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Promote Major Multi-disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Programs

The John Hope Franklin Center
The new John Hope Franklin Center for
Interdisciplinary and International Studies

The successful university in the 21st century will emphasize problem-driven, multi-disciplinary, and interdisciplinary research and training. Much is already happening at Duke across departments to break down the traditional linear, compartmentalized vision of science, social sciences, and humanities, but we must continue to strengthen our efforts to develop this advantage to the fullest. By promoting broad-ranging programs, we will position ourselves in the center of the most dynamic academic areas while maximizing our investments in faculty and facilities. Our students will also be beneficiaries of this multi-disciplinary perspective as it better reflects the environments in which most of them will spend their working lives.

Several of our most exciting programs cut across the university, from the Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences and The Sanford Institute of Public Policy to the Institute for Care at the End of Life and the nascent Institute for Genomic Sciences and Policy. Our bioengineering program is expanding significantly. We plan a broad program in neuroscience and neuroengineering, accompanied by a reorganization of the Department of Psychology-Experimental into the Department of Brain and Psychological Sciences. In order to capitalize on our breadth and depth in environmental policy, law, social sciences, and related fields across the university, we have created a new Center for Environmental Solutions. In parallel with the new Initiative in Global Change, the center will enable a new level of analysis of environmental problems not available previously on this scale. Environmental issues are among the paramount challenges of the future, and, at the same time, they are topics in which Duke University can attain status as a world leader.

The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, dedicated in February, gathers humanists, interpretive social scientists, and artists to bring comparative, philosophical, and historical perspectives to bear on race, equity, globalization, and other critical issues of our time. The Center for French and Francophone Studies, for instance, is based at the JHF Center and sponsored in part by the French government. It serves as a catalyst for encouraging the study of French culture across campus and throughout the region. The JHF Center is becoming a global meeting place for scholars and students around the world, both actual and virtual via the Internet. Thanks to the center’s sophisticated videoconferencing capabilities, for example, students in cultural anthropologist Lee Baker’s “Race, Racism, and Democracy” seminar were able to interview in real time the authors of six books they read.

Integration of the Arts

Aerial view of new Nasher Museum of ArtAerial view of a model of the new Nasher Museum of Art, designed by world-renowned architect Rafael Viñoly

This year, the 25-year-old Program in Drama became the Department of Theater Studies, following a two-year process initiated by drama faculty. The establishment of the Department of Theater Studies is an important milestone for faculty, students, alumni, and supporters of theater, signifying for many that theater is now a fully-embraced academic discipline in which faculty may now gain tenure. As a consequence of the emerging direction of this new department, stronger collaborations are developing with faculty in the humanities at Duke. Over the past year, four professors in classical studies, English, literature, and romance studies have received secondary appointments in theater studies.

The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, named for the family of Raymond D. Nasher, its leading benefactor, and scheduled for completion in 2003, will stand as a symbol of the university’s commitment to the arts as an integral part of a Duke liberal arts education.


Elizabeth Kiss
Elizabeth Kiss, associate professor of the practice of political science and philosophy and director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, is a member of the steering committee for the Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy and a faculty participant in the FOCUS program Humanitarian Challenges at Home and Abroad, an interdisciplinary small-group experience for first-year students wishing to learn about the many humanitarian challenges facing the world today.

The genomics revolution that is currently underway will undoubtedly transform clinical medicine, agriculture, environmental management, and essentially all fields of applied science on which biology has an impact. Duke launched the $200 million Institute for Genome Sciences and Policy in fall of 2000. This institute brings together investigators and scholars from a wide array of disciplines, including those in the schools of medicine, arts and sciences, engineering, environment, law, and divinity. The institute comprises five centers: the Center for Genome Ethics, Law and Policy, which assesses the social and ethical dimensions of the genome revolution; the Center for Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, which develops new tools to cope with the enormous complexity of the data generated in genomic research, and interacts closely with the Center for Genome Technology, a collaboration between arts and sciences, medicine, and engineering. The Center for Human Disease Models aims to make the mouse a much more effective surrogate for human disease research. The Center for Human Genetics has been created by the medical school to provide core resources and expertise in study design, database management, family and patient ascertainment, and statistical and molecular analysis necessary to carry out large-scale genetic analysis of human patient populations.

In addition, Duke has growing involvement in this area with other institutions in the Triangle, and dialogue is underway with North Carolina State University, the North Carolina Supercomputer Center, theNorth Carolina Biotechnology Center, and the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences. Duke is also a leading member of the North Carolina Genomics & Bioinformatics Consortium, an organization that is coordinating efforts throughout the state to develop genome sciences.