 1, 2018.

“Suzanne is an outstanding scholar and teacher with broad experience in academic administration,” said Wippman. “She works collaboratively and strategically to advance academic priorities – always guided by the best interests of students. Her experience in faculty recruitment and development is especially attractive since we are in the midst of hiring the next generation of teacher-scholars on College Hill.”

“I am thrilled to be joining the distinguished faculty of Hamilton College as dean,” Keen said. “Though I was educated in universities, I have spent most of my career teaching excellent small liberal arts college students. I relish the chance to work in an open curriculum like the one I experienced as an undergraduate, where student curiosity and faculty expertise meet in creative ferment. I was struck,” Keen added, “by the candor and kindness of the people I met on my recent visit to Hamilton, and I look forward to discovering the college through its community. Fran and I can’t wait to get to know Hamilton better.”

Keen began her teaching career at Yale University in 1990. Five years later she accepted a position as assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University. She was promoted to associate professor in 1997, professor in 2001 and was named the Thomas H. Broadus Professor of English in 2005. Keen was acting chair of the Department of English in 2003-04, and chair from 2010 to 2012. She served as interim dean of the college in 2012-13 before assuming the position permanently in 2013.

In her current role at Washington and Lee, Keen represents the interests of 21 departments, 12 programs, 175 faculty members, and 49 staff members in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Her responsibilities include assessment of student learning outcomes; operating budgets for the college; stewardship of endowed funds; initiatives for enhanced global learning; hiring, mentoring, and evaluating faculty; recruiting and retaining women and diverse faculty and staff; representing the university’s academic program to external constituencies; strategic planning; and faculty tenure and promotion. As dean, she created and funded more than a dozen teacher-scholar development cohorts, added Arabic as the 12th language taught at the university, started a digital humanities initiative focused on undergraduate pedagogy, and raised funds for students to conduct summer research.

Keen received her bachelor’s degree in 1984 magna cum laude in studio art and with honors in English literature from Brown University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She was awarded a master’s degree in creative writing from Brown in 1986, and earned a second master’s degree in 1987 and then her Ph.D. in 1990, both in English language and literature from Harvard University.

A published poet, Keen studies narrative empathy. Her interdisciplinary work draws on the novel, narrative theory, neuroscience, developmental and social psychology, and affective science. Her most recent book, Thomas Hardy’s Brains: Psychology, Neurology, and Hardy’s Imagination (2014), was short-listed for Phi Beta Kappa’s Christian Gauss Award. Since Empathy and the Novel (2007), she has expanded on her theory of narrative empathy in articles and chapters.

Keen has guest-edited a two-volume special issue of Poetics Today (2011), an issue of Style (2014), and she has co-edited the Oxford journal, Contemporary Women’s Writing, since 2012. She is also the author of a textbook, Narrative Form (rev. and expanded 2nd ed. 2015), and a volume of poetry. In 2008 she was awarded an Outstanding Faculty Award by the State Council of Higher Education of Virginia, one of 12 awarded statewide.

Highly regarded in her field, Keen holds memberships in many professional organizations including the Council of Editors of Learned Journals and the International Society for the Study of Narrative, and she serves as an elected member of the Transdisciplinary Connections Cognitive and Affective Studies Forum of the Modern Language Association. She was president of the International Society for the Study of Narrative in 2010 and is regularly invited to give lectures, plenary addresses, and presentations related to her scholarly work.

As Hamilton’s chief academic officer, Keen will oversee the instructional departments and the curriculum, supervise instructional budgets including grants and equipment, support faculty members in their scholarly and creative development, and advise the president on academic personnel decisions. She will work with a full-time faculty of 186 who teach in one or more of Hamilton’s 56 areas of study, including 43 concentrations. The dean oversees academic support services (e.g., the Nesbitt-Johnston Writing Center, Oral Communication Center, Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning Center, Arthur Levitt Public Affairs Center, and ESOL), athletics, institutional research and assessment, off-campus study, Opportunity Programs, the Registrar’s Office, and the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art.

Hamilton’s next dean is married to Fran MacDonnell, the recipient of a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University, a master’s degree in history from Marquette University, and a bachelor’s degree in history from St. Michael’s College. They are the parents of a son, currently a junior at Oberlin College studying abroad in Guadalajara, Mexico, and London, England.

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