Share Your Input on Interdisciplinary Research, Teaching and Engagement

Comment period ended on Jan 4, 2021
Input welcomed from all Duke faculty, staff and students

The Provost has convened an ad hoc faculty Interdisciplinary Priorities Committee to examine our university-wide institutes, initiatives, and centers. Interdisciplinarity has become a hallmark of Duke. Our openness to and resources for interdisciplinary research, teaching, and civic engagement are an important attraction for many of our faculty and students alike. The committee will be exploring how to best articulate the most important objectives for university-wide investments in interdisciplinarity over the next decade, as well as how we might realign those investments to fit Duke’s longer term financial resources.

The committee invites comments from the university community – either about how you would define our interdisciplinary aspirations, or about how you value one or more of our university-wide institutes, initiatives, and centers:

  • Duke Institute for Brain Sciences
  • John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute
  • Duke Global Health Institute
  • Kenan Institute for Ethics
  • Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
  • Social Science Research Institute
  • Duke University Energy Initiative
  • Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative
  • Rhodes Information Initiative at Duke
  • Duke Initiative for Science & Society
  • Duke Margolis Center for Health Policy

The comment period ended on Jan 4, 2021.

Mellon Seeks Exceptional Duke Humanities Faculty for New Directions Fellowship

Mellon Foundation.

Deadline: August 23, 2019

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has invited Duke University to nominate one candidate for consideration by Mellon for a New Directions Fellowship.


The fellowship program provides support for exceptional faculty members in the humanities (broadly defined to include the arts, history, languages, area studies, and zones of such fields as anthropology and geography that bridge the humanities and social sciences) who received their doctorates between 2007 and 2013.


The fellowships cover salary and fringe benefits for one academic year and two, two-month summers, as well as tuition or course fees associated with the fellows’ training programs and project related travel. Most awards are between $200,000 and $250,000, with a cap of $300,000, and may be expended over a period not to exceed three full academic years.

Fellows will be expected to pursue systematic training and academic competencies outside their own distinctive fields in order to advance a cross-disciplinary research agenda. This fellowship does not aim to facilitate short-term outcomes, such as completion of a book. Rather, it is a longer-term investment in the scholar’s intellectual range and productivity.

Key Dates

  • Letter of Intent Deadline: August 23, 2019
  • Committee Decision: September 9, 2019
  • Finalist Proposal to ORS: September 19, 2019
  • Mellon Decision: September 26, 2019

Duke’s Internal Nomination Procedure

Each candidate should provide a 750-1000 word statement briefly documenting his/her plans for future research and anticipated program of study this new work requires. The statement should provide an explanation of the overall significance of the proposed activities and how this new direction will build on an applicant’s current strengths, widen their intellectual horizons, and facilitate exciting new research vistas. If selected as Duke’s nominee, the candidate will need to develop a longer version of this document (2000 words plus 300 word summary, each non-negotiable limits), also highlighting research accomplishments to date. They will also need to arrange for a letter of appraisal from an informed senior colleague (e.g., department chair), a budget and budget narrative, and a CV no more than five pages in length in 12 pt. font.

  • Please submit your 750-1000 word statement via email to Amy Feistel no later than noon, August 23, 2019. If you have any questions regarding the nomination process, you may contact Carol Vorhaus, Office of Corporate and Foundation Relations, by email or by calling 919-681-1967.
  • Applicants should take care to write for a scholarly audience with a variety of disciplinary backgrounds and intellectual interests.
  • Applicants should familiarize themselves with the fellowship-specific application guidelines described online here.
  • After the internal deadline, proposed nominations will be forwarded to a nominating committee. Applicants may be offered an opportunity for conversation with members of the nominating committee.
  • All applicants will be informed of the committee’s decision by September 9, 2019, and the chosen nominee will be given assistance from the nominating committee and the Office of Foundation Relations in preparing materials for submission to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
  • The finalist will be required to submit their final proposal to Duke’s Office of Research Support no later than September 19, 2019 in order to meet the Mellon Foundation’s deadline of September 26, 2019.

Contact Information

For additional information on this funding opportunity, contact Carol Vorhaus (

Ethics Students Find Power Plant Proposal Sheds Light on Gray Areas of Decision Making

A proposal by the electric operator Duke Energy to site a combined heat and power facility on the Duke University campus became a teachable moment for 10 Duke students in a course on the ethical dimensions of environmental policy. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions’ Kay Jowers, led the course David Toole who holds joint appointments in the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Duke Global Health Institute, and the Duke Divinity School. They saw a ready-made case study of the influence on policy of assumptions about how things should or ought to be in the university’s process for considering the proposal.

