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New IU Southeast dean looks forward to promoting faculty, student work

Sept. 28, 2016

When Kelly Ryan applied for her new position as dean of IU Southeast’s School of Social Sciences in July, she had no idea she was making history. 

Kelly Ryan


Ryan, who studies race, gender, sexuality and violence from a historical perspective, is the first woman to hold this position at IU Southeast. Ryan said it was ironic that she -- someone who works closely with gender issues -- was the one to accomplish this milestone.

"I wasn’t aware of this when I first applied for the position. In fact, in the beginning I was just really excited to get to work on promoting our faculty and programs beyond the university," she said. "It had never occurred to me that a woman hadn’t ever held this position before, and, with it being 2016, I wish another woman could have had this opportunity before me."

Ryan said she is proud to work for a university with progressive values like IU Southeast.

In her new role, Ryan will be focused on promoting the work and research being done by students and faculty in the School of Social Sciences. She hopes to increase the school’s online presence to expand relationships between faculty, students and the community. Publicizing the school’s academic success is important for retaining the top student talent as well as helping to shape those future leaders, she said.

In her short time in her new role, she has learned a lot about what it truly means to be a dean and serve the university.

"It’s important to find ways of balancing what matters to the university, students, and your fellow faculty with your personal goals," Ryan said. "The position of dean requires an outlook in which you work to serve others – not yourself. Developing relationship and conversations with the people you represent is vital."

Many of the skills that make her a perfect fit for her new position are ones she honed in her nine years with the university as a history professor.

"For me, I have students coming from high school that probably aren’t excited about history," Ryan said. "It’s my job to make them passionate and excited about it."

The key, she said, is getting them to put themselves in someone else's shoes.

"Many Americans don’t think history is important, because it doesn’t seem to include a narrative of who they are," Ryan said. "I try to broaden the narrative to make sure all Americans are included, even your average, middle-class American. I challenge my students to look at history from a different point of view: What would it have been like if I had been born at a different time or in a different social class?"

Currently, Ryan is researching violence between husbands and wives; servants and their masters and between slaves and their owners. While her study focuses on early North American history, she said this topic is highly relevant in our world today. She hopes it will raise the question, "How much violence and repression are we willing to withstand?"

Ryan was awarded a 2014-15 New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities grant to conduct this research.

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