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Steelman Reappointed as Stanback Dean of Nicholas School

Toddi Steelman
Toddi Steelman has played a leading role in the development of the Duke Climate Commitment. Photo by Megan Mendenhall

Toddi Steelman, who has served as Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment since 2018, has been reappointed to a second five-year term through June 30, 2028, Provost Sally Kornbluth announced today.

Steelman’s reappointment follows the recommendation of a faculty review committee chaired by Pratt School Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Mark Borsuk.

During her initial term, Steelman oversaw the launch of two new majors to help advance climate, earth and environmental literacy among undergraduate students and secured philanthropic support for new faculty hiring. She led the school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to significant damage sustained at the Beaufort, NC, Marine Lab, from Hurricane Florence in 2018.

Steelman has also expanded the Nicholas School’s engagement with other schools and units within Duke, as well as with external partners and organizations. She has played a leading role in the planning and development of the Duke Climate Commitment, which unites the university’s education, research, operations, and public service missions to address the climate crisis.

“Toddi has been an outstanding leader for the Nicholas School, as well as an extraordinary convenor and connector of people across Duke’s campus and beyond,” said Provost Sally Kornbluth. “I look forward to our continued work together as we seek to address climate-related challenges through teaching, research, and purposeful partnership.

“I am grateful to all of the members of the Duke community who contributed input for this review process, as well as to Mark Borsuk and the review committee for their work.”  

Steelman has overseen changes to the school’s research and business management infrastructure to better support research activities, and has invested in efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion within the Nicholas School.

“Toddi has a strong vision for the future of the Nicholas School, including increasing opportunities for experiential and research-based learning for students, as well as new programming related to climate research to engage community members, alumni and other members of Duke’s global network,” Kornbluth said. “I am confident the school will thrive under Toddi’s continued leadership.”

A wildfire expert who works at the intersection of science, policy and decision making, Steelman is widely recognized for her expertise in environmental and natural resource policy. Her research agenda has focused on understanding community responses to wildfire, and how communities and agencies interact for more effective wildfire management on large, interjurisdictionally complex wildfires.

Prior to her appointment at Duke, Steelman served for five years as executive director and professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada.

Steelman earned her Ph.D. at Duke and is immediate past president of the International Association of Wildland Fire.