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Embracing Leadership in Higher Education: A Journey of Daily Discovery

President Price welcomed more than 80 faculty and administrators from institutions across the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) to Duke’s campus in November 2023. They were nominated by their deans to serve as year-long fellows in the ACC Academic Leadership Network (ALN). Duke is a founding member of the network, which launched in 2018.

Duke's 2023 ACC Fellows included Timothy Johnson, Hai “Helen” Li,  Patrick Smith and Sharon Gerecht. The 2023 ACC ALN program began with a kickoff weekend at UNC-Chapel Hill and continued with a midyear meeting at Syracuse. The fellows worked throughout the year on collaborative projects through communities of practice. The program concluded with a three-day conference at Duke to mark the culmination of the year.

group photo of ACC ALN fellows and liasions
President Price speaking to fellows as they listen

President Price opened the conference to welcome the ACC ALN community to Duke. During a conversation with the ACC ALN fellows, he shared his perspective on what it means to be a leader in higher education and provided advice for colleagues taking on new leadership roles. “Adaptability is the name of the game,” said Price, who also emphasized the need to approach leadership with humility. “One of the glories of higher education is that you can learn something new just about every day. Spend time listening and understanding what is already in play, then you can build on what is already there and you’ll be paving the way for implementation,” he said.

a trio of photos from the ACC ALN presentations

In addition to President Price, Provost Alec Gallimore and other senior leaders and faculty members across campus contributed to the event. Panel moderators included Joseph Blocher, Lanty L. Smith ’67 Distinguished Professor of Law and Senior Associate Dean of Faculty, and Timothy Lovelace, John Hope Franklin Research Scholar and Professor of Law. Fellows engaged in topics such as academic freedom, teaching with generative AI and admissions.

woman stands at podium presenting

Communities of practice gave presentations on topics ranging from graduate student well-being to enrollment trends and equity and inclusion.

two fellows connect in the JB Duke Hotel lobby

Fellows also had several opportunities to network and connect with each other.

group of people walk a path in the Duke Gardens

A variety of excursions provided visiting fellows a chance to get better acquainted with Duke. They took walking tours of Duke Forest, the Libraries and one of the engineering labs in Wilkinson. Two student ambassadors also led a brisk walk through the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Provost Gallimore speaking at a podium in Kirby Horton Hall

At dinner, Provost Alec Gallimore spoke about his own leadership journey, starting as an assistant professor at the University of Michigan. He encountered many peaks and valleys along the way and stated, “failure is where you learn so much.” He added that the path to leadership is not always straightforward; rather, the twists and turns are all valuable contributions to who one becomes.

four photos from conference

Kim Hewitt, Duke’s vice president for institutional equity, led a panel on leadership and complex issues of campus culture.

three panelists share

The conference ended with a conversation featuring former ACC fellows. Lu Liu, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Design at Virginia Tech, shared how the program helped prepare him to be a dean. Also on the panel were Melissa McGivney, associate dean of community partnerships at the University of Pittsburgh and Lori Bennear, interim dean of the Nicholas School at Duke.

“The ACC Academic Leadership Network helped prepare me to become the interim dean in two ways. First, it introduced me to a strong network of other academic leaders on whose expertise I can draw. And second, the program provided insider sessions with Duke leaders that helped me better understand how the university operates and the role of the school within the greater university.” – Lori Bennear, Interim Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment

Sherilynn Black speaks to two fellows at the end of the conference

The Office for Faculty Advancement provides this leadership development opportunity to selected Duke faculty members. Vice Provost Abbas Benmamoun, Associate Vice Provost Sherilynn Black, Assistant Vice Provost Shana Lassiter, Senior Program Coordinator Maggie Elliott and the OFA team helped organize the meeting at Duke.

Gerecht, Johnson, Li and Smith wrapped up their ALN journey and passed the baton to the 2024 cohort of Duke ACC ALN fellows: Denise Comer, Saskia Cornes, Shai Ginsburg, Candis Watts Smith and Norbert Wilson. The 2024 term began at Clemson and will continue with gatherings at the University of Louisville and NC State, in addition to meetings and conversations with key campus leaders.