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She also joins the biochemistry and biophysics department as professor. Both appointments are effective Sept. 3, 2019.

Suzanne Barbour stands outside in front of a tree
Suzanne Barbour

Suzanne Barbour, who most recently served as dean of the University of Georgia Graduate School and has received 20 awards for teaching excellence, is the next dean of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School. She also will join the School of Medicine’s biochemistry and biophysics department as professor. Her appointments are effective Sept. 3, 2019.

Barbour succeeds Steve Matson, who joined The Graduate School as dean in 2008. Matson, a professor of biology, is returning to his faculty appointment in the College of Arts & Sciences’ biology department.

In announcing Barbour’s selection as dean, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Robert Blouin thanked Matson for his outstanding leadership and service and thanked the search committee, chaired by School of Social Work Dean Gary Bowen, for conducting a thorough nationwide search process.

“A strong Graduate School is a vital part of Carolina’s tradition of excellence in research, undergraduate teaching and community-engaged scholarship. I am confident that Suzanne will continue this trajectory of excellence,” he said.

Barbour joined the University of Georgia in 2015, as graduate dean and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology. In her role as dean, she was responsible for administering more than 250 graduate degree programs.

Before 2015, she served as a program director (2013-2015) within the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Directorate for Biological Sciences. Barbour is currently a member of the NSF’s Biological Sciences Advisory Committee.

From 1993 to 2013, Barbour held several positions at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), including faculty appointments in microbiology and immunology, biochemistry, biology and African American studies; and director of research training within the VCU Center on Health Disparities (2010-2013). She received her 20 teaching excellence awards while a member of the VCU faculty.

Barbour has extensive national service in initiatives focused on increasing opportunities within graduate education and preparing graduate students for careers of the future. Among her national leadership positions are membership on the Graduate Record Examination Board (2019-2023), the NSF Committee for Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (2018-2021), the National Professional Science Master’s Association Southern Region working group (2018-2019) and the Council of Graduate Schools Diversity and Inclusiveness Advisory Committee (2018-present).

Barbour received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rutgers University and her doctorate in molecular biology and genetics from Johns Hopkins University. She received postdoctoral training at the University of California San Diego within chemistry.

Q&A with Suzanne Barbour

What interested you the most in becoming graduate dean for UNC-Chapel Hill?

UNC-Chapel Hill has a well-deserved reputation for excellence in graduate education and I am excited about the prospect of helping the University’s creative and dedicated faculty, staff and administrators to build on this excellence. I also see opportunities to expand the mission of The Graduate School to serve more of the “adult learners” who return to graduate school to recredential and refine their skills – sometimes through degree programs and increasingly through certificates, microcredentials and other non-degree options. UNC-Chapel Hill is poised to make significant strides in the area of digital learning, a content delivery mechanism that will serve both degree and non-degree seeking students well. Finally, I have a family connection to UNC-Chapel Hill, as my brother earned his Ph.D. here (in chemistry) nearly three decades ago.

In what ways do graduate students contribute to the mission of a research university and, specifically, UNC-Chapel Hill?

If the research mission is a pyramid, graduate students are its base. Their contributions are fundamental – from the unique questions and approaches they bring to the table; to the technical work they do in laboratories, clinics and field sites; to the papers, presentations, expositions and performances they deliver that both inform others in their disciplines and further elevate the reputation of this great University. When coupled with their impacts on instruction and service/ outreach, these contributions make graduate students the lifeblood of UNC-Chapel Hill.

What will be your main focus in your first months as dean of The Graduate School?

I am looking forward to getting to campus and meeting the faculty, staff and students at UNC-Chapel Hill. I hope to spend the first few months making a tour of campus to get a sense of the culture, opportunities, challenges and needs of all stakeholders involved in graduate education. Conversely, I hope my tour will provide the UNC-Chapel Hill community with insights into the expertise and experience that I bring to the table. What I hope will ultimately emerge is a shared vision for the future of graduate education at UNC-Chapel Hill. I look forward to brainstorming with the talented team in The Graduate School to develop strategies to enact that vision. Dean Matson has left very big shoes to fill. Through our shared vision, I hope to both continue and build on his outstanding work.

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