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Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney to Retire after 30 Years at Duke

Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney, who helped shape numerous aspects of the Duke graduate student experience over a 30-year career at The Graduate School, will retire at the end of June.

Looney first joined Duke and The Graduate School in 1987 as assistant dean for graduate recruitment. She left in 1994 to work at The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, but was recruited back to The Graduate School in 1999 to create the Office of Graduate Student Affairs, which she has led since then. She is currently senior associate dean for graduate programs in The Graduate School and associate vice provost for academic diversity.

Over her three decades at Duke, Looney has developed many resources and programs to support graduate students, served as a strong advocate for their needs, and made notable contributions to the recruitment, support, and retention of graduate students from historically underrepresented groups.

“The opportunity to shape my career in graduate education at Duke is a privilege I have never taken for granted,” Looney said. “I have served with five deans, four provosts, and four presidents who have been instrumental in supporting The Graduate School’s efforts to provide students with the resources they need to be successful. I have cultivated lasting relationships with students from all walks of life. I have benefited from the talent of faculty, staff, and alumni. While there is still much work to do in supporting the ever-changing needs of our students in their academic and professional journeys, I am honored to have played a small part in laying the groundwork for it.”

During her first stint at Duke—from 1987 to 1994—Looney helped the history department recruit and retain more than a dozen Black Duke Endowment Fellows who went on to earn their Ph.D.s. That effort earned her an Equity Award from the American Historical Association in 2015.

Later, through her work in the Office of Graduate Student Affairs, she led the establishment of many current components of the Duke graduate student experience, such as the Ph.D. hooding ceremony, mentoring workshops, the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring, The Graduate School’s robust professional development offerings, and financial resources like the childcare subsidy and hardship assistance grants.

Looney with Sloan Scholars
Jacqueline Looney with Sloan Scholars Celine Robinson (left) and Natalie Rozman (right). 

In 2017, Looney spearheaded a successful effort to secure a $1 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to establish the Duke University Center of Exemplary Mentoring (Duke UCEM), which works to recruit and support Ph.D. students from underrepresented minorities in 10 programs in the physical sciences and engineering. With Looney as its director, the Duke UCEM has recruited 40 Sloan Scholars over four years, steadily expanded the reach of its work, and successfully renewed the Sloan Foundation’s grant support.

In 2014, Looney received a Meritorious Presidential Award, which recognizes employees who have made distinctive contributions to Duke. In 2020, she received the Julian Abele Award for Graduate Mentor of the Year from Duke’s Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.

“Dean Looney has left an indelible mark on The Graduate School and the Duke community,” Graduate School Dean Paula D. McClain said. “She has made significant contributions in improving the Duke graduate student experience, and we will miss her incredible leadership, knowledge, and passion.”