New dean encourages students to tune in to what matters | Duke Kunshan University

New dean encourages students to tune in to what matters

September 18, 2019

Life on a college campus can feel like an intricate piece of music – there’s a rhythm to it, a beating pulse that runs through its many parts, and it engages and connects with different people on various levels.

For music lover Raphael Moffett, Duke Kunshan’s new dean of student affairs, orchestrating a learning experience that combines academic, personal and professional development is essential to helping students find their unique groove.

“My goal is to work closely with the entire DKU community and build bridges, to foster a culture where students are encouraged to discover what’s important to them and live a life that shows it,” he said. “My philosophy is rooted in research and theory focused on how the holistic development of students is critical.”

Moffett, who has more than 17 years of professional experience, took office on Sept. 3 and will lead a broad range of activities and services for undergraduate and graduate students at Duke Kunshan, such as in athletics, arts, counselling and psychological services, health services, and residence life.

He will also launch more initiatives that complement the university’s academic programs, linking the students’ in-class and out-of-class experiences, and bring together a diverse campus community.

“It’s important to support and challenge students to help them maximize their potential and be the best version of themselves,” he said, adding that co-curricular and extracurricular activities, such as those promoting artistic expression, “break down barriers and show how we’re all connected.”

A native of Washington state in the United States, Moffett has an Ed.D. from Clark Atlanta University, Georgia. Before joining Duke Kunshan, he served for more than two years as vice president for student services at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas.

He succeeds Tom Shandley, who was appointed interim dean of student affairs at Duke Kunshan in the summer of 2018 and played an essential role in welcoming the university’s first undergraduate class.

“We are thrilled to have Raphael here because he clearly is someone who shares our vision regarding the long-term development trajectory of DKU,” said Executive Vice Chancellor Denis Simon.

“He is strongly committed to providing students with a variety of highly transformative, co-curricular learning experiences. He’s also known for being a dedicated leader whose focus is on seizing unique developmental opportunities to help each student maximize his or her full individual potential.”

Chancellor Youmei Feng added that the new dean “will play an important role in addressing student-related issues as well as in setting the strategic direction and traditions of not only his office but also this entire institution.”

Moffett said he was attracted to the China-U.S. joint-venture university by the opportunity to serve a highly diverse student body – students hail from more than 40 countries around the world – as well as work alongside a top-quality faculty.

“I also thought it’d be fascinating to bring traditional student affairs practices to a nontraditional space,” he said. “Often, higher education professionals select institutions that already have an established culture or infrastructure. DKU is unique because all of the programs and services are new, so there’s ample opportunity to create traditions, establish best practices, implement policies and positively influence the overall student experience.”

During his career, Moffett has worked with students in international settings including the Dominican Republic, Egypt and Brazil, but he has always maintained an interest in Asia and counts calligraphy among his hobbies.

He has moved to the area with his wife, Aisha, and their 5-year-old son Khalil, who has been taking Mandarin lessons in Houston to prepare for life in China.

“Kunshan and the surrounding area are beautiful. It’s a unique blend of city and nature that creates a fun environment to live, learn and grow,” he said. “One of my highest priorities was making sure the move would benefit my family. After visiting schools for my son, as well as apartments in Kunshan and Suzhou, I was convinced that this move would be great for my entire family.”

In addition to music and art, Moffett is also a massive fan of basketball, having supported the Los Angeles Lakers since he was 7 years old. He said the Duke Kunshan community won’t need to wait long to see him shooting hoops on campus.

“I still enjoy playing on a weekly basis, so I’m sure I’ll make my way onto the court at some point,” he said. “Health and wellness are huge priorities for me. Living an active lifestyle helps me balance all of the competing priorities.”

For this Lakers fan, “It’s Showtime.”