Suzanne Barbour succeeded Paula McClain as the new dean of The Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education last month.
Prior to Duke, Barbour worked extensively at different graduate schools. In 1993, she was recruited to Virginia Commonwealth University, where she became the director of the biochemistry graduate program. In July 2015, she became the dean of The Graduate School at the University of Georgia, then became the dean of The Graduate School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019.
“Suzanne has a tremendous record of advancing graduate education and graduate student success, and I am delighted to welcome her to Duke,” Provost Sally Kornbluth said in a release.
Currently, Barbour is on a “listening tour” during her first few months at Duke. She’s getting to know departments from Student Affairs and Duke Alumni Association and seeking to understand each of their roles on campus.
“It's good to take some time and really get to know the institution before you start making changes,” Barbour said. “A change you make here is going to precipitate a whole series of changes all the way down the line.”
Barbour foresees Duke Graduate School increasingly focusing more on holistically training students for a broad array of careers. She also emphasized finding a place for each graduate student, moving away from the sentiment of “[fixing] the student.”
“I think we need to have a different kind of conversation now, and look very critically at … the culture within individual programs and departments. And basically ask the question: ‘Is this the kind of culture that’s gonna support all students and support them equally?’” she said.
When asked about the Duke Graduate Students Union’s recent activities, which include calls for National Labor Relations Board recognition and demands for support against the rising cost of living, Barbour responded that Duke has been actively working with the Graduate and Professional Student Government to address graduate students’ voices.
“I think that Duke Graduate School’s done a wonderful job of engaging with GPSG,” she said. “That’s a robust relationship that I really look forward to continuing.”
Barbour is excited to mold the new era of graduate school and curate training programs that address the current world’s needs. Fifty years from now, Barbour envisions that we will be in careers that we have never heard of.
“[The changes in graduate schools are] definitely a challenge. But at the same time, it's very, very exciting, because when I look back over my years of graduate education, I couldn't have predicted that graduate education would look the way it does now,” Barbour said.
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