N. Bruce Duthu '80 will be the next dean of the faculty of arts and sciences

by Peter Charalambous | 4/5/17 2:00am

Bruce Duthu, new Dean of the Faculty
by Eli Burakian / The Dartmouth

When N. Bruce Duthu ’80 arrived at Dartmouth in 1976 to begin his undergraduate education, he wanted to be a priest. After realizing that his main interest was social justice, he decided to study and practice law. Only after working as an attorney in New Orleans for three years did Duthu start to consider academia.

“I am what you might call ‘the accidental academic’ in the truest sense of the word,” Duthu said.

Despite his original career plans, Dartmouth’s “accidental academic” was promoted from associate dean of the faculty for international studies and interdisciplinary programs and appointed as the dean of the faculty of arts and sciences by College president Phil Hanlon and Provost Carolyn Dever on March 27. He will begin his four-year tenure on July 1.

“He has a core commitment to the liberal arts, and he understands what we need to do to take that forward into the 21st century,” Dever said.

Michael Mastanduno served a five-year term and an additional two-year term as dean of faculty. Over the course of his seven-year tenure, Mastanduno organized the hiring of 25 to 30 faculty members each year, oversaw the over 400 regular and 200 adjunct faculty members, assisted in fundraising efforts and aided in the creation of programs like the Political Economy Project. In July, Mastanduno will begin a yearlong sabbatical, after which he will return to the College to teach and conduct research.

“I get to go back and do the best job in the world, which is … being a professor at Dartmouth,” Mastanduno said.

While Hanlon made the final decision, a committee selected final candidates to succeed Mastanduno from a pool of candidates from both inside and outside of the College. Geography professor Mona Domosh and chair of the biology department Kathryn Cottingham co-chaired the committee that selected Duthu. They made the selection alongside Italian professor Graziella Parati, music professor Steve Swayne, mathematics and computer science professor Peter Winkler and history professor Robert Bonner.

“[Duthu] stood out for his scholarship, commitment to the liberal arts, and extensive administrative experience,” Cottingham and Domosh wrote in a joint statement.

Duthu eventually majored in religion at the College. However, he began studying at Loyola University School of Law instead of the seminary. After graduating from law school, he began working with civil rights litigation at a private practice in New Orleans.

While practicing as a lawyer, Duthu was reintroduced to Dartmouth by serving on the College’s Native American Visiting Committee. The committee, which was founded by then College President JohnKemeny in 1970, invites Native American alumni to judge the College’s involvement with Native American students, Duthu said.

A member of the Houma Nation in Southern Louisiana, Duthu served on this committee when he was told that the director of the College’s Native American Program, which offers support to Native students, was leaving the College to attend law school.

Although Duthu was offered the position, he originally declined. He later accepted a position as an adjunct professor of Native American studies as well as the position of director of the Native American Program in 1986.

“Once I got in the classroom, I knew I would never be a traditional lawyer again,” Duthu said.

After five years at the College, Duthu joined the faculty of Vermont Law School in 1991. Vermont Law School awarded Duthu tenure and a full professorship in 1996 and he served as the vice dean of academic affairs from 2002 to 2005. During his summers at Vermont Law, Duthu returned to Dartmouth to teach classes.

Duthu resigned from Vermont Law and joined the Dartmouth’s faculty as a tenured professor of Native American studies in 2008. He became the Samson Occom Professor of Native American Studies in 2009 and the Frank J. Guarini Associate Dean of the Faculty for International Studies and Interdisciplinary Programs in 2016. He also helped create an off-campus program through the Department of Native American Studies at the Institute of Native American Art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“We collectively wanted to create an experience for Dartmouth students that would be fundamentally different in nature than what we could offer here in Hanover,” Duthu said.

Over the last eight years, he has consistently shared his passion for social justice by teaching a government course entitled “Federal Indian Law,” a class he plans to continue to teach as dean of faculty.

Duthu’s first book, “American Indians and the Law," published in 2008, examines the relationships between sovereign Indian Nations and the United States. His second book, “Shadow Nations: Tribal Sovereignty and the Limits of Legal Pluralism,” which was published in 2013, examined the United States’ “legacy of national coexistence.”

Former President Barack Obama nominated Duthu to serve on the National Council of the Humanities in September 2016, although the nomination was never confirmed.

“Even though [the appointment] did not transpire in the end because of the outcome of the national election, it is something that I will always treasure that I was nominated for that role,” Duthu said.

In his role, Duthu will aid both Hanlon and Dever in an upcoming capital campaign. He will promote a set of priorities which he believes will not only set a clear vision for the “Dartmouth of the next 25 years” but also attract donors, he said. He will also speak to alumni and donors during this campaign.

He also wants to help solve Dartmouth’s limited office space and reexamine the College’s faculty governance structure to ensure that faculty members time on committees are productive and “well-spent,” he said.

Duthu said he is also interesting in discussing the creation of a “faculty seminar series.” The series would be comprised of seminars made for faculty members by faculty members. Duthu said he hopes that this program will allow faculty to share their knowledge with one another and “strengthen the intellectual community among the faculty.”

Duthu will also assume the task of hiring 25 to 30 new faculty members each year. When hiring these members, Duthu hopes to not only increase diversity but also find candidates who fit the job well and have the potential to become long-term faculty members.

“It’s not just racial and ethnic diversity, but also we have people on the faculty who increasingly represent the demographics of the country in terms of perspectives, experiences, values, all of those kinds of things,” Duthu said.

While taking on this new position, Duthu plans to still teach classes and interact with students.

For students like JoRee LaFrance ’17, who conducted an independent study with Duthu and is a member of the Crow tribe, Duthu’s ability to connect with students can be one of his most meaningful abilities.

“Every single time I have a conversation with Duthu, I leave his office just wanting to strive for more and just staying positive,” LaFrance said. “That’s just his personality.”