“We weren’t looking to have the students weigh in on a decision on the proposed plant so much as help them engage with a real-time decision-making process in order to assess the underlying commitments and assumptions of its participants,” said Jowers.

That effort involved social science, philosophy, and even theology, along with data collection. In particular, it trip included a trip to a hog farm so the students could learn how it makes biogas, one potential fuel source for Duke Energy’s proposed 21-megawatt plant.

To learn how biogas production might affect nearby residents and how stakeholders perceived many other aspects of the proposed plant, the ethics students conducted interviews with four small focus groups.

“I was shocked to learn how drastically differently each group viewed stakeholder engagement in the decision-making process,” said Elizabeth Allen, a rising junior studying environmental science and policy who facilitated the interview with local community members and sat in on her classmates’ interview of university administrators.

Allen said she began the course with a “theoretical understanding of environmental justice and stakeholder engagement” and left it awakened to the reality that “there are no ideal solutions. At the end of the day, decisions must be made—and these decisions will never make everyone happy,” a reference to varying perceptions about the benefits and costs of the project, now delayed indefinitely as the university focuses its attention on expanding opportunities to use environmentally friendly fuels to advance its goal of carbon neutrality by 2024.

In a final report compiled by the students that will be submitted to focus group participants, the students detail those perceptions. But the main audience for the just-out report is Duke administrators.

“The report recommends communication improvement strategies for engaging stakeholders,” Jowers said. “It supports open engagement with community stakeholders, accountability to the environment and the community, and transparency and inclusiveness.”

Allen said getting her head around a real-world issue with environmental justice components was what she was after and what the ethics and environmental policy course provided.

“It helped me think about the gray areas of decision making, tradeoffs, and stakeholder engagement,” Allen said. “I came out with a more nuanced understanding of how real-world decisions are made, which will help me when I am working to advocate for or change decisions being made.”

Originally posted on the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions’ website

Work was supported by The Issachar Fund. Images courtesy of Matthew Nash and Ruxandra Popovici.

Provost Offers New Opportunities for Duke Faculty Scholar-leaders through Together Duke

Together Duke

Deadlines: October 20, 2017 (ICPG) and December 15, 2017 (PPRG and Collaboratories)

In efforts to invest in the Duke faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities, and to provide new resources to support the faculty and their work, the Provost is pleased to offer the following three sequenced grant opportunities for faculty and student support as part of Together Duke.

Intellectual Community Planning Grants

Seed funding to support a group of faculty to begin or test a new collaboration around a shared intellectual interest. Project funds ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be awarded for use during the 2018 calendar year. This is the third year of this grant opportunity; recipients from the grant cycles in both the first and second years represent a broad range of groups and new projects.
Deadline: October 20

Provost’s Pilot Research Grants (new)

Pilot funding to support innovative faculty research in the humanities and social sciences—across and between all disciplines—that has successfully completed an initial phase of inquiry or preparation and with the potential to have broad and sustained impact. Project funding will range from $5,000 to $50,000 per project for a fiscal year.
Deadline: December 15

Collaboratories (new)

Duke has the intellectual resources and organizational nimbleness to convene technical, legal, scientific, ethical, cultural and historical explorations of these issues. By drawing on disciplinary depth, interdisciplinary strengths and commitment to engagement, we have the capacity to make crucial research contributions in these vital areas and to serve as an important node for convening stakeholders. Collaboratory grants will provide support for groups of faculty working on more established projects that seek to provide tangible solutions to targeted problems in 3 areas: energy and water resources; race, religion and citizenship; and population health. Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually.
Deadline: December 15

To view the full RFPs for all three grants, and for instructions to apply, please visit the Together Duke website.

Search Begins for Next Director of Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute

Duke University is embarking on a search for the next Director of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute (the FHI). We seek a tenured faculty leader with the skills to nurture the FHI in its tripartite mission of scholarship, education and knowledge in the service to society, with the vision to enhance the FHI’s imprint locally as well as its broader reputation outside of Duke. This will require someone who can work effectively with a wide variety of faculty and administrators and who communicates effectively with all of the Schools’ constituencies. The ideal candidate will have the skills to successfully navigate the complexities of the humanities and interpretive social science disciplines by building bridges and partnerships towards meeting the current needs of those disciplines and helping infuse their tremendous value throughout the broader campus community. The ideal candidate will also be someone who understands the need for a university to be engaged with its multiple publics, particularly in the humanities and interpretive social sciences. The job description follows this announcement.

