Join Us on October 11 for a Special Event on “The New Education”

Cathy Davidson

The Office of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies is hosting a discussion, reception, and book signing with educational innovator Cathy N. Davidson, author of The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.

The event will take place on Wednesday, October 11, at Duke University’s Penn Pavilion from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. Cosponsors include the Office of the Provost, Bass Connections, the Center for Instructional Technology, the Social Science Research Institute, Duke University Libraries, the Office of the Dean of Humanities, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, and the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Davidson is currently Distinguished Professor at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and previously served as Duke’s first Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies. In her new book, she argues that the American university is stuck in the past—and shows how we can revolutionize it to prepare students for our age of constant change.

Our current system of higher education dates to the period from 1865 to 1925, when the nation’s new universities created grades and departments, majors and minors, graduate and professional schools in an attempt to prepare young people for a world transformed by the telegraph and the Model T. This approach to education worked for most of the 20th century, says Davidson, but is unsuited to the era of the “gig economy.” From the Ivy League to community colleges, Davidson introduces us to innovators who are remaking college for our own time, by emphasizing student-centered learning that values creativity, dexterity, innovation, and social change.

In this talk she shows how we can revolutionize our universities to help students be leaders of change, not simply subject to it. Davidson will be joined in conversation by Edward Balleisen, Professor of History and Public Policy and Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies at Duke.

The Gothic Bookshop will provide books for sale at the event at a special rate of $24.

RSVP to Sarah Dwyer.

Former Duke University Provost’s Legacy Thrives Harmoniously in Langford Lectures

Provost Sally Kornbluth and John Supko at the Langford luncheon on February 21, 2017

Since 2000 when Thomas A. Langford, former Duke University Provost, Dean and Divinity School faculty member passed away, Duke has continued to remember his legacy through the Thomas Langford Lectureship awards.

Each year, several new or newly promoted Duke faculty are chosen to receive the award, based on the appeal of their research to an interdisciplinary audience and their embodiment of Langford’s dedication to teaching, research and service. The goals of the Langford program—to support and honor intellectual life at Duke, and to offer a platform for faculty to engage in interdisciplinary exchange—remain vibrantly alive with this year’s slate of awardees.

Last Tuesday, Langford honoree John Supko shared his work with colleagues and friends who gathered at the Doris Duke Center to hear Supko’s lecture, interspersed with selections from his compositions. Supko recently received tenure with his promotion to Associate Professor in the Music Department, and was chosen by the Duke Appointments, Promotions and Tenure committee as one of three awardees this year.

Supko’s music engages with the process of discovery through novel computational strategies. He works in a relatively unexplored field of generative music produced by algorithms that suggest unexpected combinations of sounds, rhythms and harmonies. The resulting pieces are by turns mysterious, serene, frightening and poetic.

On this spring-like day, sounds created by Supko and his occasional collaborators filled the high wooden-beamed room of the Doris Duke Center. Supko’s music has been described as spell-bindingly beautiful, hypnotic and eerie, and he offered selections that proved each of those descriptions and that ranged from ethereal to jarring.

Bill Seaman, Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies, with John Supko

Last semester Erich Jarvis, a former Duke neurobiologist now at The Rockefeller University, delivered his Langford lecture “Dissecting the Molecular Mechanisms for Vocal Learning and Spoken Language: A Personal Journey” at a luncheon in his honor. This year’s third honoree is Tsitsi Jaji, who joined Duke’s faculty in 2015 as Associate Professor of English and African & African American Studies. Jaji will give her Langford lecture “Unsettling Scores: Black Revisions of the American Frontier Myth” in April.

Music is one thread that connects all three of this year’s awardees. Jarvis is known as a top researcher in the songbird field, and Jaji’s work bridges music and literature. The Langford Lectureship program continues to celebrate interdisciplinary scholarship in its fullest capacities, in tribute to Thomas Langford.

