Duke Experts Coauthor New Guide on Boosting Universities’ Impact ‘Beyond the Academy’

International group of scholars outlines best practices for creating a more ‘engaged university’

Group of adults standing together on steps.
Scholars from the Beyond the Academy network attended a two-day workshop at Duke University in September 2019.

Faculty and students are increasingly looking for ways to directly engage with the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges, including climate change, the ongoing effects of a global pandemic and racial injustice. In a newly published book, an international group of scholars—including some from Duke University—offers a “vision and a roadmap to a more impactful future” for higher education.

Cover of book, Guidebook for the Engaged University.The Guidebook for the Engaged University highlights best practices to encourage scholarship that goes beyond the traditional university model to make a real-world impact. The guidebook organizes those practices around three main themes:

  • Reforming academic incentive structures;
  • Encouraging public engagement and co-production; and
  • Preparing students to be sustainability leaders.

“With their diverse knowledge, skills and networks, colleges and universities can and should be front and center in helping to address societal challenges,” said guidebook contributor Lydia Olander, director of the Ecosystem Services Program at Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. “In practice, they’re too often disengaged or a step removed from the on-the-ground partnerships needed to work with communities, policy makers and corporations to solve these problems. The guidebook reimagines what an ‘engaged university’ could look like, shifting academic priorities to maximize impact.”

The guidebook was written and published by Beyond the Academy, a network of hundreds of sustainability researchers from universities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Formed in 2018 with funding from the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative, Beyond the Academy is focused on making universities more supportive of applied interdisciplinary research.

Over the last three years, the network has hosted workshops, conducted literature reviews and collected case studies to identify innovative ideas for how universities can reform their systems and structures to promote action-oriented research. The discussions placed an emphasis on producing graduates prepared to make an immediate difference.

“Graduate students want curricula and research opportunities that provide an opportunity to have a practical effect on issues that touch all our lives,” said Edgar Virgüez, a 2022 Duke Ph.D. graduate who participated in the guidebook process and recently wrote about his perspective as an early-career scholar. “Working with Beyond the Academy showed the breadth of opportunities that forward-thinking universities, such as Duke, are already providing.”

The guidebook provides numerous examples from Duke and other institutions to show how universities can adapt their approaches.

A section on engagement leadership spotlights Duke’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, now known as the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. Since 2005, the institute has acted as a bridge between Duke scholarship and the policy-making world. It delivers timely, nonpartisan analyses to decision makers and convenes key stakeholders to help address environmental challenges.

Bass Connections is another Duke program recognized in the guidebook for a structure and culture that supports engaged scholarship. Bass Connections brings together interdisciplinary teams of students and faculty to co-investigate complex societal problems.

The guidebook also cites DukeEngage as an example of a program that trains students interested in more engaged scholarship. During this immersive summer experience, students and faculty collaborate with communities—both locally and globally—to address critical social issues.

“Vibrant community partnerships require much more of researchers than just looking for a field site; you have to build relationships, which doesn’t easily map onto the incentive structure embedded in many universities,” said Edward Balleisen, Duke University vice provost for interdisciplinary studies. “The guidebook offers a set of practical tools that institutions can use to facilitate this highly collaborative work and credit scholars in their individual career trajectories. As the many examples in the guidebook illustrate, Duke has—and will continue to be—a leader in this crucial mode of equitable, applied, interdisciplinary research.”

The guidebook’s publication coincides with the announcement of the Duke Climate Commitment, which unites the university’s education, research, operations and public service missions to address the climate crisis. The commitment—to be formally introduced on Sept. 29—builds on Duke’s longstanding leadership in climate, energy and sustainability to educate a new generation of climate-fluent innovators and create equitable solutions for all.

Read the Guidebook for the Engaged University.

Originally posted on the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability website

Explore New Collaborations Through Global Health Travel Grants

Duke Global Health Travel Grants for Faculty.

Deadline: October 31, 2022

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. If you wish to travel soon, you can submit earlier.

The Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) is pleased to offer travel awards of up to $5,000 each to Duke faculty to pursue global health research opportunities in low, lower- and upper- middle-income countries  (a listing of eligible countries can be found at the World Bank website) or focused on health disparities in the American South. These awards are aimed at faculty looking to explore new collaborations by conducting a site visit.

Contact: Kelly Deal

View PDF

Call for Proposals: Data+ Student Research Projects in Summer 2023

Students and their professor show off their Data+ poster.

Deadline: November 1, 2022

Data+ is a ten-week summer research experience for undergraduates interested in exploring data-driven approaches to interdisciplinary challenges.

Students join small teams and work alongside other teams in a communal environment learning how to marshal, analyze and visualize data, while gaining broad exposure to the field of data science. There are typically around 25-30 Data+ teams. All teams will have dedicated workspace in Gross Hall, provided by the Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke (iiD), the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) and the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (NIESS).

Data+ is part of the Bass Connections Information, Society & Culture theme. Data+ 2023 will run from May 30–August 4. During this time, students are required to contribute to the team full-time and may not take classes or have other employment.

Request for Proposals

Rhodes iiD invites proposals for faculty-sponsored Data+ projects in Summer 2023. The deadline for submitting an application is November 1 by end of day.

We are especially interested in proposals that involve a partner from outside the academy or a faculty member from a different discipline. We also encourage proposals that involve previously untested ideas or unanalyzed datasets, and we hope that the Data+ team can make a contribution with important proof-of-principle work that may lead to more substantial faculty work and/or connections in the future. We also welcome proposals that will lead to the undergraduates creating tools that might be used in the classroom or facilitate community engagement with data and data-driven questions. Finally, we are including a special segment within Data+ 2023 called Climate+ for projects connecting data science to issues around climate change.

Faculty may propose a Data+ project linked to a year-long Bass Connections project through the Bass Connections proposal processYour proposal should articulate how you will connect the summer research experience with the year-long project. Please note that funding decisions will be made by each program individually, so it is possible that your proposal may be accepted for only Data+ or only Bass Connections. Please contact Laura Howes if you want to discuss how other faculty have linked these experiences in the past. Specific questions about Data+ should be directed to Paul Bendich.

Data+ Application Format

To apply, please prepare a document (three pages maximum) that responds to the following prompts, ideally in this order:

Name of project: Please use a short name that succinctly describes the nature of the project and is not overly technical. If your project is selected for Data+, this title will be used for the project web page and project listings, and we may ask you to shorten it later for that purpose.

Summary: Please write a project summary, including the basic ideas behind the proposal.

Faculty leads: Data+ is especially interested in projects that connect faculty from different disciplines, as well as projects that enable faculty to branch out in new directions. Please describe the intended faculty leads and the expected benefits from their participation.

Mentoring: Day-to-day faculty involvement in Data+ is not expected. Instead, each Data+ project has a mentor, usually a graduate student or postdoc, who is on hand to give the student team more focused guidance. The time commitment tends to be five to seven hours per week, and funding is generally available to cover the mentor’s time. (Typically, we are able to compensate doctoral students with a check and postdocs via a research fund.)

If you have a mentor in mind, please indicate who this is and why they are well-suited for the role. If you do not have a mentor in mind, please describe the skills you would like this person to have (we are generally able to find faculty-mentor matches).

Goals: Describe the intended goals and products of the project, in the following manner:

  • Describe entirely reachable goals that you fully expect the students to achieve: these could be answers to a question, explorations of a hypothesis or other things of that nature.
  • Describe a tangible product the students will create in the course of their research, which ideally will be of use both to future researchers at the university and to the students as something they can show off to future employers or graduate schools. This could be, for example, a good piece of well-commented software, a visualization device or a detailed curation of previously raw data.
  • Describe a more outrageous goal that you would be quite (pleasantly!) surprised to see the students achieve, along with a plan for them to build a potential roadmap toward that goal. For example, this goal might only be reachable if you had data that you currently do not have, and the students might build a speculative roadmap toward acquiring that data.

