Valerie Sheares Ashby, a professor and chair of the chemistry department in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill, will be the next dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences at Duke University beginning July 1.
Ashby will oversee the university’s core academic units, which offer courses and degrees across the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. She succeeds Laurie Patton, who will be the new president of Middlebury.
“Valerie has been one of our stars since joining the College faculty in 2003, and she earned both her bachelor’s and doctorate at Carolina as well,” said Karen Gil, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She has brought outstanding leadership to the chemistry department, the College and to UNC. She has led many initiatives toward greater diversity in the College, particularly in STEM fields. We will miss her but know she will do wonderful things in her new position.”
Ashby joined the UNC faculty in 2003 after serving as a faculty member at Iowa State University since 1995. She was named Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of Chemistry in 2007, when she also began serving as the director of the UNC National Science Foundation Alliance for Graduate Education Professoriate and Research Education Support programs. In 2012, she became chair of the chemistry department. A native of North Carolina who grew up in Clayton, Ashby earned her bachelor of arts degree (1988) and Ph.D. (1994) in chemistry from UNC.
Ashby’s research is in the area of synthetic polymer chemistry with a focus on designing and synthesizing materials for biomedical applications such as X-ray contrast agents and drug delivery materials. She has numerous publications and holds eight patents. In 2010, Ashby was named a National Science Foundation American Competitiveness and Innovation Fellow and an honorary member of the Tau Sigma Honor Society. She has received multiple other honors from her peers, including the distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece (2012) and the UNC General Alumni Association Faculty Service Award (2013).
Ashby received the Carlyle Sitterson Freshman Teaching Award (2008), the UNC Student Undergraduate Teaching Award (2009) and the Johnston Teaching Award (2013). She previously received several teaching awards at Iowa State.
Ashby also has a passion for increasing diversity in higher education and creating and expanding pathways for underrepresented minority students to access educational opportunities that allow them to reach their full potential. She is a national consultant and adviser to National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health diversity programs, and has mentored numerous undergraduate and graduate students in varying disciplines. Since 2014, she has served as faculty director for the Initiative for Minority Excellence at the UNC Graduate School.