After a national search, John Blackshear will be Duke’s next dean of students and associate vice president of student affairs, wrote Mary Pat McMahon, vice president and vice provost for student affairs, in a Thursday email to students.
Blackshear is already a well-known face at Duke. He currently serves as associate vice provost of undergraduate education, a role in which he will continue, and dean of academic affairs for Trinity College of Arts and Sciences. He is also an adjunct instructor in psychology and neuroscience.
As dean of students, he will provide “overall vision to support the ability of all Duke students to learn and thrive in the campus community,” McMahon wrote in the email, and will support groups such as incoming students, student veterans, graduate students, and parents and families. He will serve on the senior leadership team for Student Affairs, as well as oversee areas like student health and wellness, the Community Standard, student conduct and crisis response.
In an interview, Blackshear recalled people he knew in college who went beyond teaching or providing services, helping students figure out what kind of person they wanted to be. He wants to bring that same spirit, in his own way, to his job as dean of students.
"This job has to be responsive to what Duke is, it has to be responsive to who our students are, and it has to operate from a place that places a supreme value on our students having a transformative experience in these four short years that they're here with us, and our graduate students are well responded to and taken care of," he said.
The appointment means he gets to put all of his effort into "making sure that we do great work by our students."
"It means a ton to me, man," Blackshear said.
Longtime Dean of Students Sue Wasiolek has stepped into a new role as senior advisor to McMahon and Gary Bennett, vice provost for undergraduate education, while remaining associate vice president of student affairs. Blackshear will begin his new role Aug. 1, replacing interim Dean of Students Amy Powell.
Blackshear has had a long career at Duke. He has served at points as as senior associate dean for academic planning, the clinical director of the Academic Resource Center, the student ombudsman and a psychologist for Counseling and Psychological Services.
Blackshear is currently faculty-in-residence in Trinity dorm on East Campus, a role he will continue to fill. Former Trinity residents spoke highly of him last year in a profile of him and his family, describing his warm relationships with students and his family’s “open door.”
“[The Blackshears] really are like my family here,” Melissa White, then a junior, told The Chronicle for that story.
At the time, Blackshear said the reward of being faulty-in-residence was “intangible.”
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“It’s not like money, and it’s not status or any of that,” he said. “It’s just, we get to be proximate to some of the most amazing learners in the universe.”
Update: This story was updated at 4:33 p.m. Wednesday with Blackshear's comment to The Chronicle.