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Carrie Preston to Lead Kilachand Honors College

English scholar plans greater interaction between BU and the city

Headshot of Carrie Preston

As the new director of Kilachand Honors College, Carrie Preston hopes to involve the college in service to the city. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Carrie Preston is a scholar who blends academia and activism (one of her class assignments led to the creation of BU’s Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center). She’ll have a chance to inspire some of BU’s best student minds with that passion starting January 1, when she becomes the second director of Kilachand Honors College.

Preston succeeds founding director Charles Dellheim, who has led the school since 2011. She will also become the Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand Professor, a professorship Dellheim has held as founding director. Kilachand offers a rigorous four-year curriculum for some of the University’s highest performing students.

Dellheim, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of history, will remain a BU faculty member.

“I hope to build on the existing strengths of Kilachand as a residential learning community offering energetic, high-achieving students the opportunity to enhance their already excellent undergraduate experience at BU,” says Preston, a CAS associate professor of English. She also directs the Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at CAS.

To realize that vision during the director’s four-year term will require pushing the borders of both academic disciplines and the campus, she says.

“I hope to develop a curriculum that attends to issues of diversity and multiplicity, prejudice and power, in a global context,” Preston says. “Each course should delve deeply into its topic, while encouraging students to engage the broader and crucial questions that face our society—questions of what it means to live a good life and the cultural transformation necessary to allow all human beings to live one. I hope that Kilachand might contribute to helping Boston University more generally engage those huge questions.

“To reach my larger ambitions for Kilachand, I initially want to move the college in two directions,” she continues. One will integrate Kilachand more with the University through the college’s participation in the BU Hub, the first University-wide general education initiative, set to launch with the incoming freshman class in 2018. The Hub will ensure that every BU undergraduate develops a set of academic, citizenship, and life skills.

Preston’s second direction veers off campus: “I would like to integrate Kilachand into the city of Boston, using the energy and vision of its students and faculty to improve our communities,” she says. “Our projects might take up inequality, climate change, city infrastructure, education, or other challenges that could only be tackled with an interdisciplinary perspective and tremendous creativity—the hallmarks of Kilachand.”

Preston says she is honored to have the opportunity to work with Kilachand’s “remarkable students, enthusiastic staff, and a faculty who contribute their teaching and service to the college.” Plans call for the hiring of two associate directors and three teaching postdoctoral fellows in the following months.

“We are excited for the energy, creativity, and passion for interdisciplinary scholarship Professor Preston will bring when she assumes the role of director,” says Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer. “She is a proven leader and big-picture thinker whose ability to connect with students and faculty from all backgrounds will suit her exceptionally well in this position.”

Expressing thanks to Dellheim “for his leadership over the last five years and for developing the college from concept into a highly successful, rigorous, and challenging program for some of BU’s highest achieving students,” Morrison says that Dellheim “has helped to create something truly special here, and we look forward to working with Professor Preston to build on those accomplishments.”

Preston has won several BU awards, including a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship, the CAS Wisneski Award for Excellence in Teaching, and the University’s United Methodist Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award. She received the national De La Torre Bueno Prize, given to a dance studies book, for Modernism’s Mythic Pose: Gender, Genre, Solo Performance (Oxford University Press, 2011).

She earned a BA from Michigan State University and master’s and doctoral degrees from Rutgers. Her research and teaching span from modernist literature, dance, and performance to feminist, queer, and postcolonial studies. Her latest book, Learning to Kneel: Noh, Modernism, and Journeys in Teaching (Columbia University Press) has just been published.

Trustee Rajen Kilachand (Questrom’74, Hon.’14) established the college, named for his parents, Arvind and Chandan Nandlal Kilachand, with a $25 million gift in 2011 and another gift of $10 million in 2012 provided a residence, Kilachand Hall, for the college’s students. Students in the program are admitted as entering freshmen while enrolling in one of BU’s undergraduate schools, taking one-quarter of their credits through Kilachand.

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Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

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