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Academic Council honors Provost Sally Kornbluth at last meeting, hears update from Office of Information Technology

Provost Sally Kornbluth, second from right, at the Dec. 1 Academic Council meeting.
Provost Sally Kornbluth, second from right, at the Dec. 1 Academic Council meeting.

Academic Council honored Provost Sally Kornbluth in her final Academic Council meeting on Thursday. The Council also heard an update from the Office of Information Technology regarding its Research IT Needs Evaluation in its last meeting of the semester.

Kornbluth will begin her new role as president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on Jan. 1.

She was gifted a copy of the agenda from her very first Academic Council meeting in 2014 and received a standing ovation from members of the Council.

Academic Council Chair Erika Weinthal expressed how many of the Council members have had “very, very long standing” relationships with Kornbluth — from when she began her Duke career in 1994 to when she became Duke’s first female provost in 2014, a position in which she spearheaded the strategic plan Together Duke and created Duke’s first Office for Faculty Advancement.

“When I try to summarize the importance of Sally's legacy for Duke, it is really that she has touched so many parts of [the University],” Weinthal said.

President Vincent Price said that it is “fitting” that Sally’s first celebration of her tenure is at Academic Council.

“We're not just losing a … distinguished member of our faculty, we’re also saying goodbye to someone who is just a lot of fun. And someone who’s been an incredible partner to me,” Price said.

It's “not easy after…almost 30 years to say goodbye,” Kornbluth said. She personally thanked Price, Vice Provost Jennifer Francis, her Chief of Staff Hallie Knuffman, Executive Assistant Mary Greenway and Laura Brinn, assistant vice provost for academic communications.

“I have to say the faculty governance at Duke is a true gem. It's a partnership between the administration and faculty in a way that's rare in higher education,” she said.

OIT updates

Tracy Futhey, vice president and chief information officer of OIT, explained that the Research IT Needs Evaluation is a study undertaken by the Information Technology Advisory Council and fits within President Price’s strategic framework. It’s the first study of its kind in at least 20 years, according to the presentation. 

The context for the study included the fact that the Duke environment is complex and decentralized, with IT services being provided by various organizations, which creates confusion and frustration. Duke also has a number of new leaders, who bring “fresh thinking” and a “commitment to partner,” according to the presentation. 

The entire process involved about 40 faculty, over seven different working groups and more than 24 hours’ worth of feedback, according to Futhey. The evaluation was launched in February and culminated in October with six findings and ten recommendations, categorized into the areas of People, Process, and Technology. 

In the “People” category, ITAC found that Duke lacks sufficient personnel to support domain specific research, and recommended that the University build and support new teams of domain-specific technical personnel.

In the “Process” category, ITAC found that separate research infrastructures hinder research and collaboration; and current security and compliance approaches seem “one size fits all.” For the latter, ITAC recommended Duke evaluate current IT requirements and processes toward a holistic risk-based institutional approach.

In the “Technology” category, ITAC found that OIT Services are valuable but not as expansive as faculty require; plethora technical solutions and use constraints create confusion; and current storage services don’t span the research lifecycle of the University. ITAC recommended simplifying technical solutions for particular research uses and license datasets, among other suggestions.

The next phases include proposing solutions and determining structures to meet these needs.


Katie Tan | Managing Editor

Katie Tan is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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