Sociologist Linda Burton Appointed Dean of Social Sciences

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New Dean of the Social Sciences Linda Burton

Linda M. Burton, James B. Duke Professor of Sociology, has been appointed dean of the Social Sciences Division within Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, effective July 1, 2014.

"As a James B. Duke Professor, Linda Burton brings an impressive scholarly record using ethnographic and demographic methods, and in administering multiple grants on a large-scale research project. She exemplifies Duke's commitment to interdisciplinarity through her integration of spatial, geographic, survey, and ethnographic methods," said Laurie Patton, dean of Arts & Sciences.

"Through her research focus on America's poorest urban, small town and rural families, she also exemplifies knowledge in service to society. Professor Burton is known for being relentlessly constructive in solving problems and in bringing different voices to the table."

As divisional dean, Burton plans to increase and enhance faculty research opportunities; explore ways to deepen and improve mentoring for graduate students and faculty at all levels; create opportunities for leadership training and continue to enhance diversity in departments.

She will take over from Dean Angie O'Rand, Professor of Sociology, who is completing a five-year term leading the social sciences division.

Burton came to Duke in 2006 from Penn State University where she was a full professor and directed a research center on family diversity and context.  She was named a James B. Duke Professor in 2007. She is presently the director of the undergraduate honors program in the Department of Sociology, and has served as the department's director of undergraduate studies.

Burton also has more than a decade of administrative experience from leading two National Institute of Mental Health consortiums. These programs aimed to foster collaborative interdisciplinary research among scholars nationally and to cultivate junior scientists through a national post-doctoral training program. In addition, she has a lengthy history of leading large-scale federally and foundation funded studies and at one time directed a team of more than 215 ethnographers and analysts as part of the Three-City Study of poverty, family processes and child development. 

These experiences, she said, taught her patience, civility, humility, and a deep commitment to collaborative problem solving that now characterize her approach to leadership. "My previous leadership roles provided me with the resolve and wisdom to make tough decisions and stand by them," Burton said. "They also gave me a sensitive listening ear and creative edge in navigating difficult situations as my orientation is towards finding solutions for improving situations rather than sustaining problematic ones."

Burton said she intends to conduct research during her term as dean and feels that the "scholar dean" role will give her valuable perspectives in continuing to recruit and retain stellar faculty and in cultivating faculty's programs of research.

Describing herself as an ethnographer who wants to influence local, state and national policy, Burton specializes in large-scale, longitudinal studies of poverty and intergenerational family dynamics in both rural and urban environments.  Her work has been nationally recognized most recently with the Inaugural Wiley Alexis Walker Award for Outstanding Research in Family Science, conferred by the National Council on Family Relations. Other notable awards include the National Institute of Mental Health's Family Research Consortium IV Legacy Award and the Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy Research presented by the American Family Therapy Academy.

Burton holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the University of Southern California, and a B.A. in gerontology. She is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and a member of the Sociological Research Association.

She currently serves on the editorial boards of the American Sociological Review, the Journal of Marriage and Family, and Sociology of Race and Ethnicity. She also has served on advisory boards and committees for the Institute of Medicine, the National Center for Marriage and Family Research, the Family Process Institute and the Council on Contemporary Families, among others.