The Duke University Board of Trustees marked what Chair Jack O. Bovender, Jr. described as a “new era of governance” in its first meeting of the academic year on September 28-29.
Following a year-long review led by Vice Chair Laurene Sperling, the board in May voted to revise its meeting and committee structure to provide trustees with more opportunities to engage in both strategic planning and fiduciary oversight. The result is a new lineup of standing committees -- External Engagement, Graduate & Professional Education & Research, Resources, Undergraduate Education, Governance, and Audit & Compliance -- that will oversee the formal governance responsibilities of the university.
“The Board of Trustees needs to keep up with a very dynamic university,” said Bovender. “This new structure, which came about after a thorough and thoughtful examination of our organization and practices, will help President (Vincent E.) Price and the university leadership successfully navigate through a constantly changing environment.”
“Duke’s board has been a big factor in our success over the decades,” added Price. “Individually and as a whole, they have led this university through great challenges and tremendous opportunities. We are now very well positioned for the future.”
The board also created four “strategic task forces” that include trustees, administrators, faculty and students to advise Price and other university leaders on high-priority initiatives and issues within a defined time period. The initial strategic task forces include Activating the Global Network, which will focus on opportunities for lifelong learning for Duke alumni; Advancing Duke Science & Technology, to help guide the university’s investment and fundraising efforts in those areas; Next Generation Living & Learning Experience, which will take a close look at the residential educational environment for undergraduates; and The Future of Central Campus, which will assess the potential uses of the site between Duke’s East and West Campuses after student apartments now located there are retired next summer.
In addition to the changes in committee structure, the sessions for the full board were revamped to provide reports and updates on current activities, as well as time for in-depth discussions and breakout sessions on key topics. On Saturday, the board gained insight into students at Duke through a panel conversation with current students and recent graduates, and a small-group exercise facilitated by administrators in which trustees debated hypothetical scenarios on a range of issues such as free speech and substance abuse.
In other business, the trustees:
-- were briefed on the status of the university’s endowment, which is managed by DUMAC. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, DUMAC reported a 12.9 percent return on Duke's long-term pool, the primary investment vehicle for the university's endowment assets, setting the market value of the university's endowment at a record $8.5 billion.
Duke’s endowment provides permanent support for university programs and priorities as designated by donors. Income from the endowment and other investments contributed $598 million for student financial aid, faculty salaries, facilities, athletics and other critical academic and support services. Over the past 10 years, DUMAC has been one of the highest-performing university investment managers, recording an average annual return of 6.6 percent. More information about DUMAC's investment portfolio is available here.
-- received reports on the university’s financial performance, the opening of Duke Kunshan University’s inaugural undergraduate program, the operations of the Duke University Health System and the activities of Duke Student Government and the Graduate and Professional Students Council.