Gary G. Bennett, a behavioral scientist and leader in undergraduate education at Duke, has been appointed dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, Provost Sally Kornbluth announced Tuesday.
Bennett, who serves as Duke’s vice provost for undergraduate education, will begin his term Feb. 1, 2023. He succeeds Valerie Sheares Ashby, who stepped down this summer to become president of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Mohamed Noor, who will continue to serve as interim dean until Bennett’s term begins.
“Gary is an extraordinary educator, scholar and administrator, and I am confident he will be an outstanding dean of Trinity College,” said Kornbluth. “He is a standard bearer for excellence in teaching and scholarship who is deeply committed to supporting student and faculty success and building a healthier and more inclusive campus community at Duke.”
Bennett’s appointment follows a nationwide search chaired by English professor Charlotte Sussman and conducted by a committee of Duke faculty and representatives from the undergraduate and graduate student bodies, and the Trinity College Board of Visitors.
“I am grateful to the search committee for their dedicated work throughout this process, as well as to Charlotte Sussman for her excellent leadership of the search,” Kornbluth said.
As vice provost, Bennett provides strategic vision and leadership for many facets of Duke’s undergraduate education experience. He directs the Office of Undergraduate Education, which encompasses 15 units including academic advising, merit scholar programs, financial aid, study abroad, and co-curricular programs like Spring Breakthrough and Duke Immerse that enrich the undergraduate academic experience.
Under Bennett’s leadership, Duke has introduced a number of advancements to make the undergraduate experience more enriching and equitable for all students, including the DukeLIFE program to support first-generation and low-income students, and the Academic Guides, residentially based professionals who provide holistic academic coaching and wellness support to undergraduates.
In collaboration with Vice Provost/Vice President Mary Pat McMahon and colleagues in Duke Student Affairs, Bennett and his team have led the development and implementation of QuadEx, Duke’s inclusive living and learning model that integrates undergraduates’ social, residential and intellectual experiences. QuadEx initiatives like the Faculty Fellows and Sophomore Spark have provided greater opportunity for students to engage with faculty outside the classroom as they explore intellectual interests and wrestle with questions of purpose.
“I have spent the better part of my career here at Duke,” Bennett said. “The Trinity College community has helped me grow as a scholar, as an instructor and as an academic leader. It is my home.
“Our primary goal should be enhancing the college’s strength as a nationally eminent scholarly community,” Bennett said. “I will champion our faculty's efforts to break ground, illuminate truths and transform students’ lives.”
Bennett led the creation of Duke’s undergraduate major in global health and has served on committees charged with examining the undergraduate curriculum and developing the university's strategic plan. He has played an active role in faculty governance at Duke, serving terms on the Arts & Sciences Council, Academic Council and Academic Priorities Committee, and he has advised more than a dozen Ph.D. students.
“Gary’s extraordinarily thorough knowledge of Duke helped him stand out from an extremely impressive slate of candidates,” Sussman said. “More importantly, however, his deep commitment to all parts of the Trinity community – from staff, to students, to faculty, to the institution as a whole – came through clearly in the interview process. He understands the challenges we face, but he also has a strong belief in Duke’s future, and our capacity for significant achievement and growth.”
“I plan to continue Trinity’s efforts to recruit and retain a diverse community of inspiring minds, support the faculty’s efforts to reimagine the undergraduate curriculum, and prepare our graduate students for a world of new opportunities,” said Bennett.
As a professor of psychology and neuroscience, global health, and medicine, Bennett leads a research program that designs, tests and disseminates digital obesity treatments. He has particular interest in integrating digital health treatments into primary care settings that serve medically vulnerable patients. He has authored more than 175 scientific papers and his research has been continuously supported by more than $20 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.
"Gary is a creative, collaborative and strategic leader who believes deeply in Trinity’s mission,” said Kornbluth. “I have valued his partnership and counsel throughout his service as vice provost for undergraduate education, and I am confident of Trinity’s continued success under Gary’s leadership.”
Bennett earned his Ph.D. and A.M. in clinical health psychology from Duke, and received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Morehouse College. He worked as a faculty member in the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute prior to joining Duke in 2009.
Nationally, Bennett has served as president of the Society of Behavioral Medicine, the largest organization of behavioral change scientists in the U.S. He is a fellow of the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and an elected member of the Behavioral Medicine Research Council.
Kornbluth noted that next steps for the vice provost position that Bennett will vacate are forthcoming.