Data: Most Data+ projects involve analysis of datasets. Some of these are publicly available, and some are not. As it is essential that students be able to analyze the needed data for the project, we are very interested in plans to ensure that this will happen. Please address this in the following manner:

  • For each dataset that will be analyzed by the student team, please give a high-level description of the dataset (what’s in it, how was it collected and for which purpose, how large is it, etc.).
  • For each dataset, indicate whether you anticipate IRB approval will be needed for student access, and if not, why not. If IRB approval will be needed, indicate whether a protocol already exists and describe your plan for incorporating the student involvement. If it does not already exist, please describe your plan (including a timeline) for obtaining one.
  • For each dataset, indicate whether it is owned and/or is being provided by an outside party. If so, please describe the intended path toward ensuring that students will be granted the ability to access the dataset (we are often able to assist in crafting Data Use Agreements with outside parties, for example).

Outside partners: Some of the best Data+ projects have had a partner from outside the university. This might be someone who is invested in the data or the questions, and to whom the students will deliver analysis and insight. Ideally, this partner will be able to come to Gross Hall two or three times during the summer to hear updates from the students and provide feedback.

For each such partner, please describe their expected interest in the project, how much they would interact with the team, whether or not they’d be able to contribute funds towards student stipends, and also identify a point of contact for this partner.

Funding: Please indicate if you or some other entity, including an outside partner, would be able to contribute funds toward the student stipends on your team.

Special Call for Climate+ Projects

This year, we are seeking to host four to five Data+ projects that are thematically focused on climate change. These projects will form Climate+.

Climate+ is aligned with Duke University’s commitment to advancing interdisciplinary understanding of the causes and societal impacts of climate change as well as potential solutions for long-term sustainability including climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Climate+ takes a wide-angle view of relevant topics that extends well-beyond climate science stretching across disciplinary boundaries including (but not limited to) such areas as:

  • Climate and inequality (jobs, justice and economy)
  • Climate and health (lungs, heat and pollution)
  • Climate and oceans (fisheries, hurricanes and coasts)
  • Climate and biodiversity (forests, species and ecosystems)
  • Climate and energy (systems, resources and policy)

All projects must meet all Data+ requirements to be considered.

Project fit: Not sure if your project fits the Climate+ theme? If your project is thematically close, but you are not quite sure if it’s an exact fit, don’t hesitate to submit it as a potential Climate+ project. Projects that are submitted as prospective Climate+ projects but are not deemed to be thematically aligned during the review process will receive consideration as a prospective Data+ project.

Benefits to proposers: Compelling projects focused in this thematic area will receive preferential consideration.

Benefits to students: Climate+ students will be part of a cohort of thematically related projects that will engage with climate, environment and energy researchers, and will have opportunities for professional development in addition to those associated with the larger Data+ program.

How to be considered for Climate+: Projects proposing in this thematic area should note this on the top of their proposal. Data+ projects that fit topically as Climate+ may be considered for either program.

Deadline and Contact

The deadline for submitting this application is November 1 by end of day. Please email your completed application to Ariel Dawn. If you would like help developing your proposal, please contact Paul Bendich.

Please note that you may propose a Data+ summer project linked to a year-long Bass Connections project through the Bass Connections RFP (due November 7 by 5:00 p.m.). If you are proposing joint Data+ and Bass Connections projects, you only need to complete the Bass Connections RFP; you do not need to complete a separate application for Data+.

Call for Proposals: Faculty-led DukeEngage Programs

Deadline: September 30, 2022

DukeEngage is accepting proposals for new faculty-led programs in the U.S. and abroad in 2023 and 2024.

