DURHAM, N.C. – Four Nicholas School of the Environment faculty members have taken on new or expanded leadership roles at the school.

Lori Bennear, formerly senior associate dean for academic initiatives, assumed the newly created position of executive vice dean on April 1. In her expanded role, she oversees the management of the school’s information technology, facilities, student services, human resources and finance operations while continuing to oversee academic initiatives.

Prasad Kasibhatla, professor of environmental chemistry, has assumed the post of senior associate dean of research and doctoral programs.

Dave Johnston, associate professor of the practice of marine conservation ecology, has been appointed associate dean for teaching innovation. He also now serves as director of the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management (DEL-MEM) degree program. 

Jim Zhang, professor of global and environmental health, has been named chair of the school’s Environmental Sciences & Policy (ESP) Division.

Kasibhatla, Johnston and Zhang’s appointments were all effective July 1.

“I am deeply appreciative of Lori, Dave, Prasad and Jim’s willingness to take on these added responsibilities at such an important time in our school’s growth,” said Toddi Steelman. Stanback Dean of the Nicholas School.

Being able to call upon their expertise, experience, and vision will be a tremendous asset, she said, as she and her leadership team work to capitalize on exciting new opportunities on the horizon.

“While the administrative buck still stops with me, Lori’s expanded leadership role will streamline our internal decision-making process and allow me, as dean, to devote more time to important external duties as our new fundraising campaign begins in the near future and as the Nicholas School is increasingly called upon to lead the way in implementing Duke’s commitment to climate change issues,” Steelman said.

“Prasad brings decades of experience in doctoral education and cutting-edge research to his new post, which will enable him to help us optimize the doctoral experience for our students and identify and prioritize areas for future growth of our research enterprise,” Steelman said.

“Dave’s expertise and innovative thinking—particularly when it comes to developing and integrating new teaching technologies—are exactly what our school needs at this time to advance our mission of creating world-class educational opportunities for students of all ages and for environmental professionals at every stage of their careers,” she said.

“Jim’s extensive research and management experience, his global outlook, and his broad understanding of environmental issues makes him the perfect person to lead our Environmental Sciences & Policy division and guide efforts to expand its interdisciplinary strengths and create new opportunities for faculty and students alike,” she said.

In addition to serving as executive vice dean, Bennear is the Juli Plant Grainger Associate Professor of Energy Economics and Policy.

Johnston succeeds Rebecca Vidra as director of the DEL-MEM program and associate dean for teaching innovation.

Kasibhatla succeeds Nicolas Cassar as senior associate dean of research and doctoral programs.

Zhang succeeds Jeff Vincent as chair of the ESP division.