By Hanna Grimm
Duke Graduate School Communications Intern
Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney has received a 2020 Julian Abele Award for Graduate Mentor of the Year from the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture.
The annual Abele Awards honor individuals for their excellence in scholarship and service to the university and to the community. The Graduate Mentor award recognizes those who have gone above and beyond in providing support or mentoring to Black graduate or professional students individually or collectively via their organizations at Duke.
“I am truly humbled by being named one of the 2020 Julian Abele Graduate Mentor honorees,” Looney said. “I consider mentoring to be the most essential work I do in the service of the Duke community—what a great experience to be at a great university and given the awesome opportunity to help influence, guide, and shape those who will lead the next generation.”
Looney is involved in mentoring programs across the university and pays particular attention to supporting graduate student mental health. She has created many programs to bring together students and connect them to the resources they need to succeed.
One such program is Sisters in STEM, a group that Looney created to support female graduate students, focusing on African American women.
Rossie Clark-Cotton, a Ph.D. student in cell biology and member of Sisters in STEM, said the group provides a larger network to share accomplishments—successful prelims, fellowships, papers, defenses—and creates a community to celebrate those successes.
“We also trade coping strategies for managing the failure, the isolation, the uncertainty, and the self-doubt that often accompany graduate school,” Clark-Cotton said. “Of course, students from all backgrounds share these struggles, but for us, there are often issues of gender and race and class layered on top of the typical graduate student concerns.”
On Looney’s suggestion, the group meets for lunch once a month at The Graduate School.
“There are lots of us here at Duke, but in our individual programs, our numbers are often very small,” Clark-Cotton said. “This can be quite isolating, and it can take an emotional toll. These lunches help us crowdsource strategies to manage these issues—so that we can thrive as human beings and as scholars.”
The Abele Awards are named for Julian Abele, the African American architect who designed Duke’s West Campus.
“On the dedication of the center of Duke’s Campus as the Julian Abele Quad in October 2016, his son, Julian Abele Jr., said, ‘I consider Duke University to be my father’s finest work.’ To be named an Abele honoree for mentoring is a high, high honor indeed, and for this recognition, I am truly grateful,” Looney said.
Several graduate students and graduate student groups also received Abele Awards this year. The Bouchet Society and the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association received the Curt Blackmon Graduate Organization of the Year honor. Four Graduate School students were recognized for their leadership and civic activities on campus or in the Durham community: Gwenaëlle Thomas, Ph.D. candidate in Neurobiology; Dionna Gamble, Ph.D. candidate in Molecular genetics and microbiology; Jewell Scott, Ph.D. candidate in Nursing; and Zaire McPhearson, candidate for the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental & Documentary Arts.