Person with facial hair wearing dark sports coat and black shirt standing in front of Old Centre

Matt Downen

Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning

Offices & Programs


BS: geology, Western Kentucky University
MS: geology, University of Kansas
PhD: geology, University of Kansas


Matt Downen joined Centre College in 2023 as the Assistant Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and as an Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies.   

In the Center for Teaching and Learning, Downen helps implement faculty development programs to enhance teaching effectiveness and support assessment processes across various academic areas. Downen’s teaching interests include introductory geology and environmental geology. 

Their research is at the intersection of fear and fascination—fossil spiders. While he still likes spiders and rocks, Downen pursues other directions including academic support, pedagogy, and making classrooms and fieldwork more inclusive. Their recent scholarship includes both fossil preservation and pedagogy topics, including particularly promising pedagogy practices to support making visible/inclusivity of the identities and groups of people. 

Downen participated in the Kentucky Governor’s Scholar Program at Centre College, and later was the Recycling Coordinator at Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College. In 2022, Downen was the Assistant Director of the Center for Undergraduate Research at the University of Kansas (KU). At KU, Downen focused on supporting faculty and staff in their roles as research mentors as well as helping instructors incorporate research into their courses and develop First-Year Seminars. 


Downen, M. R., Schiffbauer, J., Selden, P. A., Olcott A. N. 2022. Steinkern spiders: A microbial mat-controlled taphonomic pathway in the Oligocene Aix-en-Provence Lagerstätte, France. Palaeoentomology 5(6).

Downen, M. R., Olcott, A. N. 2022. Supporting LGBTQ+ geoscientists, in and out of the classroom. Journal of Geoscience Education. DOI: 10.1080/10899995.2022.2116205

Downen, M. R., Selden, P. A. 2021. A palpimanid spider (Araneae: Palpimanidae) from the Crato Fossil-Lagerstätte (Cretaceous, Brazil). Journal of Arachnology 49:91–97.

Downen, M. R., Selden, P. A. 2020. Fossil spiders (Araneae) from the Eocene Kishenehn Formation of Montana. Paleontologia Electronica 23(3):a57.

Downen, M. R., Selden, P. A., Hasiotis, S. T. 2016. Spider leg flexure as an indicator of salinity in lacustrine paleoenvironments. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 445:115–123.

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