Leading Lady: Tanya Keenan

English adjunct and Director of the Caroline Scholars Program

By Mount Mary University

Posted on October 11, 2017

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Fresh out of her Composition class on a Thursday afternoon, Tanya Keenan heads across campus back to her office. Excited to have spent the class exploring grammar with her students, Keenan brims with enthusiasm. “I don’t think anyone else cares about grammar, but I love it!” she says. Continuing down the hallway with a beaming smile across her face, Keenan greets every person with a lively hello, often waving across a hallway or through a doorway to do so.

A member of the English faculty since 2011, Keenan has recently been named director of the Caroline Scholars program. Passionate about social justice, Keenan appreciated the directorship as an opportunity to cultivate bravery by acting as a role model for the Scholars.

The Caroline Scholars Program is a four-year scholarship program for undergraduate students with a passion for social justice. Each year, six students are selected for challenging academic work, leadership development and service learning opportunities in exchange for financial assistance that covers full tuition, room and board.

“I want to invest in them a deep ability to push beyond seeing service as just a requirement for school,” Keenan explains, “I want scholars to value service as a lifelong investment.”

Keenan understands education has the power to transform society – as long as students know how to courageously apply their power.

During her undergraduate education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Keenan personally experienced the impact bravery can have in one’s life. During the spring semester of her junior year, her mother suffered a massive heart attack and passed away at the age of 45. “Her loss left me without words … but by walking through my fear and embracing the need to be brave, I was changed forever.”

Growing up, Keenan watched her mother actively contribute to her community. When her father accepted a position as a veterinarian with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, her parents moved from southern Missouri to Green Bay. Her mother faced down her culture shock by starting a support group for the few African-American families in the community and worked as an academic advisor at UW-Green Bay.

“To this day, I still run into people who tell me of the impact she had on their lives, people of all races, backgrounds, and lifestyles,” Keenan says. “She is still my role model today.”

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