Erich Jarvis with Provost Sally Kornbluth, at Jarvis’ Langford luncheon on September 19, 2016

Graduate Student Groups Receive New D-SIGN Grants for Interdisciplinary Activities

D-SIGN recipients

Duke Support for Interdisciplinary Graduate Networks (D-SIGN) grants have been awarded to five graduate student groups for the 2016-2017 academic year.

In March an RFP invited all current graduate students (including master’s, professional and Ph.D. students) in any program at Duke to propose interdisciplinary groups and activities. Through this new internal funding mechanism, graduate students have the opportunity to propose research projects and educational experiences that reach beyond disciplinary lines. These grants help graduate students to build or extend their networks and to integrate collaborative, cross-school endeavors into their programs.

Over the last 15 years, Duke has committed itself to furthering interdisciplinary education and research and fostering knowledge in the service of society. With maturing interdisciplinary organizations and communities on campus, Duke is well-positioned to expand the interdisciplinary experiences available to graduate students.

Duke Conservation Society

  • Submitted by Priya Ranganathan, Master of Environmental Management student, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Faculty sponsor: Stuart Pimm

The Duke Conservation Society will expand its network beyond the Nicholas School of the Environment to engage interdisciplinary approaches to conservation. The group’s mission is to enhance students’ understanding of the various scientific, political, economic and managerial tools available to address conservation issues; facilitate collaborations among undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students on conservation projects and analyses; and provide opportunities for professional development such as networking with conservation professionals, seminars and guest speakers.

Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation – Children and Adolescents Project

  • Submitted by Brittney Sullivan, Ph.D. in Nursing student, School of Nursing; and Anna Martin, Master of Public Policy student, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Faculty sponsor: Janet Prvu Bettger

The Bass Connections project team Global Alliance on Disability and Health Innovation (GANDHI) was designed with a focus on adults. A new interdisciplinary graduate network affiliated with GANDHI will aim to establish the evidence for improving systems of care and support specifically for children and adolescents living with disability after an acute hospitalization. Using a socioecological approach to identify the key needs for children newly living with disability, network members will examine and compare the social supports, health and community services and policies in three countries. Members hope this project will inform future interdisciplinary research to strengthen health systems for children and adolescents transitioning home from the hospital.

Global Energy Access Network

  • Submitted by Rob Fetter and Faraz Usmani, University Ph.D. Program in Environmental Policy students, Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy; and Hannah Girardeau, Master of Environmental Management student, Nicholas School of the Environment
  • Faculty sponsors: Subhrendu Pattanayak and Brian Murray

The Global Energy Access Network (GLEAN) will bring together students working on global energy transitions, energy access and energy poverty. It will create a forum to explore shared interests, learn from experienced researchers and practitioners and construct new statistical indicators around the theme of energy access in emerging economies. The group aims to ignite a research and policy dialogue around an understudied global issue, and to help position Duke as a central contributor to that dialogue within a global network.

Rethinking Regulation – Graduate Student Working Group

  • Submitted by Mercy DeMenno, Ph.D. in Public Policy student, Sanford School of Public Policy
  • Faculty sponsors: Lori Bennear and Jonathan Wiener

The Rethinking Regulation – Graduate Student Working Group provides a forum for student-led interdisciplinary discussion, research and analysis of issues related to regulatory governance. Based in the Rethinking Regulation program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the group comprises twenty doctoral and professional students from nine disciplines and eight schools/departments. Members have a wide range of academic and professional experiences, and are united by a common interest in regulatory governance and a shared commitment to interdisciplinary collaborative inquiry in the service of society. Funding will support research workshops, writing group meetings, analyses of contemporary regulatory policy issues and other collaborative activities.

