Essential to a great university is a faculty of exceptional quality. Duke University's international reputation for excellence rests on the scholarship of gifted, dedicated scholars and educators. From this talented professorate, Graduate Liberal Studies attracts the best. A seasoned complement of graduate faculty members from throughout the university are affiliated with GLS, teach frequently in the program and help develop its curriculum and influence its pedagogy. Since the inception of the program, approximately a hundred faculty members from thirty departments have developed and taught LS graduate courses or directed the scholarship of individual students. Graduate faculty members also serve on the GLS Advisory Committee, participating in the academic governance of the program.

Duke faculty members maintain a tradition of personal attention to students and a commitment to research. As a result, GLS students receive the benefits of small, personalized seminars taught by leading scholars.

Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Jonathan Shaw is a Professor in the Department of Biology. He received his Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of Michigan. Dr. Shaw's research is on the systematics, population genetics, and evolution of bryophytes (mosses). Some of his research interests have included the taxonomy and classification of particular groups of mosses, developmental anatomy, and genetic relationships among populations of very rare species. A current focus in the lab is the evolution of peatmosses (Sphagnum) and Dr. Shaw's field work tends to be in polar and high altitude environments. He has published some 200 scientific papers and has edited two books, one on the evolution of tolerance in plants to toxic metals in the environment, and one on the biology of bryophytes. Dr. Shaw taught for eight years at a liberal arts college (Ithaca College) before coming to Duke in 1996.


Susan Thorne, Associate Professor of History, teaches courses on the social history of Britain and the British Empire, and on the history of European expansion more generally. She is currently working on Charles Dickens’ influence on Anglo American “ways of seeing” the children of the urban poor.  The Dickensian Affect:  Reckonings with Reform in Early Victorian Southwark (in progress) juxtaposes Dickens’s representation of criminal poverty and urban childhood in his most popular novel, Oliver Twist (1837-8) to archival accounts generated by the poor law’s reform during the 1830s and hungry ‘40s. 


Edward Tiryakian, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, has taught many courses in GLS, from “Altruism and Philanthropy” to “The Sociology of Disasters.”  Past president of two national organizations and past director of International Studies at Duke, he is widely traveled and published in sociological theory, sociology of religion, sociology of development.

Graduate Liberal Studies

Kent Wicker's academic interests include 1) issues of class, gender and region in American and post-colonial literatures; 2) narrative theory and the historical development of the novel; and 3) literary representation, realism, satire and fantasy.  He is also interested in embodiment, religious and intellectual history, and the history of everyday life.   With Donna Zapf, he created the GLS Core Course in interdisciplinary studies and now serves as assistant director of the GLS program.  He holds a BS in International Relations from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service and a PhD in English from Duke.