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Brownell discusses vision for Sanford

Kelly Brownell, former professor of psychology at Yale University and director of the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, will replace Bruce Kuniholm as the new Dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy. Brownell, a leading expert in the fields of global health policy and obesity, will assume his position on July 1. The Chronicle’s Sophia Durand spoke with Brownell about his appointment, his vision for Sanford and what he is most excited about for the future of the school. 

The Chronicle: Let’s begin with some background. What position did you hold while at Yale?

Kelly Brownell: During my time at Yale, I’ve been a professor of psychology and public heath. I’ve also been the director of the Rudd Center for food policy and obesity. In that capacity, our goal has been to work at the intersection of science and public policy. We’ve identified obesity and poor nutrition as important world problems, and we’ve attempted to find important gaps in knowledge that would be helpful to fill for the sake of the policy makers.

TC: What is it that attracted you to Duke?

KB: There are general and specific things. At the general level, I am very impressed by Duke’s entrepreneurial spirit and the collaborative nature of the University in the mission to create knowledge in the service of society. More specific to the Sanford School, I found it to be a place filled with vibrancy and talented people working on some of the worlds’ most pressing problems. With every visit, I find myself impressed with the fine work that the people at Sanford do, how connected they are to people in other parts of the University and how they are thinking boldly about solving the world’s problems.

TC: Could you tell me about your vision for Sanford?

KB: The first aim is to get to know the faculty and find areas where there are particular strengths and take advantage of those strengths in order to create maximum impact. Connecting the work at Sanford tightly with the work of policy makers in the United States and outside the United States will be an important priority.

TC: What are you most looking forward to at Sanford?

KB: I believe there is remarkable talent and good will at Duke and at Sanford. One of my primary goals is to work with people at the University to identify the next generation of the world’s most pressing problems, and then to establish a presence for Sanford in those areas. 

TC: Do you have any concerns or are you anticipating any challenges?

KB: No, actually. The Sanford School is in outstanding shape. The previous leadership with the outgoing Dean [Bruce Kuniholm] has been very impressive, and I’ll be entering the school in good influential and financial conditions, with high morale and a can-do spirit that will be enjoyable to be around.

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