Four New Bass Chairs Named

These professors excel in both research and undergraduate teaching

Clockwise from upper left: Stern, Bennett, Mitchell, Baker
Clockwise from upper left: Stern, Bennett, Mitchell, Baker

Four Duke professors who excel in both research and undergraduate teaching have been chosen to join the ranks of Duke’s Bass Teaching Fellows:

"Being selected as a Bass Professor is among the most significant honors Duke can bestow on its best teacher-scholars," said Steve Nowicki, dean and vice provost for undergraduate education. "The growing legacy of the Bass Society demonstrates that world-class researchers can be world-class teachers as well. With the addition of our new fellows, we continue to build on that legacy."

The program was created in 1996 when Anne T. and Robert Bass gave $10 million as a matching gift to encourage Duke alumni, parents and friends to endow chaired positions for stellar scholar-teachers. Candidates are nominated by faculty and evaluated by a faculty committee. Bass professors hold the chairs for five-year terms and then become lifetime members of the Bass Society of Fellows, which now numbers 78.

The role of the society at Duke has evolved this year, said Andrew Janiak, the Creed C. Black Associate Professor of Philosophy, a Bass Society member and Bass Society faculty chairman.  The Bass Society, with support from Keith Whitfield, vice provost for academic affairs, is launching a new faculty mentoring initiative, based on a successful pilot phase this spring, Janiak said.

''We plan to expand the program in the fall so that it provides mentoring for any junior faculty member who seeks advice and guidance about teaching,'' Janiak said. ''We have also found that our teaching conversations have been very informative and helpful for senior members of the faculty. Duke faculty love to discuss pedagogical innovations.''

The newly appointed Bass Fellows are:

Lee Baker, the Mrs. Alexander Hehmeyer Professor of Cultural Anthropology, is a researcher of race whose two books, “From Savage to Negro: Anthropology and the Construction of Race, 1896-1954” and “Anthropology and the Racial Politics of Culture,”present a new perspective of the discipline of anthropology. The dean of academic affairs of Trinity College also makes time to mentors many Duke students.

Gary Bennett, Bishop-MacDermott Family Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, helped create the global health co-major.  His research focuses on social factors, cognitions and motivations that contribute to obesity.  He has twice in four years been recognized as one of the top 5 percent of instructors in Trinity for his energy, support and effective teaching skills.  

Robert Mitchell, the Marcello Lotti Professor of English, is known for the interdisciplinary nature of his research that has broadened and diversified the relationship between literature and the history of science. He directs the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of Science and Cultural Theory at Duke. He has developed a reputation for doing an excellent job of reaching out to students who tend to avoid humanities courses and successfully leading them through demanding material.  

Philip Stern, the Sally Dalton Robinson Associate Professor of History, has contributed greatly to the history of colonialism. Breaking from more traditional narratives, he has asked a series of fundamentally new questions about the intellectual and institutional construction of sovereignty of the British Empire in Asia. He is also known for involving and engaging others in original research. This year he led a group of undergraduate students in the creation of a Nasher exhibit of early colonial maps.

In addition to Janiak, executive faculty committee members include Anita Layton, a math professor and the associate Bass Society chairman; Kathy Nightingale, an engineering professor; Erika Weinthal, an environmental scientist; and Lee Willard, associate dean for academic affairs. 

For more information, visit the Bass Society website.