Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

In the Spotlight: Heather Duda ’98

Heather Duda photo

Heather Duda ’98 continued her education after Lycoming, receiving advanced degrees in literature and criticism and eventually becoming a professor of English. Heather attributes the excellent education she received at Lycoming for paving the way to her most significant accomplishment to date: becoming the founding dean of the College of Arts & Humanities at the University of Mount Union.

1. What made you choose to attend Lycoming College?

Several of my family members graduated from Lycoming, as well as several people I knew from school. In addition, having grown up not too far away from Williamsport, I knew the campus. I knew I would get an excellent education at Lycoming and would enjoy living on campus. In the end, though, it was the choral program that sealed the deal. I wanted to continue my love of music and performing, and I knew that I could pursue an English major while participating in the choral program. Lycoming was the perfect fit.

2. What is one of your favorite memories, classes, professors, or activities while attending Lycoming College?

There are so many from which to choose, but tour choir, especially the European tour, is probably my favorite memory. It was my first experience traveling abroad. I learned a lot about other cultures through my time with host families and host choirs. I also developed the secondary skillset of traveling with about 40 other people on planes and buses. Sometimes accommodations were tight and people got tired of one another, but we all shared the common goal of creating beautiful music for our audiences. This experience taught me the value of teamwork, communication, and patience.

3. How has your education at Lycoming College influenced or helped you in your life and career?

After Lycoming, I went on to receive both my Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Literature & Criticism. The excellent education I received at Lycoming prepared me for graduate-level work. In addition, the small class sizes at Lycoming gave me confidence expressing my ideas before my peers and faculty members; this confidence served me well in graduate school, in my work as an English professor, and now as an academic dean. Finally, at Lycoming I learned the importance of lifelong learning both in one’s professional and personal life. My education at Lycoming has informed my pedagogical approaches as an educator as well as instilled in me the importance of the liberal arts experience, an experience I champion as an academic administrator.

4. What are one or two of your proudest professional or personal accomplishments that occurred after graduating from Lycoming in which your education really played a role?

I could not have completed my own academic journey without the strong curricular foundation provided by the Lycoming faculty members. While I have experienced many professional accomplishments to date, becoming the founding dean of the College of Arts & Humanities at the University of Mount Union is a significant accomplishment and one in which my Lycoming education continues to play a considerable role. As a dean, I champion the value and importance of a liberal arts education. My own path to academic leadership, starting with my experience as a liberal arts student at Lycoming and continuing into my time as an English professor, allows me to speak with authenticity and passion when it comes to the importance of pursuing a liberal arts education.

5. What piece of professional advice would you give your fellow Lycoming alumni?

Sometimes it is easy to recognize how college courses prepare someone for a career. We don’t always think about the other things we learn in college, like the interpersonal skills required to navigate dorm life or the organizational skills needed to manage class meeting times, practices/rehearsals, homework, and “hanging out” time. These other skills are often referred to as soft skills, but there is nothing “soft” about them; they are often the most important skills we develop and the skills we rely on to advance in our professional lives. I am thankful to Lycoming College for helping me develop both the academic knowledge and the professional skills that have been instrumental to my professional path, and I encourage my fellow alumni to reflect on how their experiences prepared them to face the world after Lycoming.

In the Spotlight recognizes members of our alumni community who are doing great things that have been influenced by their time at Lycoming College. Alumni Spotlight submissions are used at the discretion of the College and may be included in the monthly eNews as space and time permit. To participate, submit an Alumni Spotlight questionnaire.