To seize the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence or nanomaterials, and to address the complicated problems of climate change or endemic social inequality, our modes of knowledge creation must transcend the limits of specialized fields. Tackling such challenges requires the ability to consider multiple aspects of the same issue, which in turn depends on collaboration among experts from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, as well as a knack for integrating disparate bodies of knowledge.
Interdisciplinary education at Duke gives students opportunities to become experts in traditional disciplines while simultaneously exploring broad themes of study, which often cut across disciplines, departments, and methods. This approach manifests itself through our array of academic programs and certificates, as well as a suite of co-curricular opportunities that foster interdisciplinary communities and encourage active engagement with real-world challenges through team-based projects and experiential learning.
Through its facilitation of collaborative, problem-centered, interdisciplinary inquiry, this program serves as a cornerstone of Duke’s efforts to integrate research, education, and outreach.
Several schools are taking steps toward integrating elements of the Bass Connections model (multidisciplinarity; shared opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students; focus on questions of societal importance) into their curricula. Graduate students can now propose project team ideas in conjunction with faculty; they also serve as crucial mentors on both year-long and summer teams. A growing number of faculty can apply for grants to develop or modify courses that incorporate elements of the Bass Connections model.
In 2016, Duke received an NEH NextGen PhD implementation grant to enrich humanities doctoral training. The resulting program was a collaboration between the Office of the Provost and The Graduate School. Its mission was to help doctoral students in the humanities and humanistic social sciences thrive while in graduate school, and to help prepare them for a variety of roles—in higher education, government, business, the nonprofit sector, or wherever their talents and inclinations might lead. Versatile Humanists served as a catalyst for PhD program innovation at Duke on a much greater scale. Read the 2019 final report.
I was interested in having students [from different programs] become involved in some aspect of my current research project. I wanted to see what other kinds of inquiries into the problem I was studying could be had. It’s been a really productive challenge. —Faculty member
One of the major reasons I chose to do my graduate work at Duke was because of the university’s support for interdisciplinary work. —Graduate student
I was looking for schools with programs that would target different parts of my brain. Working with grad students from different fields [in our Bass Connections project] has given me a lot of insight into what I want to do. I’m loving the team-oriented approach. —Undergraduate student