Blue Devil of the Week: Helping Faculty Find Footing

Marnie Rhoads provides support necessary for Duke’s top minds to excel

Marnie Rhoads helps make sure Duke faculty is supported and celebrated.
Marnie Rhoads helps make sure Duke faculty is supported and celebrated. Photo by Stephen Schramm.

Name: Marnie Rhoads

Title: Director of faculty research, mentoring and recognition.

Years at Duke: 10

What she does: Earning a spot on Duke’s faculty isn’t easy. And once you’ve got one, the challenges don’t end. Helping faculty members navigate those challenges is Marnie Rhoads’ job.

From professional development opportunities to helping host lectures and events, Rhoads provides faculty members with what they need to thrive.

“On the very basic level, my entire job is to support faculty,” Rhoads said.

For instance, Rhoads plans, develops and organizes the direct delivery of research development and mentoring activities in support of faculty at all career levels.

“Watching faculty and understanding some of the things they struggle with in their first faculty appointment or over the course of their career here at Duke gives me a really good perspective on the kinds of professional development activities and programs we should focus on ,” Rhoads said.

What I love about Duke: “I think everybody from the students, the staff, and the faculty perform at such a high level, you can’t help but become better at what you do. You have to raise your game because they raise the bar. I think for me it’s so inspirational. I get a lot of energy from talking to people. You just can’t relax and watch people do wonderful things around you without joining in.”

A memorable day at work: Rhoads said her most memorable day at Duke came when she got her current position in 2015. She recalls being excited about the fact that, after working eight years as assistant dean for faculty affairs for Pratt school of engineering, her new job would continue to allow her to work with faculty. Among her favorite parts of the job is putting together events honoring faculty members who’ve won major career awards.

“Organizing those kinds of  celebratory events, where faculty get to see that all of their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed, that people at the highest levels understand and appreciate their efforts, those are my best days,” Rhoads said.

 Meaningful object: Hanging on Rhoads’ office wall is the President’s Meritorious Public Service Award she received while working at the Bush School for Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. The award was presented by former President George H.W. Bush.

“I think about that a lot because the president spent a few minutes with me personally to talk about the meaning of public service and leadership and how, when you do things in service for others, you ultimately benefit as well,” Rhoads said.

 First ever job: As a teenager in California, Rhoads taught gymnastics to pre-schoolers in a summer program. She said she remembers teaching the kids the basics while also trying to corral their youthful energy.

“It was just a riot, I loved it,” Rhoads said. “The great thing is, you don’t have fear as a kid.”

Best advice ever received: Rhoads worked with retired Lieutenant General Richard Chilcoat at the Bush School for Government and Public Service. She said Chilcoat often had useful sayings and advice. One that she took to heart was: “Find a way to make yourself indispensable.”

“I think I’ve always kept that in mind, it’s so true,” Rhoads said. “I’ve always been that person that was willing to do jobs other people didn’t want to do because that’s what a boss needs.”

Something that most people don’t know about Rhoads: Her father’s parents hail from Mexico and her mother’s family is Native American.

“I have a very diverse background that people don’t know about just by looking at me,” Rhoads said.