A STEM Researcher-Educator Network to Improve K-12 Science Literacy

  • Submitted by Rebecca Lauzon, Ph.D. in Earth and Ocean Sciences student, Nicholas School of the Environment; and Eleanor Caves and Patrick Green, Ph.D. in Biology students, Graduate School
  • Faculty sponsors: Kate Allman and Brad Murray

A new network of STEM graduate students (from the Graduate School, Pratt School of Engineering and/or the Nicholas School of the Environment) and Master of Arts in Teaching students will create lesson plans based on current research and distribute them to local K-12 educators. The network will utilize the structure of a graduate student-run STEM outreach group called the Scientific Research and Education Network (SciREN), which develops relationships between researchers and educators to incorporate current research into K-12 classrooms. All lesson plans created for SciREN are freely available to educators through an online repository.

Proposals were reviewed by an ad hoc committee convened by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies with representation from faculty, deans, institute directors and graduate students. By June 30, 2017, recipients will report on their group’s activities, use of funds and progress toward anticipated outcomes.

Clockwise from upper left: Priya Ranganathan, Brittney Sullivan, Anna Martin, Rob Fetter, Faraz Usmani, Hannah Girardeau, Mercy DeMenno, Rebecca Lauzon, Eleanor Caves, Patrick Green

A Joint Conversation with Chancellor Washington, Dean Broome and Provost Kornbluth


As part of a comprehensive strategic planning process that involved diverse groups of faculty, staff, students, alumni, and donors from across the university and medical enterprise, the name Duke Medicine is changing to Duke Health, Chancellor A. Eugene Washington, MD, MSc, announced in January. “The decision to update our name stems from widespread deliberations involving many groups within Duke, and signals the health system’s renewed focus on health improvement,” said Chancellor Washington. “Duke Health signals our intention to explore more comprehensive approaches to health that extend beyond medical care and into other areas of population health improvement. Duke Health also represents a more inclusive and synergistic approach to maximizing contributions to health improvement from the diverse array of disciplines and schools that comprise Duke University, as well as our external partners.”

When you think about aligning resources and creating synergies, what do you see as the major challenges for each area over the next three to five years?

Provost Kornbluth: I think the most important thing is to keep increasing faculty excellence. This means putting infrastructure and tools in the hands of the faculty to help them get the best out of their work, and offering the kind of mentoring and professional development that will enable them to be their best.

Chancellor Washington: Institutionally we’re quite vertical. Whether we’re in a nursing school or whether we’re in Trinity College, we’re vertical. So what we’re talking about in terms of drawing on the assets of Duke is actually being more horizontal. One of the significant challenges is getting our faculty, as collaborative and collegial as we are, working in groups in a more horizontal way. To overcome these barriers we need to show examples of where we’re already succeeding, and other areas that are ripe for some early victories.

As you bring these various perspectives together to create energy around this interdisciplinary work, how do you ensure that you’re getting the right people around the table?

Provost Kornbluth: We all took a very broad catchment area and opportunity for faculty involvement. On the campus side, we did this through many, many open faculty dinners. Anybody could give input— faculty, students, and staff—and that continues.

Chancellor Washington: In Duke Health, we similarly started with focus groups and then we eventually established working groups in each of the core mission areas: education, research, community health improvement, global health, and clinical care. But we didn’t feel that was enough. Based on input and the work of those small groups we developed a survey that went out to all 32,000 people in Duke Health. The response rate was encouraging. Over 10,000 individuals responded, and over 2,000 wrote written comments. I agree with Sally, the process from our perspective was as important as the outcome, because we tapped into the voices all across the organization—that’s where our talent, our greatest asset is.

Did you feel like you got a mandate, a clear directive?

Dean Broome: In education, I was amazed at how quickly people came to the priorities and what was important. There were fascinating discussions that I think influenced all of us in that room. We got a lot of diverse perspectives, but in some magical way it all came together around interdisciplinary education and professional development.

Chancellor Washington: Each of these groups developed a mission statement. And I can tell you they labored over every word. In fact, the education group labored over whether we are about education or learning. It was a rich discussion. I actually went to the dictionary to make the distinction. There was a true distinction, and it’s reflected in the overarching vision statement and the goals.

Read the full article on the Duke University School of Nursing website.