At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when unprecedented financial and operational pressures forced dramatic actions across the university, these circumstances also provided an opportunity to ask fundamental questions about the functioning of the university. and to seek ways to distinguish the university in the future. .
The task of asking these questions fell to a panel of professors and university leaders appointed by President Vincent Price, called Strategy Team 2030. Almost two years later, the group issued recommendations suggesting profound changes in university practices in research, education, finance. and even governance.
There’s nothing dramatic about the team’s conclusion that Duke’s core identity — as an R1 university and an academic medical center offering undergraduate liberal arts education — shouldn’t change. Provost Sally Kornbluth, who chaired the 2030 Team Steering Committee, said: “We are already doing many of the things that will set the 2030 Duke apart in undergraduate teaching and research. We’ve also concluded that our biggest opportunity is to look at the things that have the most potential to make Duke distinctive.
The 2030 Report identifies many areas where changes in current practices would amplify faculty scholarship support and improve the Duke student experience at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
“The best way to significantly elevate Duke is to change the way we do these things to ensure that we are truly excellent and innovative, and that our culture facilitates, supports and celebrates scholarly pursuits,” Kornbluth said.
More than 40 university leaders, faculty, and administrators worked on the Steering Committee and four Task Forces of the 2030 Strategy Team coordinated by then-Vice Provost Noah Pickus. A second track for review was provided by an additional faculty committee chaired by Professor Peter Feaver of Political Science. This panel played an advisory role, providing feedback on the working group’s suggestions and offering its own recommendations.
“Our approach was to think outside the box and ask tough questions about sacred cows,” said Feaver, who also served on the Team 2030 steering committee. “We were the skunk at the party and raised a lot of issues. troublesome. Everything was on the table. »
The discussions were shaped by the situation the university faced at the start of the pandemic and uncertainty about how the pandemic would affect Duke’s future finances, Feaver said. “Fortunately, the reality is that the fiscal situation has improved considerably between May 2020 and the summer of 2021. Some of the most dramatic and painful choices have been avoided.”
The 2030 task forces on research and collaboration, chaired by Vice-Chancellor Ed Balleisen and Professor Anne West, and on education, chaired by Pickus, have recommended changes that address nearly every aspect of missions teaching and research fundamentals of the university.
FACULTY CAREER RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Despite Duke’s strong track record in advancing research, faculty have reported obstacles that hinder the kind of collaborative research that has underpinned the university’s reputation for pushing the boundaries of interdisciplinary exploration. To address this, the report focused on a set of changes to Duke’s culture, infrastructure, and operations to make it easier for faculty to research and navigate their careers, including:
- Provide more support structures for complex research, including project management and resources for data analysis, community investigation, and facilitating data sharing across the university and health system.
- Develop new types of flexible financial support for interdisciplinary research, whether undertaken by teams or faculty producing single-author scholarships.
- Provide an infusion of resources to all newly tenured professors, a career stage at which the university wants to further encourage intellectual risk-taking.
- Develop small group and individual mentoring and coaching to support faculty career development.
In addition, the report calls for ensuring that Duke’s research administration culture fosters new avenues for creative research while maintaining the current foundations of scientific integrity and regulatory compliance, goals that stand out. as top priorities for Duke’s new vice president for research and innovation, Jenny Loge.
The vision, Kornbluth said, is to “facilitate risk-taking and reduce barriers to collaboration, whether across disciplinary or school boundaries, or with partners at other universities and beyond.” of academia”.
Duke’s undergraduate program is a source of pride, but Kornbluth said the committee wants to learn from the pandemic to help Duke stay ahead of a rapidly changing higher education landscape and encourage an in-depth survey of undergraduate students.
Many of the recommendations are aimed at better integrating the many programs through which Duke students develop their intellectual interests and using all of the university’s resources, including residential experience, to bring coherence to their education.
“Our goal is to create a learning experience in which all students have the opportunity to engage in profound moments of discovery and to integrate their formal academic studies with their broad, out-of-class experiences,” Kornbluth said.
Among the recommendations are:
- Provide more opportunities for faculty at professional schools to engage in undergraduate teaching, as part of a broader effort to strengthen faculty engagement with undergraduate students.
- Develop a new curriculum that integrates curricular and extracurricular experiences for a more cohesive academic experience, and ensures that all students have at least one capstone experience that synthesizes their academic journey at Duke.
- Reimagine faculty contracts, compensation, and promotion requirements to support more demanding teaching, mentoring, and advising for student research and scholarship.
- Explore innovative uses of the academic calendar to accommodate different models of learning experiences.
- Experiment with the appropriate use of online and hybrid education to increase flexibility in undergraduate degree completion.
HIGHER AND PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
Graduate and professional students now make up approximately 60% of Duke’s student body. Since the 2018 report on reinventing doctoral training, the university has placed greater emphasis on higher-level training and experiences.
The Strategy Team 2030 report recommends expanding this work by increasing opportunities for experiential learning and collaboration across disciplines and schools for graduate and professional students, enhancing counseling programs across the university, and expanding efforts to diversify the body of graduate and professional students.
The Governance Task Force, chaired by Professor Don Taylor, also recommended changes to some long-standing practices, including revising undergraduate program governance to give more weight to committees across the organization. ‘university. Other changes include reassessing the presidential and provincial committees to ensure they address key challenges facing the university.
BECOME THE DUKE OF 2030
The next steps are already underway. The faculty panel has been disbanded, but members of the 2030 Strategy Team working groups are now moving into implementation, including putting a price tag on the recommendations. Kornbluth told the Academic Council in February that she was “not waiting until 2030 for that to happen.” Instead, the recommendations should be implemented in a phased approach by 2030.
Feaver noted that the report dealt with contentious issues and that some recommendations did not have the unanimous support of the faculty panel. Where there was strong agreement, he said, was that the university will look different in 2030, and the report necessarily focused on significant changes.
“This report recognizes that we are in a new and different world,” Feaver said. “It won’t be like before the pandemic, and we have to improve our game just to maintain our position. One of the biggest takeaways is that we had challenges even before the pandemic.
“If we look to 2030, we need to be a more agile organization, leverage individual pockets of strength, ensure investments help the university, and even do professional development for faculty in a different way. We cannot do business as we have in the past.