Dunbar, a graduate of the College of William and Mary (A.B., economics, 1973), earned advanced degrees at Northern Illinois University (M.A., speech communication, 1976) and Pennsylvania State University (Ph.D., speech communication, 1984). She joined the Brown faculty as a lecturer in July 1982. She has provided leadership to the Department of Theatre, Speech and Dance as acting chair in 1991 and then as chair since 1993.
Dunbar has served as an adviser or consultant on significant projects within the University. Since 1992, she has been a fellow of the Wayland Collegium, an organization that sponsors lectures and workshops in support of intellectual enrichment and curricular development. She has been coordinator of the Rhetoric Fellows program, which provides peer tutoring in speaking in conjunction with the Writing Fellows Program. Since 1989, she has been a consultant on communications issues to the Brown School of Medicine, and she has led physician education projects at Rhode Island Hospital. Her involvement with the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning, which she now directs, dates to 1988.
Nancy Dunbar teaches courses in Rhetorical Theory and Analysis, Persuasion and Argumentation, and Public Speaking. She first came to Brown in 1982 and since then has helped to develop and participate in a number of programs, such as those linking communication and education, including Brown's Rhetoric Fellows program, Faculty Development Seminars in Communication. and Teaching at Brown and Wellesley College, the communication component for Affinity Groups in the Program in Liberal Medical Education, and special programs for Rhode Island Hospital's Departments. Ms. Dunbar has been chair of the Theatre, Speech, and Dance Department since 1993 and, since 1996, Director of the Sheridan Center for Teaching and Learning.