Sherilynn Black headshot

Sherilynn Black

Sherilynn Black believes a scholar’s personal and professional growth requires a village and not a single mentor. And she’s in a position to make this a reality.

Black is a Duke neuroscientist and administrator whose new project will touch the lives of scores of scholars. She is co-chair of a new initiative from the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine focused on helping scholars grow by considering their well-being, professional development and mentoring holistically. And the project examines the intersection of those areas across academic career stages.

The well-being of these scholars is paramount at a time when more and more are reporting mental health challenges, Black told Duke Today in 2023.

“Mental health and well-being are directly correlated with our ability to learn and educate others,” she said. “It also impacts how effectively we are able to collaborate and bring the full extent of creativity to our campuses.”

Black has deep knowledge and experience in this area.

In 2010, she became the first director of Duke’s Office of Biomedical Graduate Diversity – now called the IDEALS office – and co-created the Duke Biosciences Collaborative for Research Engagement (Duke BioCoRE) Program. Black worked with units across Duke to identify highly promising and talented scientists. She created administrative systems and programs to support faculty, and established mentoring programs. In 2017 she became Duke’s associate vice provost for faculty advancement, a role where she focuses heavily on mentorship, faculty success, and the support of early and mid-career scholars. Her role with the National Academies is a broader extension of many of these efforts.

“The National Academies are trusting us to think about these topics in innovative ways,” she told Duke Today, adding, “It’s an opportunity to develop something that is effective and will have lasting impact.”