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Faculty Spotlight: Brandi Kellett

Abigail McQueen | 

Brandi Kellett

During the 2022-2023 school year, the English and Modern Languages (EML) Department conducted a search for a new department chair. One candidate rose to the top: Dr. Brandi Kellett, whose love for learning and compassion for others made her the perfect choice.

Kellett grew up in East Tennessee, on a lake just outside of Knoxville. She remembers all the adventurous things she and her family would do on their farm. Since both sets of grandparents lived within 30 minutes, Kellett and her father would often go on long runs between the two houses. Kellett and her three siblings enjoyed exploring outside, water skiing and riding motorcycles, which they learned to do at a young age.

“My parents had a high tolerance for risk,” Kellett says. “But they were also super intense on work ethic, serving the community, and loving God.” She remembers how her mother read the Bible at breakfast each morning and her parents regularly volunteered at their church.

Kellett remembers how literature captured her imagination even from a young age. “It was another way to travel and another way to think,” she says. When her family went on vacation, she often filled her suitcase with books.

After attending Wake Forest University for undergraduate school, Kellett and her husband, whom she met at Wake Forest, moved to Miami so he could attend medical school. Kellett helped Young Life, a Christian ministry focused on students, expand into South Florida.

On working with teenagers and college students, Kellett says, “What better time to have some voices a little farther down the road than you are as a thought partner, or as someone you can talk about ideas with?” While she didn’t yet see herself as a professor during her time in Florida, she enjoyed being able to mentor and walk alongside students.

Kellett also earned her Master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Miami. When the family moved to Nashville for her husband’s residency at Vanderbilt University Medical School, Kellett began looking for jobs. In the winter of 2010, she met with Dr. Matt Hearn, who was the chair of Lipscomb’s English and Modern Languages Department at the time.

“He seemed like a real person, and Lipscomb seemed like a warm community of faith,” she says. Kellett accepted the job and began teaching in 2011. She taught both a composition course and a literature course, which she greatly appreciated, as most universities she applied to would only allow her to teach composition.

Kellett says her favorite thing about the EML department is the students. She is honored that the department is a space for students to feel safe and is blown away by the community she has been able to be part of. Kellett sees God as “fundamentally creative,” which is how she sees Him working in the EML department. “We get to create things that create compassion for others,” she says.

During her time at Lipscomb, Kellett says she has felt cared for by many people. Within her department, she has seen Dr. Jan Harris and Dr. Steve Prewitt as guides through many challenges. She also particularly noted Kenna Tomberlin, the EML administrative assistant, who regularly prays for her.

Outside of the classroom, Kellett enjoys hiking and traveling. Her husband, Josh, is an OBGYN who started a midwife-led practice. Kellett says she loves the way he has learned to use his gifts to serve others. Her oldest son, Marshall, attends Colorado State. Kellett is currently busy helping her son, Eli, fill out college applications, as well as caring for her two younger children, Gabriel and Stella. Her family is made complete by their schnauzer, Woodrow. 

During the process of finding a new EML department chair, Hearn and Dr. Kim Reed, who were serving as the interim chairs, approached Kellett to ask if she would consider serving as chair. Kellett says that she started crying, as she felt extremely honored that her colleagues wanted her to assume this position.

Kellett sees God as “fundamentally creative,” which is how she sees him working in the EML department. “We get to create things that create compassion for others,” she says.

To her students, Kellett advises them to use college to shift their focus toward their next phase of life. However, she also doesn’t want them to take things too seriously and have some fun.

Kellett’s goal as department chair is to help Lipscomb see the value the EML department can add for students. “We want to encourage the greater Lipscomb community to see English and Modern Languages as an asset,” she says. We are here to make every single department better.”

When reflecting on her time at Lipscomb, Kellett says, “There is always a moment where we are leaning into something that feels very real to the way a student feels about themself, wants to engage in the world, or cares about their community. When you have those kinds of conversations, the stakes can feel high, but that is the moment when real learning happens. That’s when we realize that everything we thought was just for school is shaping who we are.”