Spotlight On: Claudine Keenan

Maureen Kern and Claudine Keenan

Atlantic County Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Maureen Kern presenting their certificate of recognition for the AAUW Woman of Distinction honor to Claudine Keenan, current interim vice provost at Stockton.

Galloway, N.J. – When Claudine Keenan, current interim vice provost at Stockton, was a 13-year-old tween, she recalled seeing Sandra Day O’Connor being named a Supreme Court Justice and thought, “Look at what we can do.” This defining moment helped motivate her to be the first person in her family to attend college. 

On April 6, 2024, Keenan was formally named an American Association of University Women (AAUW) 2024 Woman of Distinction, a recognition that reflects her drive to succeed and give back, which was born at such a young age. 

Below, Keenan shares a glimpse into the trajectory that led her to this significant experience and award, as well as a pretty special full-circle moment.


How long have you been a part of the Stockton community? I joined the Provost’s team as an Executive Assistant in 2006, then served as Chief Planning Officer from 2010-2012 for our Middle States decennial review and our Stockton 2020 strategic planning cycle. From 2012-2024, I served as Dean of Education and most recently took on an overlapping Interim Vice Provost role to help transition our incoming Provost. This is my last year as an administrator. 

During my transition in the year ahead to a faculty role, I look forward to focusing more on teaching, precepting, service and scholarly inquiry for the last quarter of what I hope will be my four-decade career in higher education.


Claudine Keenan with Jean McAlister and Shelly Meyers.

Claudine Keenan, current interim vice provost, center, holding the Woman of Distinction Award from Mudd Girls Studio with American Association of University Women (AAUW) Atlantic County co-presidents Shelly Meyers, at left, (Stockton Emerita, Special Education) and Jean McAlister, chief of staff and chief advancement officer at Atlantic Cape Community College.

How did you feel once you learned you were named an AAUW 2024 Woman of Distinction? I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the women who made the award possible by volunteering alongside me over the past ten years that I’ve been an AAUW member. The branch specifically recognized our state as becoming the only one in the northeast to offer STEM programming that attracts “tween-aged” girls from all 21 counties to study at Stockton every summer.


Did your experiences at Stockton contribute to receiving this award? Reflecting on my 13-year-old self’s inspiration came full circle, thanks to Stockton when the Pappas Lecture Series welcomed retired Justice O’Connor to speak in 2014. Standing in line to greet her afterward, I shared with her the role she played in my thoughts and decisions at such an inflection point in my personal life. She asked me for one simple promise: pay it forward. The AAUW invited me to join them that same year, sharing research that showed 13-year-old girls are at an inflection point about making life choices to pursue (or turn away from) science, technology, engineering or math fields in particular. 

Thanks to Stockton, my colleagues, and the AAUW national, state, and county members, we’ve welcomed 13-year-old girls to campus every July for a weeklong, hands-on, residential STEM camp called Tech Trek. 

President Joe himself has been a national board member for the AAUW for several years, and during his first month here, shared his joy at learning that we host one of twenty camps nationwide right here at Stockton.


What have been the most rewarding parts of your career? The most rewarding parts of my career have been working with groups of people determined to improve something – whether it’s launching a new program that expands opportunities, streamlining an office or university-wide process, supporting student activities, or learning from and with our many talented colleagues who share their scholarly and teaching work with our community, the people at Stockton have made the second half of my career in higher education by far the best set of experiences I’ve enjoyed so far.


What have been the most challenging? The most challenging aspects of any career are mine as well: generally those landscape forces just outside our control, but so very impactful on what we do every day. During my initial work in strategic planning, rounds of budget cuts after the 2008 recession dampened many of the exciting initiatives we wanted to launch. 

Similarly, during the 12 years of my work as Dean of Education, a series of successive reforms to “raise the bar” in regulatory requirements has culminated in a teacher shortage that continues to pose challenges both within and outside our University. Most recently, we’ve seen four years of enrollment declines in keeping with the “cliff” that was forecast for our region. This landscape poses challenges for a community that has enjoyed four decades of nearly uninterrupted, steady, incremental growth.


As I learned from so many mentors and people who have expressed genuine care for me, building a solid network of trusted family members, friends and colleagues is the best way to start paving the way to success.
Claudine Keenan

Who is someone who has inspired you? In addition to trailblazing women like Justices O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, I draw inspiration from my family, who are the center of my universe. 

When I first became Dean of Education, then-Provost Kesselman challenged me to identify my “organizing principle” and once I knew that was my family, the rest of my life and career choices came into sharper focus. Watching my granddaughters take their first steps toward my adult children and listening to all of their spouses make plans to spend family time with us for extended family gatherings brings my husband, Jack, and me the greatest joy of all. We know that our careers take on even greater meaning when we can visualize our children and grandchildren reaping the benefits of the work we do in our professional lives.

If you could offer a piece of advice to a student on the secret to being so successful, what would it be? As I learned from so many mentors and people who have expressed genuine care for me, building a solid network of trusted family members, friends and colleagues is the best way to start paving the way to success. From there, establishing your guiding principle, your “north star,” becomes more of a collective than a solo effort. Those basic ingredients can sustain you through the hard work of achieving each goal you set for yourself or through the even harder work of recovering from a setback. Expressing genuine gratitude to those who have graced you with their support and guidance along the way then becomes its own wellspring of inspiration to “pay it forward,” too. 

Reported by Mandee McCullough

Photos submitted