Paula D. McClain, who was appointed in 2012 as dean of The Graduate School and vice provost for graduate education, has been reappointed to another five-year term running through June 30, 2022, Provost Sally Kornbluth said today.
A professor of political science who is an internationally known scholar of racial and ethnic identity in American politics, McClain oversees the education and training of some 3,200 graduate students pursuing Ph.D. and master’s degrees. She also manages a school staff of nearly 50 employees in academic affairs, student affairs, admissions, and finance and administration.
“Dean McClain is a passionate advocate for graduate education and is dedicated to ensuring that our graduate students have an outstanding educational experience at Duke,” Kornbluth said. “She will be a critical partner in ensuring that the reimagining of graduate education envisioned in our new strategic plan is realized.”
In her first term, McClain has taken on initiatives to build stronger relationships with Graduate School alumni, including the creation of the school’s first Homecoming event. The school is marking its 90th anniversary this year.
McClain also has overseen efforts to increase fundraising for graduate education. In 2014, The Graduate School received a $7.5 million gift from The Duke Endowment—the largest in the school’s history—to provide increased and year-round financial support for Ph.D. students, particularly those pursuing degrees in traditionally underfunded areas like the humanities and social sciences.
McClain has also led the way on rethinking graduate education at Duke, an effort driven in some part by larger numbers of graduate students forging paths in non-academic careers. The school has created a robust professional development program for graduate students, and last month, the school appointed its first director of graduate student advising and engagement for the humanities, who will assist humanities graduate students in developing career paths along both academic and non-academic tracks.
During McClain’s tenure as dean, the school has also made progress in attracting and supporting minority candidates in fields in which they are historically underrepresented. In addition, she led a review of master’s degree programs, which has seen a 50 percent increase in enrollment over the past decade, to spur discussions over how to grow Duke master’s programs sustainably.
Prior to becoming Graduate School dean, McClain held several important university roles, including chair of the Academic Council from 2007-09 and chair of the Appointments, Promotions and Tenure Committee.
She earned her bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in political science from Howard University. She held academic positions at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Arizona State University and the University of Virginia before coming to Duke in 2000.
Her research has focused on racial minority group politics, particularly inter-minority political and social competition, as well as on urban politics and related issues.
McClain is also the immediate-past president of the Midwest Political Science Association, a past vice president of the American Political Science Association, a past president of the Southern Political Science Association and a past president of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. In addition, she is director of the Ralph Bunche Summer Institute, and served as co-director of the Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity and Gender in the Social Sciences (2004-2013). She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2014.