Lisker Joins Undergraduate Education

Current director of the Women's Center to become associate dean

Donna Lisker, who has directed the Duke University Women's Center since 1999 and became co-director of the Baldwin Scholars in 2004, has been named associate dean in the new Office of Undergraduate Education, undergraduate education dean Steve Nowicki announced Tuesday.

President Richard H. Brodhead created the office this year as a way to better integrate the academic and social dimensions of the student experience.

As associate dean, Lisker will work with Nowicki to gather ideas, analyze and coordinate improvements relating to undergraduates and will collaborate with senior administrators from schools, departments and administrative units that serve undergraduates. One of her first tasks will involve implementing recommendations of Provost Peter Lange's Interim Report on the Undergraduate Experience, especially with regard to residential and social space.


Donna Lisker

Lisker, an avid masters rower who teaches a freshman seminar on gender and sports in contemporary America, will continue to co-direct the Baldwin Scholars Program, which was created to inspire and support undergraduate women in the classroom and in campus leadership roles. The group of 72 women from all four classes includes athletes, sorority members and women of color from all over the world.

"Donna's familiarity with the undergraduate social scene, her work with diverse groups of students, as well as her extensive experience in preparing and encouraging women to take on leadership roles make her a real asset," Nowicki said. "She brings both an academic approach to these issues through her research and a practical approach through her years of working with students. Her background epitomizes the mission of this office."

Lisker served on the Women's Initiative Steering Committee, which led a yearlong analysis in 2002-03 of the status of women on campus. In Lisker's part of the study, undergraduates described a social atmosphere that enforced stringent rules about acceptable behavior and was characterized by "effortless perfection," the expectation that one would be smart, accomplished, fit, beautiful and popular -- and that all this would happen without visible effort.

"I've always worked to better integrate academic and co-curricular experience," said Lisker, who came to Duke eight years ago from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where she served as assistant director of the Women's Center from 1995-99.

"I went to a liberal arts college that did this so well," said Lisker, who received her bachelor's degree from Williams College and her master's and doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "We're doing a good job of combining academic, extracurricular and residential life with the Baldwin Scholars and I wanted to try to apply those successes to a larger group."

Students who know Lisker describe her as being approachable, resourceful and knowledgeable about how to get things done at Duke. She is also considered an independent, goal-oriented person and strong student advocate.

"She's very dedicated to the well-being of students," said Neelima Navuluri, a sophomore from New Mexico who is in the Baldwin Scholars Program. "She'll give you a straight answer and her honest opinion. She always wants the best for you and I think that's something that students do need."

Lisker's appointment coincides with other additions to the office. Lee Willard, in addition to being associate dean for planning in Arts and Sciences and Trinity College, will also serve as associate dean in the new Office of Undergraduate Education. Willard, who works on academic planning, programmatic development, and institutional proposal development, will provide an important connection to Duke's liberal arts program, Nowickisaid.

Willard holds a BA magna cum laude from Agnes Scott College and a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at the William Andrews Clark Library, UCLA and is an alumna of Harvard University's Management Development Program.

Nowicki also has appointed Susan Kauffman, director of special projects in the Office of Public Affairs, as the director of communication for undergraduate education. Her job will be to supervise and coordinate communication with and about undergraduates.

Kauffman has worked for eight years at Duke on projects ranging from the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership to recent admissions materials. She came to Duke in 1999 from the News & Observer, where she was a reporter who covered Duke. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor's degree from Stanford University.