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From MTSU alumna to dean

‘I was preparing for this job my whole life and didn’t even know it’

Beverly Keel is no stranger to Middle Tennessee State University. She once walked the halls as a student more than 30 years before she was named dean of the College of Media and Entertainment in early 2020.   “It’s the greatest honor that I could ever imagine. It’s a dream come true, and it’s a dream I didn’t even know I had,” said Keel, the first female dean of the college. “It’s a full-circle moment. I was unknowingly building toward this moment. I was preparing for this job my whole life and didn’t even know it.” 

MTSU has played a role in Keel’s life since the 1980s. After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in 1988, she returned to the University about two years later as an adjunct professor and began teaching full-time in 1995. “In some ways, it’s the university that I attended, but in so many ways, it’s grown into a whole new major university, and that’s really exciting,” she said. 

From the recording industry to audio production, interactive media to journalism, and animation to video and film production, MTSU’s College of Media and Entertainment has programs for it all. “MTSU is such a special place, not only because it’s located right outside of Nashville, but because of the students it serves. I’m biased, and I always joke that we’re the coolest college, but we have the most interesting, creative, and innovative students. Our graduates are creating and producing hits that are worldwide smashes.” 

Keel has nothing but pride for the students she encounters daily and often uses her Twitter account to share the success of current students and alums. “It’s a privilege to know them and see them pursue their dreams. It’s the greatest honor and privilege, and their success brings me more joy than anything I could accomplish. It’s not just me supporting them. They’re a very important part of my life. When my students go on and graduate, get married, and have babies, I want to explode [with pride].” 

Keel said she looks forward to seeing how the College of Media and Entertainment continues to grow. “It will remain on the cutting edge of media and entertainment. Things will change, but some things will never change, like the importance of integrity, ethics, and fairness.” 

And the legacy that Keel hopes to leave at MTSU is simple.  “I want to be known for creating a safe environment where students, faculty, and staff can learn and work together and feel like their voices are heard. I want to be known as a college that promotes the importance of social justice. I want to create an even playing field for my students who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color.” 

Keel began teaching at MTSU in 1995 before being named dean in January 2020. She is an award-winning music journalist, with her work appearing in People, Parade, InStyle, Rolling Stone, and The Tennessean. Keel has interviewed two presidents and evangelist Billy Graham and worked with well-known artists such as Scotty McCreery, Alison Krauss, Lionel Richie, and Jamey Johnson. She was included on Forbes’ list of “40 Women to Watch Over 40” and named a national “Change Agent” by Billboard for her work with Nashville Music Equality.

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