To conduct this important search, Provost Sally Kornbluth has appointed the following committee:

Richard J. Powell (Chair)
John Spencer Bassett Professor of Art and Art History

Rey Chow
Anne Firor Scott Professor of Literature

Esther Gabara
E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Romance Studies, and Art, Art History & Visual Studies

William Johnson
Professor of Classical Studies

The FHI is one of the University Institutes; as such, the Provost’s Office is responsible for leading the process to appoint its next Director. The FHI reports jointly to the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Dean of the Humanities (DOH) in Arts and Sciences, so the DOH office joins in leading the process. Given the broad range of outstanding internal potential candidates, the Provost has elected to conduct an internal search for the FHI Director.

Applicants are asked to submit a letter of intent along with a current CV by April 15, followed by a 1-2 page vision statement for the next phase of the FHI by April 20.

Applications may be sent to the committee by email to, or to Box 90003 or 224 Allen. The search committee, after evaluating the applications and conducting interviews, will submit their advisory recommendations to the Provost, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Dean of Humanities.


Sally Kornbluth, Provost and Jo Rae Wright University Professor
Edward J. Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies
Gennifer Weisenfeld, Dean of the Humanities

Director, John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute

General Responsibilities:

  • Direct and provide leadership for the overall program and administration of the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI).
  • Plan, direct, review and/or otherwise foster new or major interdisciplinary research, pedagogy and/or outreach initiatives across the fields of the humanities, ensuring coordination with other disciplines and divisions, departments, administrators and personnel throughout the University as appropriate; develop comprehensive annual and long range plans consistent with Franklin Humanities Institute objectives. Maintain a balanced portfolio of projects and activities that reflect the longstanding and emerging interests of Duke’s faculty in the humanities and interpretive social sciences.
  • Direct organizational communications and external relations efforts; direct the development of electronic/online and printed communications mechanisms intended to communicate the mission and programs of the Institute; cultivate relations with national and international humanities communities to enhance the FHI’s role as a leading international organization in its field.  Lead efforts to bring interested groups/individuals together under the Institute to support research and engagement around issues of humanistic inquiry.
  • Engage the Duke community in current issues in the humanities. Partner appropriately with the humanities and interpretive social science departments in Trinity College, other humanistic programs around Duke, our Institutes and Initiatives and Duke’s other schools, around joint projects.
  • Relate the importance and impact of humanistic inquiry to both local and global audiences of varying background and understanding; support collaboration and community in the humanities and develop engaged and visible community engagement initiatives.
  • Develop, manage and motivate an Advisory Board comprised of Duke faculty, senior administrators and senior Library representatives.
  • Working with senior staff, determine fiscal requirements for the Institute and prepare budgetary recommendations and budget documents; provide oversight in the monitoring, verification and reconciliation of FHI funds.
  • Direct and provide leadership in FHI development and organizational advancement efforts; with University Development, foster new relationships with prospective funders; working with senior staff, prepare grant proposals and reports to funders.
  • Direct various personnel functions including, but not limited to, hiring, performance appraisals, promotions, transfers and vacation schedules.
  • In all activities, this position holds a responsibility to nurture a university community that is accessible, diverse and committed to a culture of engagement; that welcomes talented scholars to our community that represent the full range and richness of human experience; and that recognizes diversity as a critical element in achieving excellence. This both upholds Duke’s values and honors the legacy of John Hope Franklin.

Comments Sought in Regular Review of Director Tom Nechyba

ssri A university committee is seeking comments as part of a regular performance review of the Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) director Thomas J. Nechyba. Regular reviews of Institute Directors are conducted in the fourth or fifth year of their-five year term by a committee formed by the Executive Committee of the Academic Council, in consultation with the provost. Such a committee has been appointed to review Nechyba, who has served in his post since 2012.

Erik Wibbels, Robert O. Keohane Professor of Political Science, will serve as committee chair. Other committee members include: Gary G. Bennett (Bishop-MacDermott Family Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience and Dir, Global Digital Health Science Center), Rachel Kranton (James B. Duke Professor of Economics), Martin Ruef (Jack and Pamela Egan Professor of Entrepreneurship and Sociology Chair) and Philip J. Stern (Sally Dalton Robinson Associate Professor of History).

An important part of the review process is the solicitation and consideration of comments from the university’s many constituencies. Comments on performance and suggestions for the future are important to the committee’s work.

