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Taking Academic Leadership to the Next Level

Duke Faculty Members Hone Skills With ACC Peers Through a Year-Long Experience

Four faculty members brought their Duke blue to the land of orange to take part in a learning exchange with other academic leaders from the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Professors Sharon GerechtTimothy JohnsonHai “Helen” Li and Patrick Smith spent three days at Syracuse University at the midpoint of their year as Duke’s 2023 ACC Academic Leadership Network Fellows. The June meeting built on a kickoff weekend at UNC–Chapel Hill in March.

The Duke fellows have been engaging with peers across the ACC’s 15 schools to discuss issues and trends in higher education and build effectiveness in the context of academic leadership. On-site sessions provide opportunities to develop a network of colleagues in similar positions and learn how leaders at other universities wrestle with a range of challenges.

People stand in a group and smile
Participants in the June 15-17 meeting pose with Syracuse’s mascot.

Back on their home campuses, cohorts have been meeting with key leaders and administrators who oversee such areas as academic affairs, student life, budgeting and financial planning, research, admissions, development and human resources. 

The ACC fellows also take part in communities of practice that work collaboratively on specific issues throughout the year. 

Patrick smiles
Patrick Smith

“My experience [so far] has given me a much deeper appreciation not only of the challenges that attend to the functioning of such complex institutions as Duke,” said Smith, who is associate research professor of theological ethics and bioethics as well as director of bioethics programs at the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine.

“It has also helped me see the incredible opportunities such spaces provide for helping societies flourish,” Smith continued. “Meeting like-minded and fully engaged colleagues from other institutions as well as seasoned administrators at Duke and other ACC schools has been extremely beneficial. I have met leaders who are thinking creatively, constructively and courageously as they seek to address contemporary concerns in higher education. As a result of these interactions, I will be a much better university citizen.”

A woman smiles
Hai “Helen” Li

Li, who is professor and chair of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, said the program “has provided valuable insights into how universities operate as a whole rather than as individual units that are disconnected.”

She added, “I now have better ways of interacting with my colleagues and a better way to achieve my goals. The program also helped me gain important skills that are essential for executive leadership positions that will help me to continue to implement change for all toward excellence. I hope that some of the best practices identified in my cohort will be effectively implemented at Duke.”

Lori smiles
Lori Bennear

Lori Bennear, professor of energy economics and policy, took part in Duke’s first cohort of ACC fellows in 2022. On July 1, she began serving a two-year term as Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment

“The ACC Academic Leadership Network helped prepare me to become the interim dean in two ways,” Bennear said. “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.”

Joining the Duke cohort in Syracuse and Chapel Hill were Vice Provost Abbas Benmamoun and Associate Vice Provost Craig Henriquez from the Office for Faculty Advancement. 

“This program provides an opportunity for faculty leaders to build their leadership skills and engage more deeply with key aspects of the higher education landscape through substantive interactions with experts and peers from a diverse group of institutions.” —Abbas Benmamoun

This leadership development opportunity is offered as part of Faculty Advancement’s portfolio of programs to support faculty and academic leaders.

On November 9-11, Duke will host all of the ACC fellows for the culminating in-person session.

2023 Duke ACC Academic Leadership Network Fellows

Sharon Gerecht

Paul M. Gross Distinguished Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Associate Dean for Research & Infrastructure, Pratt School of Engineering

Timothy Johnson

Professor of the Practice of Energy & the Environment

Associate Dean for Professional Programs, Nicholas School of the Environment

Hai “Helen” Li

Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering

Chair of the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Pratt School of Engineering

Patrick Smith

Associate Research Professor of Theological Ethics & Bioethics, Divinity School

Director of Bioethics Programs at the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine, School of Medicine

The Office for Faculty Advancement will soon announce its 2023-24 schedule of programs for Duke faculty members.

Main image: Duke’s 2023 ACC Academic Leadership Network Fellows Hai “Helen” Li, Sharon Gerecht, Patrick Smith (from left) and Timothy Johnson (second from right) at Syracuse University, joined by Craig Henriquez and Abbas Benmamoun from Duke Faculty Advancement