Debbie at an outside tableHometown: Arlington, VA / Panama City, FL

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Professional Interests: 
I am a historian by education and a social worker by training. Historians seek context in order to bring meaning to the present. Social workers endeavor to recognize the dignity and inherent worth of every person. These are the principles that guide me professionally.

Summary of Professional Experience: 
I joined the Academic Guides team after 4.5 years serving students as a learning consultant in Duke’s Academic Resource Center. Prior to coming to Duke, I was an adjunct professor and instructor of British Imperial and European history at Guilford College, The University of Mississippi, and the University of Illinois. I directed off-campus programs for UM’s Intensive English Program and coordinated social work research projects at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. I have also served on the executive board of three non-profit organizations.


  • M.S.W., (Community Management and Policy Practice; Nonprofit Leadership), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Ph.D., in History (British Imperial History) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • M.A., in History (Early Modern English History), Purdue University
  • B.A., in History and German, Florida State University

Intellectual Interests: 20th century cultural history; foreign language acquisition; astronomy; literature; the science of learning

 Fun Fact / what I do for fun:

  • I was among the first two women in my hometown of Panama City, Florida to win a scholarship to play soccer in college.
  • I read novels, listen to comedy podcasts, and knit to have fun and take my mind off of work.

What was the most challenging part of college for me? What did I learn from it? 
I couldn’t seem to find my place, and finances dictated every choice. I first went to a small college as a student athlete but quit after a year. I then attended a community college for a semester to wait on financial aid before I could transfer to the school where I earned my bachelor’s degree. These moves made it difficult to really settle in long enough to take advantage of all the resources and opportunities available to me. What I learned from this experience is that I am incredibly resilient in the face of change and can find friends everywhere I go.

Looking back, what would you tell your college-aged self? 
“It’s okay that you don’t know what is going on or what you are going to do next. Keep doing what you do well, and it will all come together somehow.”

What class had the greatest impact on you  in college?  
It was a 100-level American History course taught at FSU in Spring 1994 by a graduate student named Clay Ouzts. It wasn’t so much the content of the course, which was certainly interesting, as Mr. Ouzts’s outstanding storytelling and enthusiasm for the subject. I can still remember the moment it hit me, “I want to do THAT when I grow up!” I declared the major that semester and never looked back on the way to earning my PhD in History fourteen years later.

Chase Black

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Sarah Eisensmith

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Debbie Hughes

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Paige Vinson

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Erica Wallace

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