Bringing Global Issues to Undergraduates

Winter Forum, new global programs meant to offer undergraduate learning opportunities

This time next year, students will have a new motive for returning to campus a few days before spring semester -- to attend a university-wide conference on a major global issue.

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions will sponsor the first of these Winter Forums, all to be geared for undergraduates, in January 2010. It will focus on world challenges facing the environment and what people can do about them.

"Students I have spoken with are very excited about this new program, the Winter Forum, which will provide an opportunity to delve into issues that affect all on earth, whether those issues are manifested in our back yard or on the other side of the world," said Mary T. Boatwright, professor of classical studies and a faculty leader on the initiative.

"It will also allow students to build stronger ties with one another as well as with faculty, graduate and professional students and alumni."

The seminar is one of a three-part approach to expanding Duke's already strong international focus outlined by its new Quality Enhancement Plan titled "Global Duke: Enhancing Students' Capacity for World Citizenship." The QEP is a requirement of Duke's re-accreditation review by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

In addition to the Winter Forum, Global Duke plans for a Global Semester Abroad and a Global Advising Program.

The three new programs evolved after months of work by a committee of faculty, administrators and students charged with enhancing undergraduate education and strengthening its efforts to prepare students for global citizenship. Prasad Kasibhatla, the associate professor of environmental chemistry who co-chairs the committee with Boatwright, said the committee wanted to better integrate the professional schools and graduate students in undergraduate education as well as better integrate a student's curricular and co-curricular experiences.

The QEP focus on international themes reinforces Duke's emphasis on global matters already articulated by President Richard H. Brodhead.

"Duke already places a high priority on preparing students to live in a global environment," Kasibhatla said. "More than 40 percent of Duke students study abroad. DukeEngage places students all over the world on immersive service projects. Students told us they would welcome better coordination and stronger integration of existing opportunities."

The Global Semester Abroad, a new academic experience to be run by the Office of Study Abroad, will allow students to study a global issue at two overseas locations, spending about six weeks at each site.

One group of 15 students would study in one location for six weeks, then switch sites with the other group of 15 students for the remaining six weeks of the semester. At each site students would take two courses taught in English and participate in mandatory cultural and educational experiences outside the classroom, including meetings with local experts.

"We saw it as a sort of a traveling FOCUS program, " Kasibhatla said.

The Global Advising Program aims to help students make the most of Duke's range of global opportunities through better identification and integration with academic and career interests.

The Global Advising Program is expected to be housed in the Academic Advising Center, with the goal of hiring two advisers who would begin counseling students in fall 2010, Boatwright said. The adviser would also work with peer advisers, first-year advisory counselors and academic advisers to increase outreach to students.

Members of the Duke community are encouraged to comment on the report. The committee's latest draft has been posted for comment here. For more information about the QEP and re-accreditation, and for contact information, click here.