DukeEngage is a signature initiative of the University consisting of more than 20 eight-week, faculty-led summer programs, each enabling small groups of students and faculty to collaborate with a community to address critical societal needs through an immersive summer of community engagement. Each program centers around a societal theme—for example, education, engineering, environment, health, human rights, migration, race, or social enterprise.

DukeEngage is considering new international and domestic programs.[1] We are especially interested in new programs in North Carolina (particularly in Durham and Charlotte), programs in rural U.S. communities, and programs that focus on arts, healthcare, STEM disciplines, race/identity, or the environment.

Proposals for a Summer 2023 program are due September 30. For faculty wanting to explore the possibility of a program in Summer 2024, DukeEngage has site exploration funding for logistical research and relationship building with potential partners. We will entertain exploration grants up to $5,000 per program. Site exploration funds can be requested at any time during the year. To request site exploration funds, please send a query to Inga.peterson@duke.edu.

The Basics

  • Most programs consist of eight students. Smaller and larger numbers are possible.
  • The core of the program for students is full-time work with one or more community organization(s) for eight weeks. Some programs disperse students among multiple organizations, while others work as a team with one organization.
  • Each program begins with mutually beneficial partnership(s) between a faculty Program Director and one or more community organization(s). Student work must be guided by the community and may consist of direct service, capacity building, or research.
  • Work is accompanied by cultural immersion and regular, intentional critical reflection.
  • 2023 programs can run between May 15 – August 25, 2023.
  • DukeEngage hires site coordinators who will be on site for the full eight weeks. Faculty must spend at least the first two weeks on site; ideally more.
  • The program is fully funded for all participants. In addition to travel and living expenses, program budgets include a small allotment for cultural enrichment.
  • The DukeEngage Program Director role description and general timeline of responsibilities can be found here. Faculty compensation is provided in the form of supplemental summer salary.
  • Additional program development considerations can be found here.


We especially value programs that have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Arise from existing partnerships
  • Focus on a new or compelling theme
  • Are in a location where there are currently no other repeating DukeEngage programs

Proposals should include:

  1. Faculty director(s) + contact information
  2. Location (city/community, state, country)
  3. Theme (see our website for examples; new themes are welcome)
  4. How long you envision being on site beyond the first two weeks
  5. Potential partner organizations
  6. Potential full-time student projects/work
  7. Brief description of the community
  8. Your prior experience in the proposed community
  9. Potential prerequisites (language, skills) or academic connections for students

We’re happy to be a sounding board as you consider a proposal. Send any questions you might have to Inga Petersen (inga.petersen@duke.edu). Once we receive your proposal, we will be in touch for more details.

[1] Domestic programs may be limited to states on Duke’s “approved to hire” list. Contact us for more information.

Propose a Bass Connections Project Team for 2023-24

Now accepting proposals for 2023-2024 project teams.

Deadline: November 7, 2022

Bass Connections brings together faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates and community partners to tackle complex societal challenges in interdisciplinary research teams. This request for proposals is for year-long project teams that will take place in 2023-2024, with the option to pair a proposal with a summer Data+/Climate+ or Story+ team for Summer 2023. Funding for year-long project teams is between $5,000 and $25,000.

For some faculty, Bass Connections provides a mechanism to pilot a new research initiative and lay the groundwork for external grant proposals. For others, Bass Connections offers an innovative teaching model and the chance to mentor students in a small group atmosphere. Bass Connections also provides a model for initiating or deepening engagement with a community organization or collaborators outside of Duke who can provide input into the construction of research questions and translate research findings into action.

For more information about benefits for faculty, see faculty perspectives or the faculty evaluation report.

Proposals may be submitted by faculty, staff, graduate/professional students, postdocs and trainees/fellows, but all projects must have at least one faculty team leader. Please see the complete proposal guidelines.


