When I joined Trinity College as an associate professor in 2009, I knew I would find a professional environment to support my research aspirations as well as my interest in engaging deeply with undergraduate and graduate students. However, I was delighted to also find an extraordinary community of colleagues from which I have forged strong bonds and developed lifelong friendships.
This has been a great place to do my work and a great place to work.
I have called Trinity home for three seasons of my professional life: as a doctoral student, as a faculty member, and as an academic leader. It will be a privilege to now serve you as dean. And while my “insider status” should allow me to get up to speed quickly, it would be foolish to imagine that one can know all that is necessary on the first day of a new role.
That said, I have confidence in these truths:
Our faculty is as richly talented, diverse, and committed as ever. Each day, across all disciplines, a staggering array of honors, fellowships, performances, talks, and grant awards showcases colleagues’ groundbreaking scholarship and extraordinary teaching. Whether the recognition is highly visible or more individually evident, our faculty are making deep and meaningful impacts on their respective fields, our students, and countless communities across the globe.
Trinity’s core mission is also supported by a talented team of staff who are indispensable partners in making our mission a reality. Often, their efforts go unheralded. As regional and remote work options grow, our staff have ample professional opportunities. The capable and committed individuals who choose to serve Trinity do so with an intentionality worth acknowledging.
Our undergraduate and graduate students engage with us in ways that are increasingly impressive and inspiring. And our community – in Trinity and with partners across Duke – is dedicated to supporting them more robustly. Imagining new ways of facilitating their intellectual journeys and fostering intentional living and learning environments are among the ways we will shape the next generation of scholars and leaders.
During the past few months, colleagues have occasionally expressed unease about the challenges facing higher education. Indeed, the headwinds are arguably as significant as they have been in recent memory. Yet I remain enthusiastic about Trinity’s ability to meet these challenges – and lead the way for others – as a consistently excellent scholarly community.
In an age of distraction, we teach and model deliberate reflection, depth of understanding, and critical reasoning. We combat polarization by revealing truths and studying people and cultures through the lens of their time, language, and art. We improve lives and facilitate discovery through innovation and iteration. With inequities and aggression on full display, we critically examine, contextualize, and offer evidence to drive social progress. When technologies can reasonably mimic us, what better time to explore our humanity and reignite in our students a spirit of wonder – the seed from which great ideas grow.
It is not by introducing a bevy of new programs that we enhance our efforts in these and other areas. Instead, we must focus on our foundations and extoll our core mission of excellence in scholarship, education, and service.
During the transition, I am taking care to learn Trinity as a newcomer might. I plan to spend the next few months, as I have the past few, engaging with as many colleagues as possible to learn more about our work, the challenges we face, and our shared aspirations. When you see me out and about in your departments, grabbing coffee or lunch, or attending Arts & Sciences Council, please do say hello.
I look forward to working with you to enhance the strengths of our shared scholarly community.
Gary G. Bennett
Dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences
Office of the Dean