Caryn McTighe Musil

Class Year


Professional Background

After getting my MA in English I taught at Wright Community College which convinced me I loved teaching at the college level. I then went back to Northwestern University to complete my Ph.D. in English and did a women's studies dissertation before it was a recognized field. My first full time job was at La Salle College which had just gone co-ed the year before I came. I was one of 9 women faculty at the school and taught English and Women's Studies there for 16 years before becoming the Executive Director of the National Women's Studies Association for six years. After that I was hired at AAC&U as a Senior Program Director, moved in a few years to become the Senior Vice President of the Office of Diversitiy, Equity, and Global Initiatives which I did for 14 years before negotiating a more focused role on being AAC&U's chief spokesperson on civic learning and democratic engagement.

How has being an English graduate from Duke University help shape your professional success?

It set me on a careeer path in academia and given my age meant I was among the first wave of women breaking barriers--even in English--and not managing to break down others. I was attracted to English because it allowed me to ask many interdiscipinary questions about history, sociology, philosophy, religion, anthropology, and psychology. That multi-pronged set of big questions about human beings and society made women's studies a natural direction to combine with English. As I moved into non-profit administrative work, being an English major meant I was a good writer which served me especially well in successfully crafting grants, editing journals, writing appeal letters for funds, establishing a women's studies journal, and ultimately in speaking since it helped me remember how important it is to touch people's hearts and souls and not just their minds.

Caryn McTighe Musil
Senior Scholar and Director of Civic Learning and Democracy Initiatives, Association of American Colleges and Universities