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Award-winning excellence: Christopher Keelan

Teaching honoree discusses his Marine Corps background, music theory and the importance of education to democracy.

By Cory Phare

July 25, 2018

Chris Keelan with MSU Denver signAt Metropolitan State University of Denver, we’re known for our dedication to students and instructional effectiveness.

And with offerings such as the Center for Faculty Excellence’s Teaching Effectiveness Institute taking place Aug. 16, faculty members have regular opportunities to reinvigorate their practices and learn about support resources available at MSU Denver. 

Which is why we’re kicking off a series profiling our Faculty Senate Teaching Excellence Award winners. Over the next few weeks, you’ll get to meet the folks recognized by MSU Denver President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., and Faculty Senate President Matt Makley, Ph.D., at spring’s Faculty and Staff Appreciation Barbecue.

Here’s our conversation with Chris Keelan, affiliate faculty member of music theory.

What does it mean to you to win the Teaching Excellence Award? 

First off, I’d like to thank the Faculty Senate and the selection committee, along with all the candidates. It was a privilege to be nominated for the award in the first place, but being selected out of all the candidates and finalists is truly an honor. That said, I do not think people in any field should rate their successes or failures on the number or type of awards they receive. If we as educators can alter our students’ outlooks in a positive manner and instill in them the importance of education, then we all win in the end.

Could you tell me about your background and what drew you into teaching?

I was born and raised in Colorado. After graduating from high school, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2005-06. After being honorably discharged, I enrolled at MSU Denver and completed my B.A. in Music and then finished my M.M. in Music Theory from the Glenn Korff School of Music at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

I suppose what drew me into teaching was a combination of factors and people during my time in the Marines and as a student at MSU Denver. Being curious and passionate about education and what I could do in my field pointed me in the right direction, but my professors are the ones who fueled the journey and always kept that fire lit. Having that energy and excitement about education and wanting to pass that along is what cemented the idea of teaching for me. The importance of education in a democracy cannot be overstated.

What inspires you? 

My students and peers. Having to constantly adapt and ask yourself how to try and reach every student, knowing their stories and struggles always helps keep things in perspective. Getting to see those light-bulb moments from students or when they fall in love with a subject is always inspiring. Talking with my peers and hearing their ideas and opinions is enlightening. Hearing their struggles and how they overcome them also helps re-energize and inspire me.

What’s one day on campus you’ll never forget? 

My first day as a professor. The excitement, nervousness and the feeling of the unknown is something all teachers should never forget.

It’s nighttime, and you’re reflecting on a successful day. What happened?

Interesting question. I suppose I do not think of days as being either a success or failure; either way, there are both positives and negatives to take out of each day and learn from. I would reflect on what worked and what did not work in my classes and think of new ways to try and reach every student.

What does it mean to you to be a Roadrunner?

MSU Denver was a great fit for me as a student. Coming into college as a veteran and older student, MSU Denver fit me and my needs well. Now as a professor, I feel honored and privileged to be able to pass that along to all students here at MSU Denver.

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