Preminda Jacob focuses on building connections as new associate dean of research and community engagement

Preminda Jacob, visual arts, has been named the new associate dean of research and community engagement for UMBC’s College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (CAHSS). She will join the current team of associate deans in providing support for the College’s many departments, programs, and research centers. Together they will continue to implement CAHSS’ strategic goals and objectives, focusing on projects around recruitment and retention of diverse faculty, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, and further developing community engagement work. 

Scott Casper, dean of CAHSS, is excited about the level of expertise Jacob brings to the team. “Preminda Jacob brings a wealth of experience as a scholar, teacher, and UMBC citizen, and leader to the Dean’s Office,” says Casper. “I am delighted that she has joined our leadership team and look forward to her continued contributions to the College and the University in this new role.”

Jacob at graduate commencement.
Jacob at graduate commencement.

Engaging faculty

Jacob will begin by joining the team of associate deans in working to further foster the current research community within CAHSS and build broader awareness of CAHSS research. One way Jacob hopes to share faculty research is by collaborating with campus partners on updating the university’s current faculty research database capabilities. This digital tool will help academics, researchers, educators, and students from around the world more easily access information about UMBC researchers and their areas of study.

“I see part of community engagement as an accessibility issue,” explains Jacob. “UMBC faculty conduct top-level research. A searchable database elevates our commitment to provide research-based answers to the world’s most pressing questions by placing the research within everyone’s reach.”

Jacob will also help faculty better connect with each other across departments, including for research that involves community partnerships. She looks forward to working with faculty who have research expertise on community engagement by exploring topics through existing brown bag lunch series and working groups in the five CAHSS research centers as well as across UMBC’s colleges. 

Engaging the community

Prior to joining the Dean’s Office, Jacob served as chair of visual arts from 2015 to 2018. As a professor of visual arts specializing in art history and visual culture, she worked to connect her passions for research and community engagement.

Jacob recalls a four-year partnership between the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum in Catonsville and her Space, Place, and Public Art class as a particularly significant collaboration. Jacob partnered students with the museum’s staff to create public art pieces from start to finish in one semester. “Students were excited to work directly with a local organization and leaders within the organizations were equally excited to serve as guides and mentors in the process,” she says. 

Over the years, Jacob’s students have created object and wall labels, interactive and interpretive recordings, and works of art for the museum. They produced a video featuring interviews with local leaders and archaeologists talking about the archaeological dig conducted by the Maryland Historical Trust in the 1980s on Benjamin Banneker’s property.

Exhibit that three teams of students helped designed
Museum exhibit three teams of students helped design.

Victor Pineda ‘15, visual arts, who went on to serve as a museum intern after participating in Jacob’s class, helped record an actor’s interpretation of the voice of Benjamin Banneker. The recording became part of an interactive device in the Banneker Gallery. Today, visitors can listen to Benjamin Banneker discuss his letter to Thomas Jefferson. 

Pineda recording audio for exhibit.
Pineda recording audio for interactive exhibit at the museum.

“Through the museum’s partnership with the visual arts department at UMBC,” says Willa Banks, the museum’s former director of education and curatorial affairs, “Dr. Jacob’s public art class provided a phenomenal service that not only benefited UMBC faculty and students but also the museum and the general public as well.”

Jacob plans to work with faculty already engaged with community partners in the Baltimore region to amplify relationships like this one. She is also dedicated to opening pathways for new community engagement opportunities, in the greater Baltimore region and beyond. 


Banner Image: Preminda at MFA celebration. All images by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC with the exception of the images of student work at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum which were courtesy of Willa Banks.