Interested faculty, particularly those who have never led a Bass Connections team, are also encouraged to contact a Bass Connections theme leader or Laura Howes, director of Bass Connections, at laura.howes@duke.edu with questions or to discuss potential ideas. Or drop in at any time to one of our informal Zoom office hours (https://duke.zoom.us/j/99393877201):

  • Friday, September 9, 10:00-11:00
  • Friday, September 30, 9:00-10:00
  • Friday, October 14, 1:00-2:00
  • Friday, October 21, 11:00-12:00

The deadline for proposals is Monday, November 7, 2022 at 5:00 p.m.

Apply for the Religions & Public Life Graduate Fellowship

Graphic showing collage of buildings.

Deadline: August 3, 2022

Each year, Religions and Public Life at the Kenan Institute for Ethics funds a Graduate Student Working Group that explores a theme related to religion’s role in contemporary society. In response to the global shifts of 2022, this year’s theme will be “Religion, Peace and War.”

The call is open to graduate and professional students wishing to take part in monthly, student-led seminars on “Religion, Peace and War.” A wide variety of projects exploring this theme are welcome, including topics such as: Religion, War and Refugees; Religion, War and the Environment; Peace, War and Interreligious Dialogue; Religion, Political Polarization and Violence; Religion, Nationalism, and Peacebuilding; Diasporas, Conflict Transformation and Peace. Members of last year’s group are welcome to reapply but preference will be given to new applicants.

Religions and Public Life provides an interdisciplinary platform that puts scholars, students, and practitioners in conversation with one another through collaborative research, innovative teaching, and community engagement. As part of Religions and Public Life, the Graduate Student Working Group contributes to an exploration of the role of religions in historical and cultural context as they influence the lives of their adherents, interact with each other across time and geography, and contribute to the formation of institutions that constitute public life. In addition to the Kenan Institute for Ethics, funding for the graduate scholars also comes from generous support from the Duke Center for Jewish Studies (CJS), the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC), and the Gerst Fund.


Graduate Student Working Group members will have the opportunity to develop their research interests and discuss recent scholarship. Members take active part in the events of Religions and Public Life and commit to attending monthly meetings throughout the academic year. At the conclusion of the fellowship, members will write a think-piece or blog post relating their research to contemporary issues, to be published on the Religions and Public Life website. Additionally, members will take part in an end-of-year research conference. Those receiving CJS or DUMESC funding are also expected to participate in at least two CJS or DUMESC events, respectively, during the academic year.


Graduate scholars each receive a stipend of $1,250 that supplements their current funding. The sum is provided in two payments, one in the fall semester and one in the spring semester.

Application and Deadline

To apply, please submit the materials listed below to Michael Grigoni by 12 noon on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, with the subject line: “Religions & Public Life Graduate Fellowship.”

  • Curriculum vita
  • Project description (1-2 pages) describing how your research connects to the theme of “Religion, Peace and War.”

For further information, email Michael Grigoni with “Religions & Public Life Graduate Fellowship” in the subject heading.

Kenan Graduate Fellowships Open to Duke Ph.D. Students

Graduate Fellows graphic.

Deadline: August 3, 2022

Each year, the Kenan Institute for Ethics awards between 10 and 15 fellowships to outstanding graduate students at Duke University.

Students from any Duke Ph.D. program may apply. What each cohort of Graduate Fellows will have in common is that their dissertation research engages in interesting ways with significant normative issues. Some students, for example – from disciplines such as philosophy, political theory, or theology – focus directly on fundamental ethical or political concepts and theories. Other fellows, from the sciences and social sciences, try to understand phenomena that are relevant to major, and often controversial, public policy debates. Still others attempt to resolve debates in their areas of research that seem to be sustained by long-standing disagreements over both empirical claims and ethical or ideological commitments.

The aim of the ongoing discussions throughout the year, among the Fellows and KIE faculty members, is to enhance everyone’s ability to contribute to debates involving ethical issues, and to do so in ways that engage scholars and others within and outside of their own academic disciplines.

Ideal Graduate Fellow candidates will be in the third, fourth, or fifth year of their Ph.D. studies, finished all (or almost all) of their coursework requirements, but still developing new ideas and approaches for their dissertation research. Fellows each receive a stipend of $3,000 that supplements their current funding.

