Valerie Cooper, associate professor of religion and society and Black church studies, has received a Julian Abele award from Duke University as a Graduate Mentor of the Year. The award emphasizes the importance of mentors for the continuing success of Duke students and recognizes a faculty member "who has gone above and beyond in providing support and/or mentoring to Black graduate and/or professional students individually and/or collectively via their organizations at Duke." The award is sponsored by the Black Student Alliance and Black Graduate and Professional Student Association and is named in honor of Julian Abele, an African American who designed the architecture for Duke University's West Campus.
Cooper is the first African American woman to receive tenure at Duke Divinity School. Her scholarship examines issues in religion, race, politics, and popular culture, including research on African Americans' use of the Bible and the roles of religion and race in electoral politics.