Dean Paula D. McClain poses with a group after she receives a plaque commemorating the establishment of a fellowship in her name.
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The Graduate School

Dean McClain Honored with Fellowship in Her Name

Friends and colleagues of Paula D. McClain have established an endowed fellowship to honor her decade-long service as dean of The Graduate School, which will conclude at the end of her term this year.

The fellowship was unveiled as a surprise tribute to McClain during the Graduate School Board of Visitors meeting on March 4. It was created in recognition of McClain’s efforts to strengthen graduate student financial support (particularly summer Ph.D. funding) and professional development; her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and her service as the first Black dean of a school at Duke.

“Paula has made tremendous strides in improving the graduate student experience,” said Graduate School Board of Visitors Chair Ronald Temple, who helped unveil the surprise. “This fellowship is a fitting tribute to the leadership, passion, and empathy she has demonstrated in her time as dean of The Graduate School. It has been a pleasure to work with her, learn from her, and be inspired by her.”

During her tenure as dean, McClain oversaw significant efforts to increase financial resources for graduate students and boost donor support for graduate education. The Graduate School’s annual student fellowship support has increased by 40 percent on her watch, and summer research fellowships have tripled. Beginning in fall 2022, all Ph.D. students in their first five years will receive full 12-month stipends.

The fellowship announcement capped a day of happy surprises for McClain. Earlier during the board meeting, she received a surprise visit from five of her former Ph.D. students, who gathered to pay tribute to her mentorship. She also received congratulatory video messages from past chairs of the board and an unannounced visit from former chairs Susan Wood and Peter Muoio.

“This is such an overwhelming tribute and one that I could never have dreamed of,” said McClain, who will be returning to her role as a Duke faculty member after her time as dean. “I am deeply humbled by this honor and the knowledge that this fellowship will continue to support our students long after my time as dean and my time at Duke.”