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About the Dean - UMD CLA

About the Dean

Dr. Susan MaherDr. Susan Naramore Maher’s appointment as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts began in July 2010. Born in Summit, New Jersey, she spent her formative years in upstate New York near Syracuse. In high school, she was passionate about literature, theater, and crew. She spent many happy hours rowing on Onondaga Lake with her teammates, young women who pioneered an all girls crew club that would eventually become a champion girls team at Liverpool High School.

A New York State Regents Scholar, Dr. Maher chose the University of Albany as her alma mater, where she majored in English and minored in Art and Art History. A memorable junior-year abroad experience at the University of Nottingham, U.K., deepened her appreciation of English literature and propelled her into graduate studies. Receiving a M.A. in 1979 from the University of South Carolina, where she focused on 19th-century British and American literature, Dr. Maher completed her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1985. Her dissertation, a study of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe and its permutations through two centuries, allowed her to examine a powerful cultural myth in a cross-generational, trans-Atlantic way. With a minor in Children’s Literature, Dr. Maher was able to weave in analysis of Victorian and Edwardian boys’ books and popular culture, of ideological constructs of boyhood and masculinity, and of acculturation and Empire.

Dr. Maher delayed entering the fulltime academic workforce to spend time with two young children, son Dana and daughter Anna. In 1991, after a year as Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO), she was offered a tenure-track position that focused on women’s literature. By this time, Dr. Maher had become interested in the Plains landscape and culture, as well as women writers from the western United States and Canada. Among the courses that she taught at UNO were Women Writers of the American West, Great Plains Literature, Willa Cather, and 20th-Century Western American Fiction.

While a faculty member at UNO, Dr. Maher twice served as graduate program chair and was nearing completion of a second term as department chair of English when UMD hired her. During nearly twenty years at UNO, Dr. Maher contributed to the Women’s Studies Program, the American Democracy Project, and the Service Learning Academy. Her professional work extended into the community as well, where she served on the boards of the Loren Eiseley Society, the Nebraska Center for the Book, the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center, the Center for Great Plains Studies, and the Cather Foundation. In 2005, she led the statewide reading of Willa Cather’s great novel, My Antonia. A past president of the Western Literature Association (2001), Dr. Maher begins a three-year term as President of the Cather Foundation Board in January 2011.

Dr. Maher has published widely on Great Plains, environmental, and nonfiction writers. She has co-edited collections on essayists John McPhee (2003) and Loren Eiseley (forthcoming 2011) and is completing a book-length study of contemporary Plains essayists from the U.S. and Canada entitled Deep Map Country: The Literary Cartography of the Great Plains. Because her work has required her to go “out in the field,” Dr. Maher often combines her love of travel with her professional interest in western American and Canadian spaces and places. An avid cross-country traveler, she and her partner Al try to journey westward as often as they can, usually with grown kids and dogs in tow. Photos from these field trips show Dr. Maher wearing her favorite casual gear: Stetson hat, T-shirt, faded jeans, and cowboy boots.

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