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Dr. Kate DeConinck Named to Lead Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Story By:
Paul Miller | Director of Strategic Communications and Community Relations
Dr. Kate DeConinck
Dr. Kate DeConinck

Keene State College announces the appointment of a new director of its Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Dr. Kate DeConinck, a trained anthropologist of religion with expertise in religion in the wake of mass tragedies, steps into the role officially in July, the college’s Provost, James Beeby, announced in a recent email to the college community.

DeConinck replaces Peter McBride, who left Keene State to return to his native Ireland. Hank Knight held the position from 2007 until his retirement in 2019.

The Center, through its Coordinator of Educational Outreach, provides workshops to teachers and students, as well as to administrators, law enforcement agencies, and others, said Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, and the Cohen Center’s interim director. On campus, she said, the Center collaborates with other departments and offices in helping to foster dialogue around issues of discrimination, the legacy of the Holocaust, and genocide awareness. That work is also focused on the wider community, she said.

“Dr. DeConinck impressed everyone during her campus visit late last year and I am excited to welcome Kate in the summer and work with her in the years to come,” Beeby said.

DeConinck comes to Keene State from the University of San Diego, where she has worked for the past six years, offering courses on the Holocaust and related topics through the Department of Theology & Religious Studies. She has served as co-chair of the Teaching Religion Unit of the American Academy of Religion and as a co-director of the university’s Urgent Challenges Collective, an initiative that supports research, teaching, and advocacy on the issue of homelessness, Beeby said.

“I believe Kate brings the necessary skills as a servant leader that will work well with all constituency groups on campus, throughout the community, and indeed across the region and the state to make the world a better place,” Beeby said.

Added Beeby: “She is exactly what we need at this juncture. I am excited to work with Kate as the move forward here at the College and do good work for the betterment of society. This is a wonderful hire for us and an amazing opportunity for Dr. Kate DeConinck.”

From 2007 until 2010, DeConinck worked as a research associate for the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, and she went on to earn her doctorate in religion and society from Harvard in 2015.

The Pluralism Project, according to its website, studies and interprets the changing religious landscape of the U.S. Its field research on religious diversity and interfaith relations informs the development of key educational resources.

Between 2011 and 2014, DeConinck conducted ethnographic fieldwork at sites of 9/11 remembrance in New York City, spending time at local museums, religious houses of worship, and commemorative ceremonies. Her first major study illuminated the significances of storytelling, walking, and memorialization for docents at the 9/11 Tribute Center.

DeConinck said she is thrilled to be joining the community at KSC in this role because she believes “this is crucial time to be engaging campus and community members in dialogue about the motivations that drive hatred and genocide, the realities of antisemitism today, and the importance of civic responsibility.”

She said she believes in the power of democratic collaboration with wide-ranging stakeholders to create lasting change.

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