Interim Director of the Division of the Arts, UW–Madison
Associate Dean for Arts & Humanities, College of Letters & Science
420b South Hall
- To make an appointment, please call 608-263-7221.
Expertise and Activities
My scholarship focuses on rhetoric, history, gender, and political culture. My first book, Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women’s Political Identity (University of North Carolina Press, 2003) explores how American women who petitioned against slavery not only contributed to the abolitionist movement, but also renegotiated their status as citizens. In my present book project, Esther’s Afterlives: Narratives of Self, Struggle, and Survival, I curate and analyze appropriations of the Old Testament Book of Esther to discover and articulate why this ancient tale possesses such enduring appeal. I approach the Book of Esther as rhetorical theory and instruction which, in narrative form, recommends persuasive strategies and rhetorical ethics for peoples struggling to survive within structures of oppression.
As Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities in the College of Letters & Science since June 2011, I have lead a division of 16 departments and 22 centers and institutes, including the Institute for Research in the Humanities and the Center for the Humanities. My responsibilities include advocating for the arts and humanities; catalyzing faculty research and the securing of external grants and fellowships; faculty hiring; oversight of faculty mentoring and the tenure process; budgetary oversight and guidance for units; program review; curricular development; handling faculty, staff, graduate student, and undergraduate student disciplinary issues; and guiding and mentoring chairs and directors. Major accomplishments during my tenure in this position include working with faculty to restructure and merge departments into compelling new units that re-energize faculty research and teaching, provide better staffing, and attract more students. Examples of these successes include the new trans-Asian Asian Languages and Cultures Department https://alc.wisc.edu/about-us/ and the new multi-disciplinary Language Sciences https://langsci.wisc.edu. Another great success is Constellations, a Mellon-funded program that charts pathways for students from all corners of the campus to and through the humanities, increasing humanities enrollments and engagement. https://constellations.ls.wisc.edu
From 2011 to 2018, I served as Associate Dean for Advancement for the College of Letters & Science, the largest academic division of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which has roughly 200,000 living alumni. I played a significant role in transitioning a public institution into a public-private venture with a robust development structure. I worked hand-in-glove with the UW Foundation and UW Alumni Association to build an office of strategic communications and donor engagement in the college to support development work conducted by directors of development, the chancellor, the dean, and department chairs. I served in a group appointed by the Foundation to provide input for selecting and implementing new CRM tool as the university prepared for a comprehensive campaign that is now ending after having raised $3.2 billion. At the same time, I worked with Letters & Science chairs, directors, faculty, and staff to understand and accept this sea change and to learn how to do development work, including forming departmental boards of visitors. The L&S advancement team and I strengthened the format of L&S Board of Visitor meetings and assisted the dean in transforming the group from a board of friends to a board of philanthropists. Traveling with UW Foundation development directors, I visited alumni and donors throughout the U.S., in France, Israel, and in China, hosting events in Chicago, New York, Las Vegas, and Boston, and engaged alumni at in the Chancellor’s box at football, basketball, and hockey games.
As Interim Director of the Division of the Arts for UW-Madison, I report to the Provost and am charged with leading a unit of 15 staff members working to unite and amplify the arts, which are spread across three schools and colleges. The major programs of the Division of the Arts include a residential learning community called The Studio, the Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence Program, the Creative Arts Awards, Arts@UW communication and marketing of the UW-Madison arts as a whole, the Madison Early Music Festival, and the Wisconsin Film Festival, which is the largest university film festival in the United States, screening 150 films over 8 days in 5 venues seen in person by 30,000 viewers. My charge as Interim Director is to make sure these stellar programs are run effectively, improve the division’s morale and operations, serve as an advocate for the arts, and, importantly, to lead planning efforts to restructure this campus unit. https://news.wisc.edu/susan-zaeske-named-interim-director-of-division-of-the-arts/
2019 – Interim Director of the Division of the Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2011 – Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities, College of Letters & Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2011-2018 Associate Dean for Advancement, College of Letters & Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2008-2011 Chair, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2007 – Professor, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2006-2008 Associate Chair, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2004-2005 Visiting Professor and Research Fellow, Women’s Studies in Religion Program, Harvard University
2003-2004 Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2002-2007 Associate Professor, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
1996-2002 Assistant Professor, Department of Communication Arts, University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Committee on Institutional Cooperation Advanced Leadership Training Program, 2012
- Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rhetorical Studies, Department of Communication Arts, distributed doctoral minor in History and African-American Studies, 1997
- M.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison, Rhetorical Studies, Department of Communication Arts, 1992
- B.A., University of Wisconsin-Madison, double major in Communication Arts and Journalism and Mass Communication, certificate in Women’s Studies, 1989
- Hamel Family Faculty Research Fellowship, College of Letters & Science, UW-Madison, 2008
- National Communication Association 2004 James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address for Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women’s Political Identity (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
- National Communication Association Public Address Division 2004 Marie Hochmuth Nichols Award for Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women’s Political Identity (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
- National Communication Association 2003 Golden Anniversary Monograph Award for “Signatures of Citizenship: The Rhetoric of Women’s Antislavery Petitions”
- Honored Instructor Award, University Housing, December 2008
- Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award, 2003
- Vilas Research Associate, University of Wisconsin Graduate School, 2003-2005
- Mark H. Ingraham Distinguished Faculty Award, College of Letters & Science, UW-Madison, 2002
- National Communication Association 2001 Golden Anniversary Monograph Award for “Unveiling Esther as a Pragmatic Radical Rhetoric.”
