Deborah Keisch

Deborah Photo


Senior Lecturer / CSP Program Director

Deborah is the director of the Community Scholars Program. She has been immersed in the field of education for over two decades as a practitioner, researcher, and activist - and is committed to research and teaching practices that support the work of social change. Her interests include a critical examination of U.S. public education, public education activism, engaged pedagogy, community engagement, storytelling for social change, anti-racist education in predominantly white institutions, and the pedagogy and practice of solidarity, resistance and liberation struggles for hope and healing.

Deborah holds a bachelor’s degree in human ecology and earned a k-8 teaching certificate from the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. She also holds a master’s in education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a PhD in anthropology from UMass Amherst, where she studied the social and political foundations of U.S. education, the contemporary context and culture of teaching and learning, and how institutions of higher education can create spaces for students to become critical scholars and activists.

In 2023, Deborah received the UMass Distinguished Community Engaged Teaching Award.


Dolcine, C.; Keisch, D.; Powe, M.; Sibeko, L. (2023). “Doing The Work” - Making space for undergraduate students to participate in anti-racist community engagement. In Santana, et. al (Eds.) Anti-Racist Community Engagement: Principles and Practices (pp. 173-180). Stylus Publishing.

Keisch, D., & Scott, T. (2023). We are the land: Reflections on KXL resistance at Rootz Camp. Rethinking Marxism, 35(1), 38-62.

Keisch, D. M., & Scott, T. (2015). US education reform and the maintenance of White supremacy through structural violence. Landscapes of Violence, 3(3), 6.

Polin, D. K., & Keene, A. S. (2010). Bringing an ethnographic sensibility to service-learning assessment. Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 16(2), 22-37.


2022 “Expect Us” A forum on Indigenous resistance and climate justice in the face of climate disaster and ecocide. February 23rd. Virtual Panel Co-convener. UMass Amherst and Central Connecticut State University.

2022  Moving the focus: From inclusive to anti-racist pedagogy. April 29th. Virtual Workshop Presenter. UMass Amherst.

2021 “Community Conversations Series: An anti-racist approach to university-community relationship building." Convener and facilitator.

2021 Developing & using 21 principles for anti-racist pedagogy in community-engaged teaching. September 20th. Panel presenter at Virtual Symposium: Anti-racist community-engaged learning: Principles, practices, and pedagogy.

2021 Building on the cultural wealth of students of color with anti-racist community-engaged programming, pedagogies, and practices. December 16th. Virtual Workshop Presenter.

2021   Disrupting settler colonialism: #land back and other calls to action. Virtual Panel Convener and Moderator. Five College Community-Based Learning.

2020   Popular action in the age of COVID-19: What is it and why do we need it now? Virtual Conference Organizer and Presenter. UMass Amherst.

2019a  Veteran healing through solidarity and service with the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. Presenter, with Tim Scott. Engaged Anthropology Conference, UMass Amherst.

2019b Is tenure still the coveted brass ring? Presenter, with Heidi Bauer-Clapp and Valerie Joseph. Engaged Anthropology Conference, UMass Amherst. 

2018 "My story is significant" - digital storytelling as a resilience-building intervention with  first generation undergraduates. Presenter, with Jessica Bacal and Yvonne Mendez. International Digital Storytelling Conference, Zakynthos,  Greece.

2015 Unpacking the corporatization of higher education in nine pages. Keynote Speaker. Taking on Corporate Higher Education Conference, UMass Boston.

2014 Neoliberal governance and academic practice: Teaching & learning, resistance, and radical Possibility. Conference Organizer and Presenter. UMass Amherst. 

2012a Connecting the inner and the outer worlds: Strategies for civic learning. Presenter. Symposium at the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and Community Engagement Conference. Baltimore, MD.

2012b Students as colleagues: New frameworks for co-creating an engaged campus. Presenter. Symposium at the International Association for Research on Service-Learning and  Community Engagement Conference. Baltimore, MD. 

2012c Disrupting the dominant discourse of education reform. Workshop with The Education  Radio Collective. Boston Educators for Social Justice Conference, Boston, MA. 

2012d Negotiating the translation of radical classroom practice to “real life” action: The praxis of possibility. Presenter. Society for Applied Anthropology. Baltimore, MD. 

2012e Undoing the dominant narrative: Media as activist education. Workshop with The  Education Radio Collective. New York Collective of Radical Educators Conference. New  York City, NY. 

2010a  Save Our Schools Conference. Conference Organizer. Umass Amherst.

2010b Everyday ethnography: How to bring an ethnographic sensibility to assessment in service  learning. Presenter, with Arthur Keene. New England Campus Compact Conference, Burlington,  VT. 

2009a Storytelling and Assessment in Service-Learning. Presenter, with Arthur Keene. New England Campus Compact Conference, Amherst, MA.

2009b Pathways of power: Examining and supporting student understanding and use of power in  the service-learning classroom and beyond. Presenter, with John Reiff, Amy Calandrella and  Elizabeth Braley. New England Campus Compact Conference, Amherst, MA

2009c A lifetime of standardization: preparing students for success in the corporatized university. Presenter. Annual Meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, NM.