Susan Dehn Matthews ’75, MAEA ’97 - “I realized that what I believed in and what I wanted to do in my life had to be one and the same.”

This article appeared in The Magazine of Dominican University (November 2019)

Adjunct instructors give back to their alma mater
Alumni continue relationship with Dominican by connecting with a new generation of students.

Dominican, like most universities, engages adjunct instructors with specific expertise and knowledge to complement the work of full-time faculty. Most adjunct instructors teach one or two classes per semester while maintaining full-time careers in the public or private sector. For those adjunct instructors who are Dominican alumni, returning to their alma mater is a way of continuing their relationship with the institution and carrying forward the traditions and values they were taught by the Dominican Sisters and faculty.

Susan Dehn Matthews ’75, MAEA ’97 breaks new ground this fall in her role as a seasoned adjunct professor. She is teaching her first online course, Introduction to Roman Catholicism. Matthews is uniquely qualified for the course—in addition to being one of the first Dominican students to graduate with a major in religious studies, she has served as a parish minister and certified pastoral associate and is the author of No Longer Silent: The Empowerment of Women in the Gospels (2011).

She also earned a master’s degree from the School of Education, walking across the stage at Commencement with her daughters in attendance. Her long association with Dominican also includes taking her wedding photos on campus and cheering her mother, Bernardine Dehn ’77, who received her bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Dominican two years after Susan.

Matthews recalls “a moment of clarity” during her sophomore year. “I realized that what I believed in and what I wanted to do in my life had to be one and the same,” she said. “I remember thinking that one day I wanted to teach here. Thirty-seven years later, I finally did it.

“I love the challenge of teaching, and making the course work expansive and inclusive. I tell my students to keep asking me questions—to keep challenging me,” Matthews explains. “That energy always keeps me going.”

Matthews acknowledges that Dominican students today have a very different experience than she had. “So many are working full-time jobs,” she says, “but the commonality is a hunger to learn and to make a difference in the world.”

Like so many adjunct professors, Matthews continues to feed that same hunger she had as a student, while honoring, through her own teaching, the mentors she had decades ago.