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Graduate School, Looney Recognized for Helping Underrepresented Students Succeed

The Graduate School has been named a 2015 recipient of the Equity Award from the American Historical Association (AHA) for its efforts in recruiting and supporting students from underrepresented groups.

The AHA is the largest U.S. professional organization devoted to the study and promotion of history and historical thinking. Its Equity Award recognizes individuals and institutions that have achieved excellence in recruiting and retaining underrepresented racial and ethnic groups into the historical profession.

“This award is a recognition of the progress we have made in building a more diverse and inclusive community within The Graduate School,” says Paula D. McClain, dean of the school and vice provost for graduate education. “Our work is not done, but we are honored to receive this accolade.”

The school was nominated by Raymond Gavins, a professor of history at Duke, and Monica H. Green, a former Duke history faculty member who is now at Arizona State University. Green took part in many recruitment efforts while at Duke, and Gavins was director of graduate studies for the history program from 1995 to 1998, during which time the program recruited and retained at least 12 black Duke Endowment Fellows who earned Ph.D.s.

Jacqueline Looney
Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney,
who arrived at Duke in the late 1980s,
received much praise in the award nomination
for her efforts in recruiting students from
underrepresented groups.

The nomination letter by Gavins and Green heaped praise on Jacqueline Looney, senior associate dean for graduate programs and associate vice provost for academic diversity. Looney arrived at Duke in the late 1980s, around the same time as Green, and has played a leading role in recruiting and supporting graduate students from underrepresented groups.

“I am truly humbled by the award and the nomination,” Looney says. “Everything we have been able to achieve has been due in no small part to the support from leaders at The Graduate School and the university, the buy-in from the faculty in our programs, and the hard work by our staff members.”

From 1993 to 2013, 36 students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups earned doctorates in history at Duke, including 28 African Americans. Those 36 graduates made up more than 18 percent of all Duke history Ph.D.s in that span. More than 90 percent of the African American graduates are tenured or in tenure-track positions at institutions such as Harvard, North Carolina State University, Rice, University of Michigan, and Williams College.

During the same period, Duke accounted for 3.5 percent of African Americans nationwide who earned Ph.D.s in history. In particular, from 1993 to 2003, more than 6 percent of the country’s newly minted African American Ph.D.s in history came from Duke, including 16 percent in 1993 and 13 percent in 2002.

“That success would not be possible without Dean Looney’s fearless and tireless commitment to diversity within our graduate programs,” McClain says. “The award and the nomination reaffirm what we have long known and what so many have found out through first-hand experience: Dean Looney is a tremendous mentor, advocate, and friend to our students.”

In their nomination, Green and Gavins lauded Looney’s work in creating a national model for minority recruitment and retention, as well as the close attention she pays to students from underrepresented groups outside of her official duties.

“Out of the limelight, her work is not documented by a long string of publications or emblazoned with the label “Advisor” on students’ dissertations,” Green and Gavins wrote. “Instead, Dr. Looney has been the ultimate facilitator of the best work and the best people by giving them the opportunities and the support they need.”