P&N Person of the Week: Robin Dunn

Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Human Subjects Coordinator

Duke’s Department of Psychology & Neuroscience has a rock star in their midst. Meet Robin Dunn. When asked what her hidden talent was, she said her fearlessness and lack of intimidation. She then shared this story:

“When I was in my twenties, if our band played for the door, I was the money person. Anyone who walked in paid the cover charge. When the band called me on stage to sing, I watched the door; once I came off the stage, I went to anyone who came in during that time. One night, we were playing at a local biker bar, and there I was at the door greeting everyone and charging the cover. Apparently, there were certain people who were supposed to get in free, but no one told me that.

At the break, the guys in the band came to me and asked, ‘Have you lost your mind?’

I was like, ‘No more than usual. Why?’

‘You actually charged _____!’

I said, ‘Who is that?’

They told me that I charged the leader of the chapter, and I said, ‘Well, he paid it and didn’t argue with me.’

From that day forward, that certain gentleman always spoke to me and always paid the cover when we played there. The guys nicknamed me 'bulldog' or 'bloodhound' after that."

How many years of service do you have at Duke?

I have worked at Duke for a total of 20 years, not consecutively, but in total. I moved to Nashville, TN for 3 years, working at Vanderbilt University. When we moved back home, I wanted to come back to work at Duke and came back in through Duke Temporary Services. Within 6 months, I was hired back full-time in Accounting Systems and Procedures.

What do you do in P&N?

I am the Human Subjects Coordinator. I administer the Undergraduate Subject Pool of credit studies requirement for select Psychology classes.

I also administer the Departmental Participant Pool database. We process birth records and mail letters of invitation to families with recent births in Durham and surrounding counties to join our Child and Infant Learning and Development Studies Group. We will eventually have participants up to older adults included in this database.

I also process Research Subject Payments for the department.

What do you like about P&N?

The people I work with! We have such a wide variety of people working in the department across all ages and backgrounds. I love learning about their lives and the similarities or differences in how I was raised. We have a wonderful staff who get along very well and genuinely care about each other. The faculty I have worked with over the years have taught me so much and some feel like family.

What is your favorite P&N memory?

I really had to think about this one. There are quite a few great memories, but I guess my favorite is from my time as DUS Assistant. One of our former Psychology majors contacted me after graduation to let me know how much she appreciated my taking time to talk to her when she would stop in for advice or a problem. She said that giving her my undivided attention really meant so much to her. I guess I never really thought about it until then, how much even the smallest thing we do for someone may be a huge thing to them.

Do you have any hobbies outside of P&N?

Music is my therapy. I sing, and my husband plays pretty much anything with strings. We met through the guys I was in a band with just out of high school. I had called one of the guys after not seeing them for a couple of years to see if the band was still playing and where. He told me to come on out to a practice the next night to see all the guys. I did, and when I walked into the bar where they were practicing, I said hello to them all and gave hugs to the four of them from the old band. They introduced me to a new member and I shook hands with him, then introduced to me as Alan. I stuck out my hand and said nice to meet you. He said, “I don’t want a handshake, I want a hug. They all got hugs.” I said, “I don’t know you.” He grinned and I said, “Ah, why not?” as I hugged him. We were married six months later. We have been best friends ever since. We’ve been in bands together for years and played some of the local music venues. We will be starting the band up again soon. P&N’s Matt Mielke was in our band at one time.

We also play with a small family band periodically. We love to play at Senior Centers and Assisted Living facilities. It’s always such a joy to see people’s faces light up when they hear a certain song. Music is universal and touches people’s souls in such profound ways. I love hearing that a song we play reminded them of a certain person or specific time in their life. That’s good medicine!

We also travel in our RV when we have the time. We have three dachshunds that travel with us a well. They are always great entertainment.

Fun fact about you?

I own a ventriloquist dummy. I am a bit out of practice, but used to be pretty good at it. My parents bought one for me as a child to help with my stuttering. It did help. Actually, my current ventriloquist dummy was given to me by Matt Mielke. Charlie McCarthy is his name, and he was Matt’s childhood buddy. Charlie used to occupy my office, too. I took him home after a few people jumped out of their skins upon seeing him sitting in the corner. Some people find ventriloquist dummies a bit creepy, but I think they are pretty cool. Except, maybe the one from the Twilight Zone episode, 'The Dummy.' That one is really creepy! He gave me the Heebie Jeebies!

Any interesting facts about your background/childhood?

I am the third of seven children and the oldest girl in a family of five boys, two girls. I was the only girl for twelve years before my little sister came along. That was a glorious day! Maybe that explains why I have always been called a tomboy. Just me being me. We grew up on a farm, raising our own food along with livestock, and growing tobacco for a cash crop. We were considered poor, although, we as children, never knew that. We always had enough of what we needed, not much in extras, but my parents did try to give us things we wanted.

Growing up in the country, our parents taught us that we could do or be anything we wanted as long as we worked hard for it.

My husband, Alan, is the third of seven children from a family of five boys, two girls as well. Our fathers worked with each other at Erwin Mills, although Alan and I didn’t meet until I was 25 and he was 33. We grew up less than 10 miles apart. We actually have the same mole on our left hand in the same spot. Like it was meant to be!

P&N person of the week profile by Madison Catrett (Trinity '21) 
Have a nomination for P&N person of the week? E-mail psychneuro@duke.edu