Dr. Dena Keeling has spent her career working to ensure that all students have access to the academic programs, college and career preparation, and social and emotional support they need to be successful learners. Dr. Keeling began her career in education as a preschool teacher, then transitioned to the field of criminal justice. Her goal at that time was to provide juveniles with the support they needed to prevent recidivism. However, Dr. Keeling soon realized that she wanted to reach students before their entry into the legal system. This shift led her back to the field of education where she spent the next 16 years as a school counselor before becoming the first Chief Equity Officer of Orange County Schools in Hillsborough, N.C.
Dr. Keeling’s work is focused on centering the needs, experiences and voices of students who have historically been pushed to the margins in the educational system. She is leading systemic equity transformation by ensuring educators have the skills, mindsets, and knowledge needed to lead with equity, creating culturally responsive and sustaining environments, examining decisions, policies, and practices for ways that they privilege some while discriminating against others, and building collaborative partnership with students, families and community.
Dr. Keeling has written articles, presented at conferences and led professional development on topics related to educational equity, advocacy, cultural proficiency, and improving school-family-community partnerships. She has been an adjunct professor and a guest lecturer at various universities and colleges and serves on several community advisory boards.
Dr. Keeling earned both her doctorate in educational leadership and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds a master of arts in forensic psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a master of science in counselor education from North Carolina A&T State University. Dr. Keeling is a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.