Welcome to the new year at Graduate Liberal Studies! I am so pleased to have the opportunity to join this vibrant community as your new director.* It is a pleasure to follow Dr. Donna Zapf, who over her tenure served so many students; nurtured important relationships with faculty, staff, and alumni; and always kept the program on sound and respected footing. And it has been a joy to join Dr. Kent Wicker, Lisa Robinson Bailey, and Dink Suddaby here at the adorable GLS House, where they have done everything possible to make me feel at home.
Last week I attended our new student welcome luncheon. As I listened to everyone introduce themselves, I was struck by what they said about the things that attracted them to the program:
- GLS as a space to explore “what comes next” in life when you don’t know the path
- GLS as a place to combine interests that don’t always get put together
- GLS as a place to grow and think with a diverse group of other learners
- GLS as a “bridge” between several phases of learning and professional development
- GLS as a place that is friendly to different life circumstances
- GLS as a place for people comfortable with charting their own professional and intellectual courses.
I realized that I was drawn to GLS for many similar reasons. As I sought a new professional position, this was just the kind of place I had hoped might exist: one where a flexible-minded and inquisitive history Ph.D./ higher education professional / public historian / teacher / writer / scholar / digital humanist might be able to bring her whole, authentic self to the work at hand; one where seeing (and seeking) connections rather than emphasizing divisions would be welcomed; one where someone who has not followed the “usual” path might be embraced. Like many of you, I may not have known that liberal studies was what I sought. But when I got here, I knew it felt right.
Only a week into the job, I already see that Duke GLS has much to celebrate at this, its 35th birthday. In the coming weeks and months, we will be having information sessions to talk with prospective students about the program, exploring improved ways of communicating with all of our constituencies, and planning our curriculum for the 2020-21 academic year. And we will be working with all of our new and continuing students to assure that they (you!) are having the enriching and fulfilling learning experiences you sought.
In everything I do, I will aim to build on GLS’s many strengths and deep well of campus and public goodwill while thinking creatively about how we can imagine the program for its next 35 years. I invite all of you to send me your own thoughts, ideas, and suggestions, and to drop in at the GLS House at any time to visit. I look forward to building our bright future together.
*Dr. Anne Whisnant joined GLS as director at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year.