Dr. Karen Steele, the new dean of Interdisciplinary Studies, answer emails on her computer (photo by Richard Edgemon)

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Looking around her office with several full bookshelves lining the walls, the new dean of the school of interdisciplinary studies still feels like she is missing half of her library.

This semester, the school of Interdisciplinary studies (SIS) starts its inaugural year after the approval from Chancellor Victor Boschini and campus administration, appointing Dr. Karen Steele as the dean for SIS and as associate vice provost.

Steele was the chair of the English Department until two weeks ago, when she moved to her office on the third floor of Rees-Jones Hall.

Steele earned a doctorate in English literature, specializing in ethnic and the literature of developing nations, specifically Irish literature.

“My speciality in Irish and ethnic literature has always been considered interdisciplinary studies, so it’s been around for a while,” Steele said. “What’s changing is how people are perceiving interdisciplinary studies.

“The biggest problems we face like climate change or global inequality can’t be answered from one discipline expertise,” Steele said. “We have to build bridges from one expert to another and bridges with the community to get real world changes”

SIS currently house the departments of comparative race and ethnic studies (CRES), women and gender studies (WGST), the Intensive English Program and the Department of Ranch Management.

Steele said that both CRES and WGST “model the best practices for the campus in terms of teaching and research around diversity, equity and inclusion.”

Diversity and inclusion are issues Steele said she cares deeply about, serving as the the co-chair of diversity, equity and inclusion committee and the academic profile and reputation committee for the camps Lead on campaign.

The school will also oversee the Idea factory, which provides entrepreneurial training for those not affiliated with the Neeley School of Business, and FrogFolio programs.