The charge to the committee poses several questions for the review, including Tom Nechyba’s effectiveness in the following areas:

  • Ability to provide intellectual and organizational leadership for an institute intended to catalyze pioneering social science research and methods and support their broad application;
  • Effectiveness in providing a clear strategic direction for SSRI;
  • Ability to develop and foster successful interdisciplinary collaborations with faculty and leadership from departments, schools and other units across campus, in the three areas of education, research and engagement;
  • Specifically, effectiveness in collaborating and coordinating with leadership in the social and behavioral science departments as well as the humanities and natural science departments in A&S, the Sanford School of Public Policy, and other units that are engaged in or utilize social science research methods;
  • Effectiveness in developing services, such as grant support, workshops and the like, that are useful to faculty in the social sciences;
  • Effectiveness in engaging faculty from multiple schools and departments in the work of SSRI (the committee is interested in learning why some faculty do engage with SSRI while others do not);
  • Effectiveness in mentoring faculty leaders and pivotal senior and research staff who are responsible for directing key and emerging initiatives in SSRI;
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity, inclusion and excellence through leadership in hiring practices, faculty engagement, the forging of strategic priorities, and the mentoring of staff members;
  • Administrative competencies regarding effective management of the budget and SSRI staff;
  • Effectiveness in engaging students—both undergraduate and graduate students—in SSRI activities and programs;
  • Overall effectiveness as the leader of a nimble, diverse organization.

The committee invites you to share your thoughts by email or letter. Communication should include the nature of your interactions with Director Nechyba so that the committee can understand the context of the comments as fully as possible. The committee will discuss responses, and a summary will be included in the written report to the provost.

The committee would appreciate receiving comments by December 21.

Ways to respond:

  • Contact Mindy Miller to arrange for an appointment with someone on the Committee (919-668-1460).

Information collected will be compiled in a report, without attribution, which will be submitted to the Provost and the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at the conclusion of the review. Responses will be kept confidential. While a list of those from whom feedback is received will be part of the record, it will be in an appendix of the report which will not be shared. No comments or observations will be attributed to any individual in any report of the committee.

Microbial Supergroup Lead Gets Personal with Gut Check


Duke University’s Lawrence David, Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, shares in Science News about what inspires him in science and life, and how his research into bacterial communities started with a year-long analysis of the microbiomes collected from his own body.

David is a lead faculty of a group called the Triangle Microbial Ecology Supergroup (Tri-MSG), one of 18 recipients last year of Duke’s new Intellectual Community Planning grant.

Tri-MSG organizes meetings outside of regular work hours for microbial ecologists to gather and discuss their research. The gatherings provide an informal atmosphere for learning about colleagues’ scientific endeavors and resources that may spark future cross-institutional collaborations.

The small planning grant helped in growing the fledgling group further. The funds supported refreshments and supplies at the gatherings, which not only attracted more attendees, but encouraged those who came to stay longer and discuss more. At least one research collaboration has emerged from the gatherings, and the group has its sights set on federal funding opportunities—such as the recently launched National Microbiome Initiative—for collaborative microbiome research in the North Carolina Biotech Triangle.

The Intellectual Community Planning grant is funded by the Provost in collaboration with the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. It is again being offered this year. Deadline for proposals is Monday, October 17.

Duke’s Center for Instructional Technology Hosts Innovative Educator Randy Bass


The Duke Center for Instructional Technology Showcase is an annual free one-day conference which celebrates creativity and innovation in teaching.

Engaging Today’s Students

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
9:00 AM to 3:30 PM
Durham Convention Center

Keynote Speaker: Randy Bass

Randy Bass hails from Georgetown University, where he is a Vice Provost for Education and Professor of English. He is also the founding Executive Director of Georgetown’s Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship. Randy is a former Pew Scholar and Carnegie Fellow, and recipient of the EDUCAUSE medal for outstanding achievement in technology and undergraduate education.

Randy has been working at the intersections of new media technologies and the scholarship of teaching and learning for nearly thirty years, including serving as Director and PI of the Visible Knowledge Project, a five-year scholarship of teaching and learning project involving 70 faculty on 21 university and college campuses.

Attend the Showcase to:

  • Get new ideas for your own teaching
  • Get questions about teaching and technology answered in informal sessions
  • Learn from other faculty at Duke about what works best to support student learning
  • Take advantage of a great teaching development opportunity at a convenient location and low cost (free!)
  • Come by for all or part of the day due to the “modular” schedule
  • Enjoy breakfast and lunch available for pre-registered attendees!

The Showcase is open to all Duke faculty, staff and those interested in innovation in educational utilizing technology.

Information Tables

During the Showcase, representatives of various campus units will have information available about the services they offer and opportunities for faculty.