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Career Center Offers Fireside Chats

February 28, 2011

The Career Center launched “Fireside Chats” in February, a series of intimate conversations between Duke administrators and Ph.D. students and postdocs, designed to acquaint them with higher academic leadership and administrative career options. President Richard Brodhead initiated the series with a candid conversation about his own career with a robust group of 25 students. He spoke about his personal journey as a Ph.D. student at Yale University where he went on to serve as English professor, department chair, and dean before becoming Duke’s ninth president in 2004.

Provost Peter Lange spoke just as ingenuously to Ph.D. and postdocs when he elaborated on the varied responsibilities of his position during the second Fireside Chat held at the Career Center at Smith Warehouse. Lange joked that while the job of provost is often viewed as a natural pathway to becoming a president, he currently has the distinction of being the second longest serving provost in the Provost Association.

In addition to these featured speakers’ sharing information about their education, career path, and work-life balance, the forum provided an opportunity for the audience to ask broad and varied questions, which were answered in depth and with candor. Discussions focused on the benefits and challenges of leadership in higher education, future interdisciplinary plans, and the importance and value of obtaining academic tenure prior to seeking a position in university administration.

Three of seven campus leaders identified as future speakers are already scheduled for upcoming Fireside Chats. The next event is scheduled for March 17, featuring Dr. Tallman Trask, Executive Vice President -Treasurer. Other scheduled chats include Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney, Dean of the Graduate School Jo Rae Wright, and Vice President of the Office of Student Affairs Larry Moneta. Based on the positive feedback from the participants attending these chats, this forum is serving well as a means to learn about viable career options and pathways. Plans are underway to expand the series to include a wider variety of campus leaders as featured speakers, some of which have been proposed by graduate students who have been in attendance. Graduate student feedback regarding the “chats” has been overwhelmingly positive, with one student remarking that the candid nature of the discussion had helped to restore his confidence in his chosen career path.

–Contributed by Dr. Patricia Callaway, Assistant Director of Graduate Services, Duke University Career Center