Denis Simon to step down as executive vice chancellor | Duke Kunshan University

Denis Simon to step down as executive vice chancellor

December 2, 2019


Denis Simon has served as executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan since 2015

Denis Simon, the executive vice chancellor of Duke Kunshan since 2015 who oversaw both the completion of the campus and the launch of the undergraduate program, will step down on June 30, 2020, at the end of his five-year term.

Simon will take on a new role as senior adviser on China to Duke University President Vincent E. Price.

“Denis has led DKU from an experiment to the forefront of global higher education,” said Sally A. Kornbluth, Duke provost and chair of Duke Kunshan’s Board of Trustees. “He guided the completion of the first phase of the campus that is now on the way to doubling in size and was the catalyst for the recruitment of world-class students, faculty and administrators.

“Denis has been a very effective advocate for Duke Kunshan during this crucial startup period, and he has positioned the university for great success.”

Youmei Feng, Duke Kunshan’s chancellor, added: “Denis has brought great energy, enthusiasm and a deep knowledge about Chinese culture and society to his work at DKU. His understanding of the DKU mission has helped our young university steer effectively through the assorted challenges facing us these past several years.”

As Duke Kunshan’s principal academic and administrative officer, Simon has overseen the creation of a global enrollment team, the completion of the first phase of the 200-acre campus, and, in partnership with Duke faculty leaders, the development of an innovative curriculum and the hiring of a more than 80 faculty members from around the world.

He has also represented Duke Kunshan to Chinese and U.S. government officials, donors, employers and higher education leaders.

“My five years as executive vice chancellor has been one of the most rewarding experiences throughout my professional career,” Simon said. “I frequently was called upon to utilize the full array of the China knowledge I have accumulated since my first trip in 1981.

“I am extremely pleased with all that we have achieved, and I look forward to continuing the depth and breadth of Duke’s connections in China,” he said.

In his new role, Simon will work with Duke schools and departments to foster the development of collaborations across China.

“Denis has unique expertise in forging and managing effective partnerships in China,” Price said. “He will provide valuable counsel to our faculty and leadership in identifying and implementing new relationships across industry, academia and government.”

Duke Kunshan, a joint venture between Duke, Wuhan University and the city of Kunshan, opened in 2014 with graduate programs in business and global health and admitted its first undergraduate students in 2018.

The joint-venture university now enrolls more than 600 undergraduates from 40-plus countries in its first two classes, as well as master’s degree students in management studies, global health, electrical and computer engineering, medical physics, and environmental policy. It is also home to several interdisciplinary research centers that engage faculty from Duke Kunshan, Duke and scholars around the world.

A search committee of Duke and Duke Kunshan faculty, administrators, students and trustees chaired by Edmund Malesky, a Duke political science professor, has been created to advise Kornbluth and the Duke Kunshan Board of Trustees on the selection of Simon’s successor as executive vice chancellor.