Graduate Student Affairs

Core Objectives

The core objectives of Graduate Student Affairs (GSA) are to assess student needs, build student support and resources, and identify, recruit, and retain a diverse student population. This is accomplished through comprehensive programming developed after evaluating students’ needs, partnering with student groups, and actively recruiting and preparing underrepresented students to fully engage as Duke graduate students. GSA staff combines these program components with innovative outreach, high levels of communication, and advocacy to enhance the quality of graduate student life.

Program Components

GSA hosts various programs that mark students’ progress throughout their graduate careers.

  • New Student Orientation aids students in their transition to Duke by providing information about the academic community, policies, and resources.

  • The Graduate Student Resource Fair occurs during New Student Orientation and features representatives from various university offices and the local community.

  • A Milestone Recognition Reception for PhD candidates honors those who pass preliminary examinations yearly.

  • During Commencement weekend, GSA hosts the PhD Hooding Ceremony, which celebrates the culmination of doctoral study.

Professional Development Programs

GSA provides strategic leadership to ensure that Graduate School students can identify the full range of career options available to them and develop the transferable skills to succeed in those careers. The Graduate School sponsors and partners with groups and offices across campus to provide programs, resources, and professional development events to help students with every step along the way—from identifying potential career paths to developing skills to compete for them to manage their careers. These offerings help prepare students for successful careers in academia, business, entrepreneurship, government, and nonprofits. For more information, visit The Graduate School’s professional development website,


GSA recognizes that mentoring is vital to graduate students’ success, and The Graduate School is committed to cultivating a culture of mentoring in graduate education at Duke. Students with strong mentoring relationships are more productive, more involved in the campus community, and more satisfied with their graduate school experience. Mentoring support ensures that students will be well-trained, successfully complete their degrees, and obtain promising job opportunities. A dedicated mentoring resources website ensures that graduate students and the university community have the tools to succeed.

Social Programs

GSA coordinates activities designed specifically to encourage social interaction among graduate students. Several events during New Student Orientation Week help new students become acquainted with fellow students and Duke faculty. Graduate Student Appreciation Week recognizes graduate students’ contributions to Duke’s academic climate with a roster of enjoyable social events and practical and professional development workshops on student life issues. To provide regular networking opportunities for graduate students with children, GSA also hosts several GradParent Group events each year. In addition, GSA coordinates the annual Homecoming Celebration and other special events to promote community, such as gatherings for faculty and students of color and LGBTQ and allies. 

Equity and Inclusion 

The Graduate School is dedicated to and benefits from engaging a broad array of students, whose work and life experiences contribute to a fuller representation of perspectives within the academic life of the university. The Graduate School encourages applications from all sectors of society. As part of Duke’s long-standing commitment to increasing the quality of its graduate student body, The Graduate School works to: expand its recruitment and outreach practices to ensure that we attract, admit, and retain outstanding applicants with the full range of experiences and perspectives; provide students with sufficient funding to complete their graduate studies in a timely manner; and promote an academic and social environment where all scholars can flourish. A key mission of the Office of Graduate Student Affairs (GSA) is to coordinate, supplement, and expand the recruiting efforts of graduate departments and programs. Robust recruiting strategies are vital to these efforts, and the involvement of Duke’s graduate faculty is central to these strategies. Each year, GSA staff and faculty participate in recruitment fairs across the country that enable us to meet potential graduate students and to answer any questions they might have about Duke’s graduate programs. The Graduate School also participates in national consortia designed to promote graduate education and recruitment visits to institutions that serve students from all walks of life. GSA also supports the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP) which identifies potential graduate students in the biomedical sciences in their undergraduate years.

Program Support

GSA’s programs are developed, supported, and enhanced through four program support elements: advocacy, communications, student group support, and program evaluation. These elements ensure that GSA develops its programs and resources so that they are accessible, inviting, and responsive to the needs of all segments of the graduate community. GSA is committed to giving students access to resources needed to achieve their scholarly, personal, and professional goals by recognizing the importance of student well-being, students with families, and student groups.


GSA makes every attempt to assess and to respond to the concerns of Duke graduate students. The Child Care Subsidy, and efforts to recognize and promote best practices in graduate student mentoring, are examples of initiatives that arose from GSA’s response to students’ expressed needs and concerns. In many instances, GSA is the initial point of contact for graduate students, offering informal counseling, advising, and follow-up.

Furthermore, GSA acts as the liaison between The Graduate School and the Career Center; Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS); Duke Reach; the Office for Institutional Equity; the Disability Management Office; the central university Office of Student Affairs; and other campus offices. The Office of Graduate Student Affairs collaborates with Duke’s graduate departments and the university administration. In addition, GSA representatives are members of national committees, graduate consortia, and professional associations concerned with issues related to graduate student life.


GSA works directly with The Graduate School’s senior public affairs officer to ensure cohesive communication within the graduate community and the university. GSA staff members serve on a variety of committees that explore and evaluate new models of communication with students.

GSA also uses a number of online resources to foster ongoing communication among graduate students, faculty, and staff.

  • The Graduate School’s listserv and social media platforms deliver timely, targeted, and relevant information to keep students informed about GSA events and other university programs.

  • The Graduate School’s e-newsletter shares relevant and current information with students, alumni, faculty, and staff.

  • The e-newsletter highlights student issues, features student profiles, and identifies useful resources. To subscribe to the e-newsletter, visit

  • The online Student Handbook and Student Resources sections of The Graduate School website help students quickly find the information they need.

Student Group Support

GSA advises and assists a number of graduate student organizations, including but not limited to: the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Bouchet Society, Duke Chinese Students and Scholars Association, DukeOUT, the Hurston-James Society, the Graduate and Professional Student Government, GradParents Group, Duke F1RSTS, the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos Native Americans in Science, the Society of Duke Fellows, and Women in Science and Engineering. Graduate student groups help GSA invest its resources into programming that addresses the specific needs of various segments of the graduate community that may not be addressed within academic disciplines. 

Program Evaluation

Developing formal and informal procedures for program evaluation is crucial in assessing the effectiveness of GSA services and in instituting new programs. Formal evaluation of GSA’s programs is carried out through surveys of major activities, followed by analysis and progress reports. Assessment of GSA’s effectiveness is also supported by collaborating with other Graduate School offices throughout the admissions process and preparing retention data. Informal evaluations of GSA events are conducted with individual students, student groups, and graduate faculty. Additionally, GSA regularly seeks feedback from its Graduate Student Affairs Advisory Committee (GSAAC). Composed of faculty, students, and staff representing each broad disciplinary area in The Graduate School, GSAAC’s role is to serve as an evaluative resource in program development and help adopt specific strategies to meet program goals.