Lee Baker, associate professor of cultural anthropology and African and American studies, has been named dean of academic affairs of Trinity College, George McLendon, incoming dean of Trinity College and dean of the faculty of Arts and Sciences, announced Monday.
Alvin Crumbliss, dean of the natural sciences and professor of chemistry, said the position was heavily advertised and the search committee looked at a broad range of applicants from which McLendon chose his administrative partner. Crumbliss said he recommended Baker for his vision for the College, administrative experience, leadership experience, appreciation for undergraduate education and strong desire and ability to work with undergraduates and faculty.
Baker chaired the Arts & Sciences Council from 2005 to 2007 and is the current director of the Duke in Ghana program. A recipient of the Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Award for Teaching Excellence, Baker will root himself in Durham in the Fall to help McLendon assume the duties of Robert Thompson, former dean of Trinity College who announced last October that he planned to return to teaching.
But Baker, a Duke professor for 13 years, said he is ready to explore the administrative side of the University.
"My energy will be focused on making Trinity one of the best undergraduate colleges in the country," he said. "I am happy to forgo teaching for a while."
Baker, however, said he will still teach a course in the anthropology of race in the Fall to keep in touch with students.
"There's no better way to put a pulse on each class than to be in the classroom," he said.
McLendon said in the statement that Baker proved his leadership abilities as chair of the Arts & Sciences Council and through his collection of academic awards.
"We are confident that [Baker] will carry on the outstanding leadership provided by Bob Thompson in shaping curricular innovation, promoting faculty-mentored undergraduate research and enhancing our undergraduate advising system," McLendon said.
In his new role, Baker said he plans to enhance the liberal arts and science courses within the University to create a broader vision of student achievement.
"I hear too much Hannah Montana," said Baker, who has a nine-year-old daughter. "Whenever [the song] 'The Best of Both Worlds' comes on, I think of Trinity students. They can take classes from professors committed to their research and education while taking advantage of a world-class university. This will enhance the small college within a global university such that undergraduate students will get the best of both worlds."
Baker said he wants to enable all students to have the possibility to study abroad or travel internationally with DukeEngage. He also hopes to create a study abroad advising system so students can meet with someone knowledgeable about international travel to lay out their options.
"There's a top-notch crew and I'm excited to get in there and do my best," Baker said. "I can't fill [Thompson's] shoes, but I look forward to shouldering the responsibility."