Faculty Committee Reports on Duke Global Priorities

Not long after he was appointed chair of a new faculty committee advising the university on global priorities, Jeff Vincent realized that he "had no idea of the vast reach of all of the international activities Duke faculty and students are involved in."

"It is impressive to be made aware of the many activities coming out of this campus," said Vincent, professor in the Nicholas School of the Environment. "Most of us on the committee came in with first-hand knowledge of only the few initiatives that we were involved in.I had no idea, for example, that the humanities had such a reach with projects around the world."

After a year of taking account of the many varieties of international programs at Duke, Vincent said the Global Priorities Committee (GPC) is now ready to turn what it has learned into a strategy paper of principles to guide key decisions from where Duke should put its international resources to what models of international collaboration best serve the university.

Speaking to the Academic Council Thursday, Vincent told faculty a review of global projects underlined four features about Duke that, together, distinguished the university in some way from international ventures at peer institutions.

  • An interdisciplinary approach
  • Integration of education and research
  • Focus on knowledge in the service of society
  • Emphasis on globalizing the whole campus "rather than just doing things abroad."

The committee was formed to improve faculty engagement and advice in international strategy.  Vincent told faculty members the committee has stepped back from specific oversight of the Duke Kunshan University (DKU) project "so that we can have the space to develop broader perspectives."

Nevertheless he added that he thought the DKU project nicely illustrated the four distinguishing features of Duke international programs.

Vincent added that one of the major challenges over the next few years will be how "to turn the small set of master's programs and undergraduate offerings at DKU into a comprehensive university." The soon-to-be appointed vice chancellor for DKU will play a key role in that transition, he said, but ultimately its success depends "on support from Duke faculty."

"A second challenge will be how to proceed in other parts of the world where there is a strong interest in work from Duke faculty and others," Vincent said, pointing to India and Africa as areas of particular interest. 

A third issue is getting students involved in global planning since many of the ventures affect undergraduate education.  There are no student members on the Global Priorities Committee, he said, but he is reviewing options for better student communications.

"The features of Duke's global strategy are clear, but the biggest question is when to go in with a physical presence, and if we do, what model should the campus take? I hope the document next year will consign principles that will guide these decisions."

Vincent's report to the council preceded a presentation by Michael Merson, director of Duke's Global Health Institute about plans to offer a master's of science in global health degree at DKU beginning in 2013.  This degree is currently offered at Duke and, if approved, will also be offered at DKU.

The council will vote on the degree proposal at its May meeting.

In other news, the council elected four new members to its executive committee: Maurice Wallace of English and African & African-American Studies; Kathy Franz of chemistry; Nan Jokerst of electrical and computing engineering; and Dennis Clementsof pediatrics.

The four will join Council chair Susan Lozier and three others as members of the executive committee beginning July 1.