The University announced nine new department chairs in Arts and Sciences last week, including the anticipated external hire of a new head of the biology department.
James B. Duke Professor of Mathematics David Morrison will take the helm in mathematics, along with Professor Harold Baranger in physics, Associate Professor Anne Allison in cultural anthropology, Professor Tim Strauman in psychology--social and health sciences, Professor Phil Morgan in sociology and Professor Wesley Kort in religion.
Philip Benfey will leave his associate professorship at New York University to head the Department of Biology. University administrators made the decision to hire an external chair for biology to help ease the merge between the zoology and botany departments in 2000.
Professor Craufurd Goodwin will serve as acting chair of economics until a full-term chair is named next year while Associate Professor of the Practice Ingeborg Walther, currently acting chair of Germanic languages and literature, will continue for a regular term.
"They are all people who have shown strong leadership capacities and are very much committed to implementing our strategic plan," said Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William Chafe. He added that the high turnover rate this year was coincidental and that the number of chair openings each year fluctuates.
Many of the chairs expressed eagerness to take over their new positions and continue advancing the long-term plans of their departments.
"I think this is an exciting time for sciences at Duke with the new sciences building coming along and the new engineering building already breaking ground," Baranger said. "The first priority in the department is to advance nanophyiscs."
Another significant area of concern for his department will be developing courses for non-scientists, non-majors and FOCUS programs, as well as continuing to address sexual harassment and gender equity issues in the department.
Morgan said the most pressing challenge for the sociology department will be "moving the department forward" in order to boost its national status.
"The Duke sociology program is ranked around 15th," he said. "We need to make the personnel decisions to move into the top 10."
For Benfey, who specializes in plant genetics, making the move from NYU to Duke was a logical choice.
"I was looking for a department that had a potential to be an exciting place for the next five to 10 years," he said. "Biology is a very important area here, and [the University] appears to be willing to do what it takes to keep Duke at the forefront."
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Academic chairs usually stay on board for terms of no less than three years.