Highlighting Adjunct Faculty

By Ryan Scrimger, MFA

Adjunct Liaison for the Center for Educational Excellence, Departments of Theatre and Music

Focus on Dr. Neena Din, College of Arts and Sciences, Associate Dean and Adjunct Professor of Biology

Photo of Neena Din

Within the halls of our beautiful campus are dedicated and dynamic educators, some of whom inhabit roles beyond their field of specialty. They are directors of centers, administrators in our schools and college, and leaders of mission-motivated organizations. These unique educators also teach rigorous courses with their particular expertise, giving them varied opportunities to reach our students and impact their lives.

As the construction wraps up on our latest campus development and students and faculty begin to repopulate the walkways, I had the chance to spend a few moments talking with Dr. Neena Din, Associate Dean and professor of microbiology in the College of Arts and Sciences. Neena shared about her journey to USD and her progression from the classroom to the Dean’s office and back again to class labs. 

RS: Tell me about coming to San Diego and joining University of San Diego. How did you find us?

ND: I had my tenure at Loyola University (in Baltimore) in the Biology department and was the Pre-Health advisor as well. The Pre-health advisor is a position that works very closely with students wanting to go on to Health Professional schools making sure they have all their requirements on track to be competitive in the application process.

My husband was hired at USD and for a year I kept my position at Loyola and visited my husband in San Diego every third weekend. Ultimately, I felt ready to look for something different than a faculty position.

That was 10 years ago. I was hired by USD as Assistant Dean for the College, a job I have really enjoyed. Very shortly after getting to USD, I was asked if I wanted to teach in the LLC program. I began teaching Topics in Human Biology each fall. Now I’ll be team-teaching the laboratory section of People, Plagues & Microbes for the newest part of our learning communities, the Transfer Learning Communities (TLC).

The Living Learning Community (LLC) is the 1st year students’ first introduction to the University’s interdisciplinary mission. Every new student is placed in one of the five LLC themes: collaborate, advocate, cultivate, innovate, and illuminate. The students are enrolled in one LLC course within a theme and each of these courses satisfies a core curriculum requirement. They are designed to allow students to make connections interpersonally and academically. When the learning communities began there was 50% participation. Now we have 100% participation for the first year student body. This year we are introducing the TLC with two themes: engage and inspire. We want to extend the valuable community building both academically and socially to our transfer students.

RS: As of this year, you’ve taken on a new role in the College as well. You’re stepping into the position of Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

ND: Yes. It was an opportunity to take a different look at the work of the College. I’ll be going from resolving issues to running programs, like co-directing the LC programs with Margaret Leary, VP of Student Affairs. Plus, I will oversee other issues such as classroom enrollments and academic integrity standards within the College.

RS: As Assistant Dean, you were the first-line of help for students who might be struggling in academics. I have reached out to you myself on behalf of students who were facing stresses of different kinds such as financial, emotional, or even food insecurity. You connected them with the resources on campus that they needed most. I also see you at almost every faculty support event like Donuts with the Dean, Adjunct Faculty Orientation, and recognition events.

What do students in your classes think about a dean being their teacher?

ND: As Assistant Dean I was helping students succeed and often saw them in their most insecure moments. They’ve been referred to me because their situation is addressing some level of academic concern and they are often asking for a change in the rules. I have to say “no” a lot. In the classroom, I don’t have to say “no” as much, which is much less stressful. I tell my classes they are lucky because I can do things without the added step of referrals. I have all the information at my fingertips and a direct line to the resources to help them succeed.

I am always delighted to be in the classroom. That is what I did at Loyola and it feels quite natural, even a relief to be with them.

RS: I think you must have been the muse for the theme of your TLC as your commitment to compassion and inter-connectedness is inspiring. Thank you for taking time to visit with me. You’ve illustrated how different functions may be performed with ease.

On behalf of the Center for Educational Excellence and myself, we certainly wish you success and satisfaction in the many ways you support and lead our students and faculty.