Nowicki Reappointed as Dean of Undergraduate Education

Biologist named to a second five-year term overseeing the student experience at Duke

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Steve Nowicki was named Duke's first dean of undergraduate education in 2007.

Stephen Nowicki has been reappointed to a second five-year term as dean and vice provost of undergraduate education, Duke President Richard H. Brodhead and Provost Peter Lange announced Thursday.

Duke regularly conducts five-year reviews of deans and senior administrative positions, and Nowicki's recommendation for reappointment follows an evaluation by a faculty committee.

"Steve is the first dean in this new position and has done an excellent job of fulfilling our desire to have someone responsible for leading and coordinating all facets of undergraduate academic and student life," Lange said. "He has made headway in creating greater synergy among the many curricular, co-curricular and social components of our undergraduate experience. It is not easy being the first in anything, and Steve has led with great dedication, intelligence and good humor. I am pleased he has agreed to serve a second term."

Nowicki is a Bass Fellow and professor of biology and psychology and neuroscience in Trinity College of Arts and Sciences, as well as professor of neurobiology in Duke's medical school.  He became the first dean of undergraduate education in July 2007. The job was created to better integrate the academic and social dimensions -- including residential, recreational and dining -- of the student experience. 

Lange cited some highlights of Nowicki's tenure, including his efforts working with faculty to encourage greater innovation in classroom teaching through initiatives such as DukeImmerse, in which faculty and students focus on an intellectual theme for a semester outside the usual classroom setting.

In addition, Nowicki and Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, have worked closely together to lead changes that provide a greater sense of community in the upper-class housing system, Lange said. Nowicki also has raised awareness and taken steps to address issues related to gender and socio-economic equity among undergraduates.

"Also, despite his extremely busy schedule, Steve makes himself accessible to students in a generous and thoughtful manner, including holding office hours in the evenings and most recently by tweeting," Lange said. 

Nowicki said he has relished the challenges of creating this new position and articulating the integration of different aspects of a Duke education. "One of my favorite aspects of the job is changing the way we think about teaching and learning, by bringing faculty and students together in ways that transcend the traditional classroom," he said. "Both groups learn from each other, plus it's fun."

Nowicki came to Duke in 1989 and was appointed dean of natural sciences in 2004. His research explores the structure, function and evolution of animal communication systems, using birdsong as a model system. He is the author of a high school introductory biology textbook.