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Three Quick Questions for Duke Faculty: Sarah Gaither

Sarah Gaither is a newly tenured associate professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience and the director of the Duke Identity & Diversity Lab. Her research focuses broadly on how humans’ social identities and experiences across the lifespan motivate their social perceptions and behaviors in diverse settings.

Gaither studies how contact with diverse others shapes social interactions, how having multiple racial or social identities affects different types of social behavior and categorizations of others, and what contexts shape the development of racial perceptions and biases from childhood through adulthood. Her experience growing up as a biracial Black/White woman has fueled her research path.

A member of the Duke community since 2016, Gaither is also a faculty affiliate at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Center for Child and Family Policy.


Congratulations on being awarded tenure! Do you have any advice for new faculty who have not yet gone through this process?

This might sound strange, but try not to worry about tenure. There are enough stressors in academia, so I chose to work with the people I wanted to work with and study the questions I wanted to research.

For me, one of the big perks of a faculty job is to make your own pathway, be your own boss and have fun while you do it, so that’s what I chose to do and it worked out!

Could you tell us about something you’re working on?

I have a new NSF CAREER grant [learn more] that is testing whether two different pathways can boost flexible and creative thinking — 1) having naturally salient multiple identities (e.g., being biracial, bicultural) and 2) having a lot of contact with diverse others.

My lab also has a few studies looking at racial and ethnic identity of Latino, Multiracial and Multicultural children, in case anyone reading has kids that might be interested in participating!

What’s something you like about living here? 

The diversity around Durham was a big reason I chose Duke over other places. I love the food here, the lack of traffic, how incredibly nice everyone is and how community-focused Durham is. It has the smaller-town charms in a full-sized city.

April 13: Amplifying Your Voice Inside and Outside the University

On April 13 at 9:00 a.m., Sarah Gaither will join Bruce Jentleson, William Preston Few Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, and Brian Murray, interim director of the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, to present a workshop for Duke faculty members. Adriane Lentz-Smith, associate professor of history, will serve as moderator.

A graphic of an event