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'Success is intertwined for Duke and Durham': Meet Duke's new VP for Durham affairs

Stelfanie Williams will take over the role next month

Special to the Chronicle
Special to the Chronicle

Stelfanie Williams, Trinity ‘98, will become the vice president for Durham affairs on Aug. 13, succeeding outgoing Vice President Phail Wynn. 

Williams graduated from Duke with a double major in Spanish and public policy. She went on to earn her master’s degree in project management from Western Carolina University and her doctorate in education from North Carolina State University. 

As an undergraduate at Duke, Williams was involved with the Durham community through the Rural Health Coalition, Durham Public Schools and other organizations. 

“Duke has elevated its collaboration with Durham since that time, creating more awareness for students of the opportunities that surround them,” Williams wrote in an email. 

She has previously served as the president of Vance-Granville Community College. During her time as president, the college saw increased grant funding, improved graduation rates and greater collaboration with the community. 

She was chosen for the White House Regional Community College Summit in 2011, awarded the I.E. Ready Distinguished Leadership Award by N.C. State in 2014 and named “President of the Year” by the North Carolina State Board of Community Colleges in 2018.

Williams is also involved with many educational and economic boards and organizations. She noted that her professional experiences in these areas are vital to the collaborative efforts of Duke and Durham.

'Responsible progress'

The Office of Durham and Regional Affairs was created in 2008 by the Board of Trustees to strengthen Duke’s engagement with Durham’s schools, nonprofits and neighborhoods. It works with the local community to build ties, advocate for economic development, enhance quality of life and improve public education. 

The aspects of the community that the Office focuses on are all crucial to the general quality of life, Williams wrote. She acknowledged that she must consider the facets comprehensively because they are interdependent and not exclusive. 

“My work will be shaped by the practical knowledge gained through the lived experiences of those in our community, along with the research-based and theoretical understandings gained through the university, in order to support responsible progress and to realize fully the promise of Durham,” she wrote. 

'Success is intertwined'

Being new to the Office and its partnerships, Williams wrote that she will first listen to her team and their partners, then support the opportunities to make a collective impact. 

She acknowledged that Duke’s team has been successful at addressing issues and working with community partners, and she will continue to tackle emerging problems to help advance Durham. 

Williams wrote that she will focus on impact assessments and strategic development.

The incoming vice president noted that she is delighted to return to Duke in August and looks forward to working with her team and partners to help improve both the University and Durham. 

“Success is intertwined for Duke and Durham," Williams wrote. "Durham is a vibrant, richly diverse community with many assets, and Duke is a significant member of the community as an employer, a place of learning, and [an] organization of innovative resources.”