Dean’s Update: Cassar appointed associate dean, Murray promoted, Stapleton’s new study and more

February 21, 2019
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2.21.19

I am just back from the Marine Lab where I was able to meet with students to talk about linguistic and cultural diversity issues.  This meeting complemented one I had last week with students in Durham.  Here is what I learned from all of you:

  • We shouldn’t regulate when and where we speak English or our home languages. 
  • Teaching, learning and research is our overriding goal. Duke has an English language requirement so everyone has to meet that threshold. We don’t need an additional requirement.
  • We know English is the language of the classroom and work.
  • We are adults and can make decisions about where and when it is appropriate to use English or our home languages. Use good manners.  
  • Sometimes home languages help us achieve our research and teaching goals better than using English.  For instance, if there is a group of Spanish speakers working together, it may be better for them to speak Spanish to get their work done because they can express a variety of concepts better to each other in Spanish. This might create a better end product, which ultimately is expressed in English. Or, if a Chinese TA wanted to speak Chinese with a Chinese student, they might work more effectively in their home language.  This accomplishes the broader goal we aim to achieve as an educational institution. 
  • It is fine for a PI to establish a language rule in a lab, but the expectations should be very clear from the outset.
  • While the final research and class products need to be in English, the process doesn’t necessarily need to be in English as long as it is inclusive given the other people participating.
  • There is a distinction between speaking home languages in community spaces versus work spaces; the ability to connect with other students from your home country is important so you can build a sense of community while out of the country.
  • Some English speakers take advantage of practicing Spanish and Chinese with other students. This is a benefit of being at a school with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • We need to be generous with people who make cultural mistakes but also gently correct them.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask people to stop talking in their language or switch to English if you feel excluded or if they don’t notice you trying to engage in a conversation.
  • Students want instructors/mentors/advisors to speak up about incidents when they happen around campus.   

My intention is to continue to spark conversation around these issues so we can create the kind of community we want. 

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CASSAR APPOINTED ASSOCIATE DEAN, PROMOTED TO PROFESSOR

Nicolas Cassar has been appointed the Nicholas School’s Senior Associate Dean for Research and Doctoral Programs, effective March 1. This new position represents the research interests for the school and supports the dean as the chief advisor on research and doctoral student related matters. Nicolas was also promoted to full professor last week. Please join me in offering Nicolas the heartiest congratulations for both of these well-deserved accomplishments.

MURRAY PROMOTED TO ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR WITH TENURE

Duke’s Faculty Appointments, Promotion & Tenure Committee recommended, and Provost Sally Kornbluth has agreed, that Grant Murray be promoted to associate professor with tenure in the Nicholas School. We are lucky to have Grant, and I for one very much look forward to seeing how the next stage of his already promising career evolves.

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VINYL FLOORING, FLAME-RETARDANT FOAM EXPOSE CHILDREN TO SVOCS

A new study led by Heather Stapleton found that children living in homes with all vinyl flooring or flame-retardant chemicals in the sofa have significantly higher concentrations of potentially harmful semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs) in their blood or urine than children from homes where these materials are not present. The researchers presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

STUDY YIELDS NEW CLUES TO PREDICT TIPPING POINT FOR MARSH SURVIVAL

A peer-reviewed study of hundreds of U.S. estuaries has yielded new clues that could help stem coastal wetland losses by giving scientists a broader understanding of which wetlands are most at risk, and why. This research was conducted by Anna Braswell PhD’17 as part of her dissertation. Her advisor, Jim Heffernan, served as co-author. Read more>

ATTACKS ON INFRASTRUCTURE IN GAZA AND WEST BANK EXACT HUMAN COST

A new study led by Erika Weinthal shows that Israel’s targeting of agricultural, water and energy infrastructures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has had dire impacts on human welfare and livelihoods in both locations. The report is based on a database that identifies 982 incidents between 2006 and 2017 in which Israeli forces, agencies or settlers damaged, destroyed, disabled or restricted access to these types of infrastructure. Read more>

NEW STUDY FINDS PRENATAL EXPOSURE TO FOREST FIRES STUNTS GROWTH

Forest fires are more harmful than previously imagined, causing stunted growth in children who were exposed to smoke while in the womb, according to a new paper co-authored by Subhrendu Pattanayak that was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Prenatal exposure to haze from forest fires led to a statistically significant 1.3 inches decrease in expected height at age 17. Read more>

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Q&A ON RAISING AWARENESS OF BLACK ENVIRONMENTALISTS

In honor of Black History Month, the Nicholas School recently published a Q&A with faculty members David Gill and Nicolette Cagle as well as Kyle Cornish MEM’20 and Adrienne Harris MEM’05 on the need to raise awareness of black environmentalists. They also discussed how black communities in the U.S. are disproportionately affected by environmental issues. Sean Rowe conceived and carried out the project.

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BLC TRIVIA NIGHT: BLACK HISTORY EDITION TO BE HELD FEB. 21

The Nicholas School’s Black & Latino Club (BLC) will host black history trivia night at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 in the Grainger Hall second-floor gallery. Snacks and beverages will be provided. More info>

 

 

 

PANEL TO SHARE EXPERIENCES WITH DIVERSITY & INCLUSION IN WORKPLACE

The Showcasing Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace Panel and Networking Session will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27, in LSRC A158. Guest panelists sharing their experiences are Chyi-Lyi (Kathleen) Liang, professor at N.C. A&T University and co-director of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, Edna Rodriguez, executive director at Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, and Victoria Chetty, diversity and equity director at Conservation Trust for North Carolina.

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Congratulations to the Nicholas School's D&I Actionators for being recognized with @DukeU's highest honor for equity, diversity and inclusion work.

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Students in @dukemarinelab’s Urban Tropical Ecology class are exploring Singapore. They will spend three weeks in Singapore and Malaysia studying human ecology, tropical diversity, resource management and more. #WeAreDukeEnvironment
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#WeAreDukeEnvironment

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