After extensive discussions about potential graduate
programs at Duke Kunshan University (DKU), the conversation turned to a
potential undergraduate curriculum Thursday with Provost Peter Lange telling
faculty that he is receiving new course ideas from faculty on a weekly basis.
Lange told the Arts and Sciences Faculty Council that the
DKU curriculum is a blank slate, ready to be filled with innovative and
creative clusters of courses focused on knowledge in the service of society.
"There's an opportunity here for pedagogical
innovation," Lange told the Arts and Sciences Faculty Council. "At Duke we have 3,000 courses here
taught on a regular basis. If you want
to do something really unusual, it can be hard to do it here. At DKU there will be a big opportunity to do
things that are different."
The current priority is to develop interdisciplinary
clusters of courses, much as Duke is already doing with FOCUS, DukeIntense
Global, DukeImmerse and similar programs.
Lange also cited the potential for classroom innovation,
following in the footsteps of the TeamLEAD project
at Duke-NUS, the university's medical school in Singapore. Presented with the
challenge of transferring Duke's first year medical curriculum to a new
culture, Duke-NUS leaders turned to technology to revise how lectures and
classroom work are presented.
Such a model would contrast with the current Chinese
educational system, which Lange said is narrow, specialized and involves little
faculty-student classroom interaction.
"The Chinese keep telling us that they want a top
quality US education with a more interactive classroom. The Chinese scholars love the way we teach
here and they want us to bring that model to their classrooms."
One concern faculty leaders cited about DKU in the past was
whether Duke faculty would be energized enough to participate. Lange said more are showing interest as more
details have been put in place for faculty to see. Global health and environmental policy and
management are natural areas of study, but he said humanities faculty members are
also interested in courses ranging from theater studies to US history and
The first undergraduate courses will not be degree programs
but will be credit bearing, with the credits being transferred to the student's
home institution. "But we do
foresee over time that DKU will get degree-granting ability for
undergraduates," Lange said.
As in previous faculty meetings, Lange was questioned about
academic freedom and the ability for faculty and students to have free
intellectual exchanges in the classroom.
Lange responded Duke officials are aware of the human rights record in
China, but that the Chinese have not objected to a statement of core principles
that is based on academic freedom.
"We expect to have the freedoms cited in the
principles. We have done our due
diligence with other Western academic institutions working in China, and
they've had no bad experiences.
"If challenges arise, we are prepared to deal with
them. We have chosen to engage China,
and we have a set of processes using the Academic Programs, ECAC, the Academic
Council, the board and other bodies to bring them into this discussion."
In related news, the Arts and Sciences Faculty Council
streamlined process for approving new global ventures and programs that
will be less cumbersome but still ensure faculty involvement.