Duke’s Sanford school finally finds a dean

Jan. 30, 2013 @ 05:02 PM

The long, arduous search for a new dean of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy is finally over.

The university announced Wednesday it had found a new leader for the school — Kelly Brownell, a professor of psychology at Yale University and an authority on public policies dealing with obesity and nutrition.

“In Kelly Brownell we have a new dean ready to take the Sanford School to the next level after the superb leadership of Bruce Kuniholm,” Peter Lange, Duke’s provost, said.

“Kelly has an extraordinary record as a researcher while also being deeply committed to translating his findings into meaningful public policy to improve the lives of people. He understands the deeply interdisciplinary nature of that effort and recognizes how Sanford can be positioned to expand its impact.”

The selection of Brownell, who will assume his new post July 1, is the result of a search process that took nearly a year and a half.

An initial search committee, charged with finding a replacement for founding dean Kuniholm, who wanted to return to full-time teaching and research, proposed three candidates for the post last February.

But “after much deliberation … we do not think we have yet found the candidate who can fulfill the aspirations of the school’s faculty and our own,” Lange said at the time.

A new committee, with a new chair, was constituted and the search was extended, with the goal of submitting a new list of three candidates for the deanship by the end of the past fall semester.

“The committee wanted to find a dean who is an outstanding scholar, but also actively engaged in important policy debates,” said search committee chair Elizabeth Frankenberg, a member of the faculty and associate dean at the Sanford school.

“Kelly combines those things, and in addition brings tremendous energy and creativity, as well as rich experience with undergraduate and graduate education.”

At Yale, Brownell also serves as professor of epidemiology and public health and as director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. In 2006, TIME magazine named him among “the world’s 100 most influential people … whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world.”

Brownell has advised the White House, members of Congress, governors, world health and nutrition organizations and media leaders on issues of nutrition, obesity and public policy. He has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Psychological Association, the Graduate Mentoring Award from Yale, the James McKeen Cattell Award from the New York Academy of Sciences and the Distinguished Scientific Award for the Applications of Psychology from the American Psychological Association.

“Sanford is a world-class school in a world-class university,” Brownell said.

“The faculty and students work on many of the world's most pressing issues, and do so with ingenuity, commitment and passion. Sanford is also highly successful in its educational mission; there are strong programs, taught by committed faculty, at doctoral, masters and undergraduate levels.”