- National Communication Association 2001 Karl Wallace Memorial Award for outstanding young scholar in rhetorical studies
- Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation Faculty Development Grant, University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School, summer 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001
- Lilly Teaching Fellowship, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1999-2000
- Cheris Kramarae Dissertation Award, Organization for the Study of Language, Communication and Gender, 1998
- American Association of University Women American Fellowship for Dissertation Completion, 1995-1996
- Phi Beta Kappa, 1989
- Signatures of Citizenship: Petitioning, Antislavery, and Women’s Political Identity. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003. Published in the UNC Press’s Gender & American Culture series.
- “Esther’s Book: A Rhetoric of Writing for Jewish Feminists,” Jewish Rhetorics: History, Theory, Practice, ed. Michael Bernard-Donals and Janice W. Fernheimer (Brandeis University Press, 2014).
- “‘A Nest of Rattlesnakes Let Loose among Them’: Congressional Debates over Women’s Antislavery Petitions, 1835-1845,” in Paul Finkelman and Donald R. Kennon, eds., In the Shadow of Freedom: The Politics of Slavery in the National Capital (Published by the United States Capitol Historical Society by Ohio University Press, Athens, 2011), 97-124.
- “Hearing the Silences in Lincoln’s “Temperance Address”: Whig Masculinity as an Ethic of Rhetorical Civility,” Rhetoric and Public Affairs 13:3 (Fall 2010): 389-419.
- “The ‘Promiscuous Audience’ Controversy and the Emergence of the Early Woman’s Rights Movement,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 81:2 (May 1995): 191-207.
Select Talks and Public Appearance
- “Petitioning in U.S. Political History,” Zhejiang University, December 2014.
- “Signatures and Swords: The Interplay of Petitioning and Violence,” Radcliffe Exploratory Seminar, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 2014.
- “‘The Sorrow Quenching Draughts of Perfect Liberty’: Temperate Bodies/Political Bodies in the Rhetorics of Abraham Lincoln and Frances E.W. Harper,” University of Illinois Lincoln Bicentennial Lecture Series, April 2009.
- “‘A Nest of Rattlesnakes Let Loose Among Them’: Congressional Debates over Women’s Antislavery Petitions, 1835-1845,” U.S. Capitol Historical Society, Washington, D.C., April 2006. Broadcast on C-Span: https://www.c-span.org/video/?192247-2/congress-confronting-slavery-part-2
- “Victory from Tragedy: The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Workers’ Use of Epideictic Blaming,” keynote response delivered at the 10th Biennial Public Address Conference, Vanderbilt University, Memphis, October 2006.
- “Appropriating Esther in Nineteenth-Century America,” Harvard University, May 2005.
- “Liberation Theology and Rhetorical Practice: Black South African Appropriations of Esther.” Rhetoric and Democracy: About an African Athens, Cape Town, South Africa, June 2004.
- “Little Magic: Martin Van Buren and the Politics of Gender,” Conference on “Before the Rhetorical Presidency,” George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, February 2002.
- Honors Public Speaking
- Theory and Practice of Argumentation and Debate
- Introduction to Human Communication
- Advanced Speech Composition
- Great Speakers and Speeches
- Classical Rhetorical Theory
- Principles of Rhetorical Criticism
- Rhetoric of American Women’s Social and Political Discourse, 1635-1850
- Rhetoric of American Women’s Social and Political Discourse, 1850-present
- Esther for Activists, Harvard Divinity School (Fall 2004)
- Seminar in Rhetorical Criticism
- Rhetoric of Twentieth-Century Social Movements: Student Left, Civil Rights, Women’s Liberation
- Rhetoric of African American Discourse
- Freedom and Responsibility: Discourses of Belonging in 19th-Century America
- Freedom and Responsibility: Discourses of Belonging in the U.S. from the Civil War to World War I
- “Doing GLBT History.” Symposium co-facilitated UW-Madison History Professor Mary Louise Roberts for graduate students and faculty in the History Department of Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel, June 2005.
Experiential Education Courses
- The Civil Rights Movement as Human Rights Struggle: History and Discourse. In both 2006 and 2007, I donated my spring break to the University to travel with a busload of students to Selma, Alabama, (as well as Louisville, Birmingham, various cities in Mississippi, and Memphis) to engage in service work and experiential learning about the civil rights movement. We met with leaders of movement, engaged with community members in churches and community centers, re-enacted the march across the Selma bridge with movement veterans, and engaged in service work as well as intense conversations about race in the United States.
- History and Discourse of the U.S. Homophile Movement, 1950-1970: Exploring History and Current Consequences. The first two days of this three-week summer course in 2008 involved classroom meetings that laid the groundwork for a ten-day trip to Cleveland, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, and New York City. In these cities, we will meet with living leaders of the nascent lesbian and gay civil rights movement and visit sites related to the movement. https://news.wisc.edu/intersession-class-to-explore-lgbt-civil-rights/