Blue Devil of the Week: Biology’s Spreadsheet Superstar

Anne Lacey connects students with financial support and organizes volunteering for the graduate program

Anne Lacey helps Duke Biology graduate students find teaching assistantships or fellowships. Photo by Jonathan Black.
Anne Lacey helps Duke Biology graduate students find teaching assistantships or fellowships. Photo by Jonathan Black.

Name: Anne Lacey

Title: Administrative Coordinator for Graduate Studies, Biology Department

Years at Duke: 44

What she does at Duke: Lacey is the spreadsheet and budget mastermind for Duke Biology’s Graduate Program. 

Every fall, Lacey reaches out to 100 or so students in Biology’s graduate program to see if they need teaching assistantships or fellowships and inform them of openings for the upcoming academic year. 

Throughout the year, she answers questions from prospective students about everything from housing to academic planning. She sends reminders to current students asking them to let her know if they need financial support. 

Lacey keeps spreadsheets to track responses from current and prospective students. 

“There’s a lot of paperwork involved with my job,” she said. “That’s why I have a big desk, huge filing cabinet and two computer monitors. I like to keep everything within arm’s reach, which comes in handy during budget season.”

Lacey works closely with Kathleen Pryer, director of Graduate Studies, to allocate the program’s $1.2 million budget. They examine Lacey’s spreadsheets closely each October to determine how many students need financial support the next academic year and how many new students the program will admit.

“One positive about working in the same place for so long is I am pretty good at estimating how our budget will be used,” Lacey said. 

What she loves about Duke: Lacey loves the generosity of her department. 

She organizes clothing drives for Durham Public Schools children and food/school supply drives for the Durham Technical Community College food pantry. The biggest event of the year is The Triangle Nonprofit and Volunteer Leadership Center’s “Share Your Christmas Program.” 

The program provides gifts to Durham residents referred by the Durham County Department of Social Services. Biology staff, faculty and students buy and wrap presents and place them in Lacey’s office for collection. In 2018, the department raised $2,300 in donations.

Durham Social Services recognized Lacey in 2018 as the “Share Your Christmas Key Volunteer.”

“I’m motivated by my coworkers and students who constantly answer the call to help those in need,” Lacey said. “Duke is populated by honest, hardworking people.” 

Anne Lacey, second from left, received the Share Your Christmas Key Volunteer award in 2018 from Durham Social Services. Photo courtesy of Anne Lacey.Memorable day at work: Lacey received the “Pillars of Excellence Award” from Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences in 2018.

The award is given annually to “non-teaching staff making significant contributions to the excellence of the school through their commitment to service, initiative, outstanding leadership, increased efficiency, enthusiasm, collaboration, mentoring, and diversity.”

“That was astonishing,” Lacey said. “It’s special to know people are thinking of me. It’s good to know that when I’m working late at night, somebody is appreciating it.”

Meaningful item in her office: A picture of Lacey’s face photoshopped on a poster of “The Godfather” is taped to her wall. A student made the poster as a thank you to Lacey after he graduated. 

“The student said ‘Anne is like the mafia, only funnier. She gets things done,’” Lacey said. 

First ever job: Lacey tutored children in reading and math the summer before college while living in Montgomery, Ala.  

“Little did I know I would be working with students for the rest of my life,” she said. “Maybe that was a sign for my future.” 

Advice she often gives: During orientation for the Biology Graduate Program every year, Lacey tells students, “you are one another’s keeper.” 

“I want them to remember to be kind to each other,” she said. “I want our students to be good scientists but even better human beings.” 

Something most people don’t know about her: Lacey’s favorite class in college was fencing.

“I’m considering taking it up again,” she said. 

Is there a colleague at Duke who has an intriguing job or goes above and beyond to make a difference? Nominate that person for Blue Devil of the Week.