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Leading from the Heart

Meet Deanna Dannels, the new dean of NC State’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Dean Deanna Dannels stands in the Global Courtyard Play Video

Your college’s new dean, Deanna Dannels, describes herself as a Broadway geek, a fitness enthusiast, a chocoholic. She’s also a strong proponent of “heart work.”  

“A lot of what we engage with is intellectual, the work of the mind,” she explains. “Heart work is equally important. It’s how we bring our values and our empathy to challenging conversations. It’s the work that feeds our souls. 

“Whether we’re teachers or administrators, students, or alumni who have gone on to careers far and wide, we all have a role to play in bringing heart work — which is also hard work — to the fore. We do our heart work in our social interactions, as we manage conflict, as we contribute to our intellectual and civic communities, and as we create meaning-filled lives.

I’m so proud to lead this college.

“I’m so proud to lead this college, and to work alongside such talented faculty and staff as we prepare our students and engage our alumni in this critically important work.”

Dannels has been a professor of communication at NC State since 1999. She was named dean in July 2021, following a nationwide search. Before her appointment, she served as the college’s associate dean of academic affairs for six years. She previously held other leadership positions in the college, including as director of graduate programs in the Department of Communication. 

woman wearing yellow vest running in marathon
Dean Dannels enjoys exercising (a lot!), and has transformed her garage into a home gym. She has completed six marathons and 15 half marathons.
Deanna Dannels holds up "Wicked" booklet while sitting with daughter
She’s a self-proclaimed Broadway geek. And she knows all the lyrics.
Deanna Dannels standing in front of movie cutout
She’s an avid fan of Star Wars and Star Trek, and finds life lessons in all of it. 

Among the books she’s written is Eight Essential Questions Teachers Ask: A Guidebook for Communicating with Students, aimed at training and developing teachers. It’s full of recommendations and best practices for new teachers. 

Dannels holds a B.A. in communication from Gonzaga University, and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in communication from the University of Utah.