The forces transforming our world — accelerating technological advances, globalization, political polarization, climate change — present extraordinary opportunities and grave risks. To seize the former and address the latter, we need creative thinkers who work across intellectual boundaries, recognize the value of diversity and embrace collaborative problem-solving.
By strengthening Duke’s distinctive interdisciplinary ecosystem, we will continue to attract the most innovative faculty and passionate students, equip the next generation of leaders across all walks of life, and build durable partnerships with communities here in Durham and across the globe.
The Office of Interdisciplinary Studies is working to advance Duke’s strategic vision. Here are just a few examples.
Empowering the Boldest Thinkers
Duke is recruiting and supporting extraordinary faculty and students, and empowering them to conduct cutting-edge research and bring novel approaches to problem-solving.
Bass Connections supports interdisciplinary research teams of faculty and students from all of Duke’s schools as they take on complex societal challenges. Through its facilitation of collaborative, problem-centered, interdisciplinary inquiry, the program serves as a cornerstone of Duke’s efforts to integrate research, education and community interaction.
“In the 11 years that I’ve been a faculty member at Duke, a huge part of my research has involved Bass Connections project teams. I’ve been able to work with faculty from both Trinity and the Duke Global Health Institute, as well as students who are interested in psychology, global health and many other disciplines across campus.”
–Eve Puffer, Pamela and Jack Egan Associate Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience
Transforming Teaching and Learning
Rethinking the university’s undergraduate, graduate and professional education strategies, Duke is creating innovative, team-based pedagogies and curricula.
By implementing the goals of President Price’s Strategy Team 2030, we are increasing graduate and professional student opportunities for experiential learning and collaboration across disciplines and schools, meeting undergraduate student demand for transformative applied learning, and expanding avenues for graduate student leadership and mentorship.
For example, Collaborative Project Expeditions support doctoral students to work with faculty on integrating team- and project-based work into undergraduate courses.
“I feel exceptionally lucky to have the mentorship I’ve had while designing and teaching this course. Working with [my faculty mentors] has been a real partnership, and the experience has solidified my desire to be a teaching professor in the future.”
– Siobhan Oca, Ph.D. ’22, who did her Collaborative Project Expedition as a doctoral student and is currently assistant professor of the practice of mechanical engineering and materials science
Strengthening Our Campus Community
Duke seeks to be a diverse and stimulating campus that promotes personal growth among all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.
We are expanding the range of Duke’s signature “Summer+” research programs, which exemplify the university’s ability to build community through shared inquiry. In programs like Data+, Code+, Story+, CS+, Climate+, Math+ and Applied Ethics+, small teams of undergraduates work alongside each other in a communal environment.
Many students also live in a common dorm and share social outings and events. As teams develop and carry out collaborative research plans, they find intellectual guidance from peers as well as graduate student mentors. Coming together weekly, teams present and discuss work in progress and hear talks from experts and industry professionals.
“Everyone collaborates. Everyone can help each other find solutions, find mistakes and think of new ideas. I think it is the most fantastic way to learn.”
–Vincent Zhou ’24, on his Data+ experience
Partnering With Purpose
Duke is furthering collaborative engagement with communities in Durham and throughout the state.
Duke’s interdisciplinary scholarly communities increasingly partner with local organizations to address their highest priorities. To coordinate engaged research and teaching that will meet community needs and achieve shared goals and benefits, Abdullah Antepli was appointed to lead a new university-wide center. He reports jointly to the vice president for Durham and community affairs and the vice provost for interdisciplinary studies.
“We could not hope for a more thoughtful leader to serve as a connecting point for community organizations, faculty and students seeking opportunities to work together to address local and regional needs.”
–Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies Edward Balleisen, on Antepli’s appointment
Engaging a Global Network of Alumni
Duke is activating its alumni in new ways and creating new opportunities for growth and discovery to advance the university’s educational, research and service missions.
Through a variety of mechanisms, we are connecting alumni to collaborative, interdisciplinary explorations taking place on campus. For example, Robert Bonnie (M.E.M./M.F. ’94) served as a Rubenstein fellow and an executive in residence at the Nicholas Institute. His focus on conservation and environmental issues in rural America included leading a team of students to test an idea for financing broad adoption of climate-smart practices without losing sight of farmers’ practical concerns.
That idea went on to become Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, through which the USDA is investing $3.1 billion in 141 projects involving small and underserved producers.
“You have these incredibly bright students who are really interested in a topic, really smart about it, and can bring new thoughts, new ideas … The work done at Duke was really important.”
–Robert Bonnie, USDA Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation