Sheila Austin

Associate Professor,  College of Arts & Sciences

Contact Information
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Teaching is about passion and the art of inquiry. Passion is not about romancing the subject, but about always employing the art of inquiry, critical thinking, the raison d’être, regardless of the subject area.“

Bio

Professor Sheila Austin began her teaching career at JWU in 2006 as an adjunct faculty member. Prior to coming to JWU, she worked for 22 years in the nation’s cultural and arts industry. She has presented technical assistance and training seminars, residencies and workshops in grants and technical writing, ethics, leadership, Americans with Disabilities Act, nonprofit management and communications, at and for regional, national and international conferences and organizations, including the National Endowment for the Arts.

She is a member of The Association of American Cultures (TAAC), and several educational and nonprofit consulting organizations. She also serves as a grant reviewer for the United States Department of Education and local and state cultural councils around the country, the Caribbean and Europe. Currently Professor Austin is a consultant for several arts and historical organizations.

Professor Austin teaches a broad portfolio of courses at Johnson & Wales including Composition and Literature, Public Speaking, Music Appreciation, and ILS classes. Professor Austin holds a Juris Doctorate Degree in law from the Howard University School of Law and a BS in English from Edgewood College.

Personal Statement

Teaching is about passion and the art of inquiry. Passion and the art of inquiry must be communicated to our students as the ingredients in helping them realize the position for writing and learning in their lives. Passion is not about romancing the subject, but about always employing the art of inquiry, critical thinking, the raison d’être, regardless of the subject area. The universe never stops revolving, life doesn’t stop changing, and subject areas have new information every day.

One of the advantages of my legal education is that I was taught that every day, laws change, new laws emerge, some laws vanish, situations grow more complicated, laws become more difficult to understand, unless you keep up with change. It is the art of inquiry that keeps you abreast of change. I try to encourage inquiry through research in our students. Richard Florida has a statement in his book that reads, “…creativity is pervasive and ongoing: We constantly revise and enhance every product, process, and activity imaginable, and fit them together in new ways.” There can be no greater reason for inquiry as a professor than this, teaching our students to embrace research as ongoing inquiry. As such, as a professor and a professional, this is a skill set that I put to use constantly, whether researching to compile data for a complex grant application, to verifying the credibility of grants for a decisionmaking process.

My nickname in professional circles is “the grants guru.” Why? because I am not content to settle for that which is most known, but will often seek information and opportunities in minute corners of the research universe. Although my passion is arts and culture, that passion reflects the comprehensive environment in which we conduct our daily lives — everything from the sociology of communities to the politics of finance, to the direction of policy and decisionmaking. My writing reflects a myriad of directions, supported with complex research often not expected by a grantsmaker or grantee. As such, I have written successful grants garnering hundreds of thousands of dollars for everything from breast cancer research to the preservation of historic properties and buildings. I see the success of my research reflected in new and existing programs around the country and overseas, and in the many cultural organizations with whom I have consulted and fostered as viable extensions of communities and people.

Areas of Expertise

  • Legal Writing and Research
  • English Literature
  • Humanities and Liberal Studies