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DeBono First Recipient of 2017 Karla Holloway Mentoring Award

Social psychologist and Winston-Salem State University professor Amber DeBono, Ph.D., has been selected as the recipient of the 2017 Karla Holloway Mentoring Award. This annual award, named for Duke University Professor Karla FC Holloway in honor of her substantive mentorship of women of color researchers during her academic career, recognizes a nominated individual for excellence in mentoring young women of color.

Holloway, the James B. Duke Professor of English, African and African American Studies and English, retired from Duke this year.

“It is an overwhelming and deeply gratifying honor to have an award in my name; but it becomes meaningful in the most wonderful way when I see this young scholar, Professor Amber DeBono, as the first recipient,” Holloway said. “Mentorship matters because our circles and cycles of scholarly sharing, professional attention, and critical support model and shape institutional cultures.”

DeBono, who nominators described as “a vital part of my student success,” “a mentor and role model,” and “an integral part of my support system,” is an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Winston-Salem State University, a historically black institution that is part of the University of North Carolina system.

Nominators testified to DeBono’s dedication to creating opportunities for undergraduate women of color, including matching students with graduate mentors; taking students to present at conferences; helping students publish in undergraduate journals; co-publishing with students; and supporting students’ research growth through research assistant positions in her lab.

“Amber has worked tirelessly to provide students with research opportunities and send them to graduate school,” a nominator wrote. “She gets as much of a thrill when her students publish as when she publishes her own.” A student commented, “She has opened so many doors for me, and even pushed me when I hesitated to take steps forward. […] I would have never thought that I would have done so much in my undergraduate years, but because of Dr. DeBono, I have an amazing CV and will be graduating knowing with confidence what my next steps are.”

Former students of DeBono wrote about her professional and personal support, and how she engaged with them as individuals. “She recognized each of her research assistants as individuals with unique backgrounds and narratives, instead of assuming we all shared a similar background,” a nominator wrote. “Dr. DeBono asked me about cultural differences and was open to talking about the obstacles I anticipated as a Black woman in academia.”
Another student wrote, “She always told us she was there if we needed anything, including homework help, finding cheaper textbooks or even if we just needed someone to listen. Dr. DeBono provided a level of support that I think all girls of color deserve from someone while in college.”

Students identified DeBono’s active mentorship as key in advancing their academic work:
“She pushed me to be the best student I could be and encouraged me to apply to both master and doctorate programs, submit my research for publication, and present at conferences.”

About the Karla Holloway Mentoring Award
The Karla Holloway Mentoring Award recognizes individuals who work with women and girls of color during the early stages of their development as scholars and researchers, recognizing the crucial importance of mentoring for identifying, cultivating, and supporting women of color scholars. The award annually honors a nominated individual from an affiliated institution of the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research.

About the Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research
The Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research is a national coalition of institutions in the United States committed to taking meaningful action to support and improve research addressing the lives of women and girls of color. Collaborative members make commitments to and invest resources in research at their own institution for a minimum of five years, and work collaboratively with other members to build new connections, share promising practices, and support the advancement of research addressing the lives of women and girls of color.

‘Keep Going’

Karla FC Holloway Retires from Duke University with a Public Conversation on Race and the Academy — and a Message to Those Following in her Footsteps
Retirement celebration for Karla Holloway held in Penn Pavilion on Thursday, December 8, 2016.

After years of visionary contributions to Duke University and the academy at large, Karla FC Holloway, retired this month with public announcement of both an annual mentorship award and a fellowship named in her honor.

The Dec. 8, event, “Word Work: Race and the Academy,” featured Holloway, the James B. Duke Professor of English, professor of law and African and African American studies, in curated conversation with former student and TV personality Melissa Harris-Perry, the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair and Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University.

Kerry Haynie, a professor of political science and co-director of the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity moderated the conversation along with Blair LM Kelley, an assistant dean and associate professor of history at North Carolina State University.

Members of the Duke administration, faculty, students, friends and family members gathered in Penn Pavilion for the intimate conversation that touched on higher education, leadership, writing and lessons Holloway learned during her distinguished career at the university.


“I’ve appreciated every opportunity I’ve had at Duke to be responsible. I’ve called it a position of authority,” said Holloway, noting that the word ‘leadership’, softens the act of leading. “To claim that language back, gives you the stature you need to be the decision-maker.”

She added: “With whatever grace there is in the universe, I’ve also been surrounded with people who will pick me up, give me books, say a good word, remind me that there’s another step,” Holloway said. “You just keep going. … I want all of you, especially in these times that we’ve left you, to keep going.”

At the end of the program, Harris-Perry who was mentored by Holloway as a graduate student at Duke, announced the creation of an endowment in Holloway’s name. The endowment will fund an annual award, the Karla Holloway Mentoring Award, for a nominated individual who has displayed excellence in mentoring young women and girls. It will be administered by the national Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color, currently being led by Harris-Perry and the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Read more about the award and eligibility requirements here.

As a founding member of DCORE, she led the university’s participation in the Collaborative, an initiative emanating from the White House Council on Women and Girls.

The event also served as a fundraiser for Holloway’s alma mater, Talladega College, an historically black college in Alabama.

Kristina Johnson, a former dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke, followed Harris-Perry’s announcement, announcing an endowment and fellowship in Holloway’s honor, the Professor Karla Holloway Scholarship.

Walvid King, an Associate Vice-President at Talladega and Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth also provided remarks.

In addition to serving as mentor to innumerable students, Holloway has held several highly influential barrier-breaking roles at the university. She was the first African-American Dean of the Humanities and Dean of Social Sciences, the first African American female chair of Duke’s Appointment, Promotion and Tenure (APT) committee, and an elected member of the Academic Council and its Executive Committee (ECAC). She was co-founder of the John Hope Franklin Center and the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI). As chair of the Department of African and African American Studies she guided it from a program to full department status.

She is also an affiliated faculty member with the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life and the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities

Holloway is the author of eight books, including the most recent “Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature.” Her research interests include African American cultural studies, biocultural studies, gender, ethics and law. She earned a Master’s of Legal Studies from Duke Law School in 2005. She serves on several boards including Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and the Princeton University Council on the Study of Women and Gender.

The event was sponsored by the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity (DCORE), the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Dean, Duke Law School, the Department of African and African American Studies, the Duke English Department and the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Thank you all. You offered generous sites for sanctuary, words that were wanted, gentle urges, quiet nudges, and certain spirits. You have assured that I have had a life in letters – a collection of hours finding their rhythm in words. All of which I would have wanted. Had I only known.


Mentoring Black Students in the Sciences

Here, Mark Anthony Neal interviews Dean Valerie Ashby of Duke’s Trinity College of Arts and Sciences about her career path from chemistry to becoming one of Duke’s senior level academic administrators.