Dean Bruce Kuniholm to step down

Bruce Kuniholm, the founding dean of Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, will step down at the end of this academic year, Provost Peter Lange announced Monday.

During his tenure, Kuniholm successfully led the transition of Sanford from an institute to a school and the doubling of the public policy faculty.

The university will conduct a national search for a new dean that will be led by Helen F. Ladd, the Edgar T. Thompson Distinguished Professor of Public Policy and professor of economics. Ladd is the president of the Association for Public Policy and Management, the principal national organization for scholars and schools of public policy. 

“Bruce has been an outstanding campus leader,” said Lange, the university’s chief academic officer. “Not only did he lead the complex process of transition with great skill, including raising all of the targeted resources despite the economic downturn, but he also worked with his faculty to place the new school at the hub of the university’s strategic priorities, with outstanding new faculty hires and extensive faculty and programmatic collaborations.

“We are deeply indebted to him for his vision as a Sanford and Duke leader and collaborator. We are fortunate that while he is stepping away from the dean’s role, he will not be lost to our community.”

Kuniholm has overseen Duke’s public policy programs since 2005, when he was named director of the Sanford Institute of Public Policy. He led the provost-appointed task force that recommended transforming the institute, founded in 1971, into Duke’s 10th school. That transition took place in 2009.

He also guided the effort to raise $40 million in endowment funds for the new school, started an annual fundraising program for the school, and negotiated the necessary organizational and fiscal restructuring.

“Bruce Kuniholm played a decisive role in driving the transformation of the Sanford Institute to a full-fledged school,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “We are deeply grateful for his dynamic leadership and his ability to connect Sanford’s teaching and scholarship with so many other parts of Duke. His vision has been imprinted on the history of this university.”

Among the new school’s key strategic goals was to increase the number of faculty to provide better teaching and mentoring to students. Under Kuniholm’s leadership, 29 scholars have joined the public policy faculty, adding expertise in the areas of energy and the environment, social policy, health policy, media policy, homeland security, global governance and international development. Three additional faculty searches are under way.

Other accomplishments include development of a Ph.D. program and new educational programs. These include the Global Semester Abroad in India and China, a partnership with Ho Chi Minh University in Vietnam, and a prospective Master of Management Studies program in China in partnership with Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. A Duke in D.C. public policy program is being developed and is expected to launch next year.

“At three significant points in the history of the school of public policy, Bruce led us most ably to the next level,” said Adam Abram, chairman of the Sanford School Board of Visitors. “As the founding dean, Bruce led the process that resulted in the creation of the school, the doubling of the faculty and the continual enhancement of the student experience at Sanford. He retires as dean having created a remarkable legacy that will benefit his successors, future faculty and students for generations to come.”

A professor of public policy studies and history at Duke since 1975, Kuniholm had a previous leadership stint at the institute, having served as director and department chair from 1989 to 1994. During that time he led planning and fundraising efforts for the construction and move to the Sanford Building.

From 1996 to 2001, he served as vice provost for academic and international affairs and director of the Center for International Studies. Kuniholm is a prize-winning historian who also won the Trinity College Distinguished Teaching Award in 1989.

The school is on solid financial footing, and 12 years at the helm “is long enough for anyone,” Kuniholm said. “Some of us have been here from the beginning and we believe it is time for a new generation of leaders who have joined our faculty and contributed to our growth to build on what has been done and develop an enhanced vision for the future.

“I have loved every minute of it, but I will be 70 next year and I would like to do a little more research and teaching -- which I have sorely missed -- before I retire,” Kuniholm said.