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Duke creates new administrative role, announces pick to oversee identity centers

Dawna Jones, director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke, will assume the inaugural role of assistant vice president for identity centers and community development on July 1. 

Mary Pat McMahon, vice provost and vice president of student affairs, and Shruti Desai, associate vice president of student affairs for student engagement, announced the new position in a Thursday email obtained by The Chronicle sent to colleagues within Student Affairs. The administrators wrote that the passion from students and the University “to create a campus that centers equity through belonging and representation” inspired the creation of the new position. 

In this role, Jones will oversee the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture, Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, the Women's Center, Center for Multicultural Affairs, Muslim Life and Jewish Life at Duke, Desai wrote in an email to The Chronicle.

“Throughout the search process Dawna impressed members of the Duke community by her ability to show up compassionately while demonstrating accountability, her understanding of the challenges in moving a complex system towards inclusion, equity and belonging, as well as her sense of humor and in-depth understanding of various identities,” McMahon and Desai wrote in their Thursday email.  

Jones currently serves as the director of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke. She assumed the position in August 2021. Within the last year she has “shifted the culture at the Center through innovative programming, student focused relationship building, and stronger collaboration with Black staff and faculty,” according to the Thursday email. 

In this role, Jones led the creation of Sophomore Circles, a programming opportunity for small groups to engage in discourse on various topics, as well as the inaugural Black History Month lecture series and the Black community cookout. 

Student Affairs is still finalizing plans for the new director of the Mary Lou Williams Center, according to Desai. 

Before coming to Duke, Jones was the assistant dean of students and an adjunct instructor in the School of Education program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Jones is currently working towards a doctorate degree in transformative leadership for civic and community engagement at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. She has a master’s degree in social work from West Chester University, a master's degree in higher education management from the University of Pittsburgh and a bachelor of arts in sociology from Pennsylvania State University.


Kathryn Thomas | News Editor

Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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