Two Perspectives on How Bass Connections Benefits Graduate Students

Bass Connections team in Brazil

In a new video from The Graduate School, two Ph.D. students discuss how participating in a Bass Connections project, The Cost of Opportunity? Higher Education in the Baixada Fluminense, has helped them with their own research.

“I originally conceived of my own research as being a separate project from Bass Connections,” said Gray Kidd, a Ph.D. student in History. “The more that I’ve worked with this project, looking at access to higher education on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, I realize that being involved with this project and then having my own dissertation work, they’re actually coming together in unanticipated but really fascinating ways.”

Stephanie Reist is pursuing a Ph.D. in Romance Studies and a master’s in Public Policy. “As someone who’s interested in romance studies and Portuguese and Latin American culture and public policy, I have very broad interests,” she said. “So picking a dissertation project, I could go anywhere. Bass Connections helped me focus and recognize that I already have this body of knowledge, and now I’m currently participating in a research project that lets me build on that and integrate it into my own research.” Her work looks at center-periphery dynamics, urban belonging, and Black cultural production in Rio’s Baixada Fluminense suburbs.

Kidd noted that his participation has given him valuable experience as an instructor. “Often times it’s not until the fourth, fifth, sixth, or even seventh year that people have the ability to pilot a course and have a trial run with students. I think it’s helped me grow quite a bit in terms of communicating expectations, coming up with research questions, piloting assignments that are a bit different—not research papers, not exams. As a third-year [student], this has given me a set of experiences that others do not have.”

Graduate students play pivotal roles within Bass Connections projects, in which students at all levels collaborate with faculty, postdocs, and outside experts on interdisciplinary research that tackles complex societal challenges. Because the teams include faculty and undergraduates, who are often most familiar with a lecturer-learner model, graduate students often become facilitators who serve as project managers and additional mentors for undergraduate students.

“The ongoing mentoring relationship has been very rewarding,” Reist noted. She won the Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship last year.

For graduate and professional students, benefits of participating in Bass Connections include:

  • Enhancing dissertation or master’s thesis research (see examples)
  • Co-authoring publications
  • Deepening relationships with key faculty
  • Gaining project management experience and opportunities for funding
  • Accessing professional development resources
  • Honing career-enhancing skills to stand out on the job market
  • Networking with colleagues in diverse fields
  • Getting experience mentoring others, particularly undergraduates.

Browse stories from Ph.D. and master’s students on their Bass Connections experiences.

New Faculty Books Explore Topics from Motivation to Fraud


From the hidden logic affecting your motivation to the resilience of Syrian activists and a chancellor’s reflections on changes in health care, Duke writers explore a wide array of topics in their latest books. Duke Today shares a roundup of this season’s latest publications.

Among the authors is Edward J. Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and Associate Professor of History and Public Policy. His book, “Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff,” will be published by Princeton University Press next month.

Learn more about this Fall’s new books from Duke faculty.