Valerie Ashby, chair of the Chemistry department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been selected as the next dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, President Richard Brodhead and Provost Sally Kornbluth announced Thursday.

Valerie Ashby, chair of the Chemistry department, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, will be the next dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. | Special to The Chronicle

Ashby will replace Laurie Patton, who will be leaving her position at Duke to become president of Middlebury College. She has served as a faculty member at UNC since 2003 and was named the Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of Chemistry in 2007—the same year she began serving as the director of the UNC National Science Foundation Alliance for Graduate Education Professoriate and Research Education Support program.

“Valerie Ashby is a distinguished professor of chemistry who has shown extraordinary aptitude for academic leadership,” Brodhead said in a Duke News release. “Warm, thoughtful and a creative problem solver, she has high respect for inquiry and teaching across the span of the Arts & Sciences, and she will represent Duke’s academic vision to students, faculty and outside audiences in a compelling fashion.”

Ashby, a Clayton, N.C., native, earned her bachelors of arts degree and Ph.D. in chemistry from UNC in 1988 and 1994, respectively. She served as a faculty member at Iowa State University before returning to teach chemistry at her alma mater in 2003. In 2012, she became chair of the department.

She was nominated by a Duke search committee composed of faculty members, students, trustees and administrators. The committee's chair Angela O'Rand, a professor of sociology and former dean of social sciences, said in the Duke News release that the committee was "enthusiastic and unanimous" in its support of Ashby.

"We saw many extraordinary candidates, but Professor Ashby stood out as without peer and with the complement of scholarship, experience and vision that will serve Duke well at this time," O'Rand said.

Ashby is a national consultant and advisor to the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Health diversity programs and is passionate about increasing diversity in higher education. She has served as the faculty director for the Initiative for Minority Excellence at the UNC Chapel Hill Graduate School since 2014.

Known as an outstanding teacher, she has received a number of awards—including the Carlyle Sitterson Freshman Teaching Award in 2008, the UNC-CH Student Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2009 and the Johnston Teaching Award in 2013.

Michael Schoenfeld, vice presdent for public affairs and government relations, said he looked forward to having Ashby on campus.

“Valerie Ashby is a star and we are fortunate to get her to Duke," Schoenfeld said. "I am very excited for the future of Trinity."

Ashby said she was honored to have been selected, describing Duke as "one of the finest institutions in the world, known for academic excellence, interdisciplinary collaboration and knowledge in service to society."

"I look forward to the opportunities to work collaboratively with the outstanding students, faculty and staff that comprise the Duke community,” Ashby said.

Update: This article was updated at 5:45 p.m. to include Schoenfeld's comment.