Graduate Fellows meet in person for a Monday seminar about a dozen times across the Fall and Spring semesters. These seminars often feature visiting speakers and do not typically require preparation in advance. There are also two half-day workshops – one at the end of each term – in which Fellows showcase their own research.

To apply: e-mail the application, along with a copy of your CV, to Michael Grigoni with the subject line “Kenan Graduate Fellowship.”


For further information, email Michael Grigoni with “Kenan Graduate Fellowship” in the subject heading.

Provost Internships Awarded to Ph.D. Students for Wide Range of Summer Research Experiences

Photos of 19 Ph.D. student grantees.
Top row: Mohammed Ali, Blake Beaver, James Chu, Rebecca Cook, Devin Cornell, Nova Déjardin; middle row: Natasza Gawlick, Nikolai Hay, Chloe Kaczmarek, Sinja Kuppers, Catherine Ji Won Lee, Botian Liu, Michael McGurk; bottom row: Joseph Ren, Elizabeth Schrader, Lorenza Starace, Nathan Tilley, Christopher Webb, Luoshu Zhang

Nineteen Duke University Ph.D. students have received Provost Internships for Summer 2022. These students will partner with Duke units and external organizations on research projects connected to their intellectual trajectories.

The recipients will be provided with a stipend as well as coverage of summer tuition and the summer health fee. They will also take part in an experiential learning workshop taught by Maria Wisdom or Rachel Coleman, or a relevant Duke Graduate Academy course.

Summer 2022 Provost Internships

Mohammed Ali, Ph.D. in History

Research and Publications, American Historical Association

Blake Beaver, Ph.D. in Literature

Preparation of Scholarly Work for Digital Projects, National Humanities Center

James Chu, Ph.D. in Music

Curriculum Development, Duke Curriculum Development Committee

Rebecca Cook, Ph.D. in Evolutionary Anthropology

Evolutionary Medicine Summer Programs Coordination, Triangle Center for Evolutionary Medicine

Devin Cornell, Ph.D. in Sociology

Data Analysis of Transfer Students, Creative and Liberal Arts, Durham Technical Community College

Nova Déjardin, Ph.D. in History

Humanities and Climate Communications, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University

Natasza Gawlick, Ph.D. in German Studies

Preparation of Scholarly Work for Digital Projects, National Humanities Center

Nikolai Hay, Ph.D. in Biology

Governance and Land Use, Duke Forest

Chloe Kaczmarek, Ph.D. in Romance Studies

Oral History, Historical Division, Duke Divinity School

Sinja Kuppers, Ph.D. in Classical Studies

Curriculum Development, Duke Curriculum Development Committee

Catherine Ji Won Lee, Ph.D. in English

Pedagogical Best Practices for College-Level Synchronous Online Instruction, Creative and Liberal Arts, Durham Technical Community College

Botian Liu, Ph.D. in Philosophy

Research and Grant Writing, The Purpose Project, Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University

Michael McGurk, Ph.D. in English

Preparation of Books for Publishing, Duke University Press

Joseph Ren, Ph.D. in Literature

Preparation of Books for Publishing, Duke University Press, and Qualitative Diversity and Inclusion Research, Duke Public Affairs & Government Relations

Elizabeth Schrader, Ph.D. in Religion

Curriculum Development, Duke Curriculum Development Committee

Lorenza Starace, Ph.D. in Romance Studies

Language Pedagogy for Undergraduate Education, Duke Department of Romance Studies

Nathan Tilley, Ph.D. in Religion

Oral History, Historical Division, Duke Divinity School

Christopher Webb, Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology

Evaluation of COVID-19 Relief Solutions, Duke Social Science Research Institute

Luoshu Zhang, Ph.D. in English

American Literature Research for Curriculum Diversification, Creative and Liberal Arts, Durham Technical Community College

More Ph.D. Resources