Tara Keenan was born in a suburb of New York and finished a BA and an MA at New York University where she focused on literature and modern history. During that time she studied abroad in Ireland and obtained permanent New York State certification to teach High School English. After her MA, she pursued a Ph.D. in modern Irish history at Trinity College in Dublin. During that time she volunteered as a telephone counselor at Dublin’s Rape Crisis Center. Once she earned her doctorate, she moved back to New York and taught women’s studies, history, and Irish literature at Fordham University in New York. She also directed the Nassau County office of the New York Civil Liberties Union. At the NYCLU she worked on immigrants’ rights, drug law reform and prisoners’ rights, marriage equality, students’ rights and reproductive rights. In 2009 she moved to Rome and joined John Cabot in 2011. At John Cabot she coordinates the Writing Center and has taught all the composition courses and a course on how to tutor students in writing. She has taken an active role in student life at John Cabot as a faculty advisor for women’s day activities and student club advisor for various clubs over the years. She provides faculty coordination to the Italy Writes high school writing contest every year and she has presented at academic conferences on history, academic writing and pedagogy in San Diego, Cairo, New York, Rome, Dublin, and Belfast.
While Prof. Keenan has significant experience teaching modern European history, English/Irish literature, interdisciplinary courses in women’s studies, political history, and world history as well, she focuses on English Composition at John Cabot. She designs her writing course according to topics which have included urban design, design thinking, community, who belongs, and where we live. The goal with these topic-focused courses, keeping in line with the liberal arts mission of the university, is to empower students to approach their fields with a critical eye, to take an active role in directing their own education, and to engage in the wider community. Students who take her courses learn quickly that while writing is an affirmative act of community, so is putting theory into action. She has published on women in the Irish Republican Army, the Northern Irish Civil Rights Movement, Housing Activists, Feminists, Irish American groups, and the Black Panthers in the US. Her book, Irish Women and Street Politics details much of that research. In recent years she has provided research support to journalists and other academics working on women in the Irish Republican Army and now she is working on a series of short stories set in the 1960s in San Francisco and New York.
Prof. Keenan has taught all of the courses in the composition sequence, but mostly she focuses on EN110, where students learn the fundamentals of academic writing and rhetoric, the use of digital research tools, advanced grammar, syntax, punctuation, and essay writing. This course is pivotal to developing advanced reading, writing, and critical thinking skills for students. Indeed, Keenan believes that this is the most important course for all students at John Cabot because it provides students with the skills to read across disciplines with a critical eye, to interrogate sources, and to think for themselves. She is grateful to be part of a learning community in this course that spans all the majors and provides a comprehensive bedrock for students to develop reading, writing, and critical thinking in their own chosen fields. She believe the composition program and the Writing Center are are the backbone of the student experience and the liberal arts mission. How we read and analyze any given source and how we communicate about that source is the foundation upon which all curiosity and intellectual growth rests.